Chhimi Lhakhang Festival

On a hillock below the Metshina–Punakha road is the yellow-roofed Chimi Lhakhang, built in 1499 by the cousin of Lama Drukpa Kunley in his honour after the lama subdued the demoness of the nearby Dochu La with his ‘magic thunderbolt of wisdom’. A wooden effigy of the lama’s thunderbolt is preserved in the lhakhang, and childless women go to the temple to receive a wang (blessing or empowerment) from the saint.

There are a few monks at the Chimi Lhakhang, which is surrounded by a row of prayer wheels and some beautiful slate carvings. The bodhi tree here is believed to have been brought from Bodhgaya. You’ll see the central statue of the lama and his dog Sachi, as well as statues of the Zhabdrung, Sakyamuni and a 1001-armed Chenresig. To the right is a statue of Kunley’s cousin, the founder of the temple. Make a small offering and you’ll be rewarded with a blessing from the lama’s wooden and bone phalluses and his iron archery set. Childless women pray to a fertility goddess while mothers-to-be select their future baby’s name from a collection of bamboo slips, leaving with either Chimi or Kunley as one of their child’s two names.

Murals to the right of the chapel depict events from Kunley’s colourful life; the section above the window depicts the three demons of the Dochu La. Local protectors depicted in the chapel include Dochula Dom, the demon who Drukpa Kunley subdued at a spot just outside the lhakhang marked by a black, white and red chorten.

Most visitors take the 20-minute trail across fields from the road at Sopsokha to the temple (take a hat and be prepared for wind, dust or mud). The trail leads downhill across rice fields to Yoaka (which means ‘in the drain’) and on to the tiny settlement of Pana, which means ‘field’. It then crosses an orchard before making a short climb to Chimi Lhakhang. It’s also possible to start walking from Pana village.

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