Tashiling Lhakhang

Description

Tashiling lhakhang, the hermitage (Tshamkhang) of Terton (Treasure Discoverer) Sherab Mebar is situated west of Tangsibi village. Ever since the lhakhang was established, the local people took care of the renovations and maintenance. It is about 15 minutes’ walk from the village to Tashiling lhakhang. This lhakhang is a one-storied traditional Bhutanese building. It is situated on a beautiful hill slope, far from the disturbance of villagers and farming activities. The caretaker’s house is near by the lhakhang.

History

There is hardly any information on the lhakhang’s history. According to Lam Tashi, the Tashiling lhakhang was a hermitage of Terton Sherab Mebar (14th century). It is said that Terton visited several places in Bhutan and he identified holy places and named them with a “ling” suffix such as, Gaki-ling, Tashi-ling, Kha-jeling, Samten-ling, and Dechen-ling. In Dechenling village, he built a lhakhang in the middle of the village and this lhakhang came to be known as Dechenling lhakhang. It is the first and the oldest lhakhang in the village.

The informant said that Terton Sherab Mebar sent his followers to different directions of “Ling” to meditate. And, he built a small hermitage at Tashiling and resided there for a long period of time. During his stay at the retreat hut, he had a pleasant and peaceful stay, and thus, he named the place Tashiling, which means an auspicious place. The local people were oblivious of the presence of relics inside the lhakhang when the Terton was alive. Only later, they knew that the retreat hut had statues of Yab Jambay Shinji (ཡབ་འཇམ་དཔལ་གཤིན་རྗེ) and Yum Akarzati(ཨེ་ཀ་ཛ་ཏི). He is said to have built these two massive statues in Tashiling lhakhang and they were, apparently, his guardian deities.

After Terton Sherab Mebar went to Paro, there was no one who took care of his hermitage, and the place fell into disrepair.  Therefore, the local people moved the two statues—Yab and Yum to Dechenling lhakhang before the hermitage completely collapsed. The local festival called Kewang-Lha was started after the installation of the deities in Dechenling lhakhang. In the 1950s, Rinchen (then a village headman), a son of Tangsibi Dung renovated and transformed the hermitage into a small lhakhang, which later came to be known as Tashiling lhakhang. Sometime in 1966, Kunzang Dorji (another son of Dung), along with a few villagers, renovated the lhakhang once again. They invited a few artists from Tibet and built a statue of Buddha Shakyamuni and Guru Rinpoche. The lhakhang again fell into disrepair because there was no proper caretaker. Lama Tashi still remembers that in the 1950s, he saw a small hut with a few statues of Dharmakaya, Sambhogakaya and Nirmanakaya (ཆོས་ལོངས་སྤྲུལ་གསུམ).

In the 1980s, under the patronage of Dasho Karma Gelek (another son of Tangsibi Dung), the renovations were once again initiated by Lopen Ngawang who was then a carpenter.  Dasho Karma Gelek sponsored the wall paintings of peaceful and wrathful deities. Though the lhakhang was renovated several times, nobody changed the design and size of the lhakhang. Lam Tashi said that at one point the lhakhang was enclosed by a traditional wall, and nobody had pulled down the wall during the earlier renovations.

In 2003, Lam Tashi carried out an extensive renovation of this lhakhang. He spent around ngultrum three hundred thousand in the renovation. The renovation included a bit of expansion, which required the old traditional wall to be pulled down because there was not enough space for the expansion of the lhakhang. It is said that many people have resided in Tashiling lhakhang, including Lam Tashi himself. Even Lopen Gembo Tenzin, who was the Principal of Simtokha Rigzhung, stayed there for a few months doing prostrations.

Architecture and Artwork

Tashiling lhakhang is a one-storied building constructed in the traditional Bhutanese style. It was surrounded by an old wall, but the wall was demolished in the 2003. There is no courtyard, not even a prayer wheel.  The main relics of the lhakhang are Buddha Shakyamuni in the Centre, Guru Padmasambhava to the right, and Vajrasattva to the left. Ashi Kezang, the great granddaughter of the first king Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck from Lamai Goenpa, offered the statue of Vajrasattva to the lhakhang.

Social and Cultural Functions

Since the Tangsibi village has Dechenling lhakhang, which is much bigger than Tashiling lhakhang, most of the religious rituals are carried out in Dechenling lhakhang. Coinciding with the first ceremony or sermon of Lord Buddha, on the 4th day of the 6th month of the Bhutanese calendar, the local people conduct rituals in Tashiling lhakhang. Sometimes, people also carry out community rituals in the lhakhang when needed. A Tibetan named Tshampa Gelong (he meditated at a place called Samtenling, and later he moved to Tashiling), started the celebration of Drukpa Tshezhi at the lhakhang.

Informant

Lam Tashi, former Neten of Zhemgang,

Researcher

Pema Youden, Asst. Lecturer, College of Language and Culture Studies,

Royal University of Bhutan, 2019