A giant open air Buddha statue sits calmly at the Thubten Choekhorthang in Gelephu Thromde. The Buddha statue faces south to India, overlooking the junction of four prominent roads, coming from Thimphu, Trongsa, Gelephu town and India. The statue welcomes visitors to Gelephu and sees off people going out, with a sense of blessing. It is a perfect culmination of a journey undertaken or beginning for one to be taken. This statue is a prominent religious landmark in Gelephu and the first of its kind in the region. 

The construction of the statue started in 1989. Upon the request of the Dzongda Rinzin Gyaltshen of Gelephu Dzongkhag Administration and Lam Therchung of Gelephu Tali Dratsang, the 68th Je khenpo Tenzin Doendrup and his entourage visited hot spring in Gelephu from Zhemgang. After spending about five days in Gelephu tsachu, His Holiness the Je Khenpo graced the National Day celebration in Thubten Choekhorthang as a Chief Guest in 1988. In the same year, Royal Wedding of His Majesty the Fourth King was celebrated and His Majesty The King was declared as a Crown Prince.

During the celebration, His Holiness the Je Khenpo conferred tshewang (longevity empowerment) to the general public. At the end of the tshewang, the nyendhar (cash offering) offered by the public amounted to about Nu 35000, a huge amount of money at that time.

His Holiness handed over the money to the Dzongda with a command to build a giant Buddha statue. His Holiness identified the land and held ground-breaking ceremony by himself. The construction begun in 1989 and was completed in the same year. A renowned sculptor Jamyang from Jigmecholing (Suray), upon the recommendation of His Holiness the Je Khenpo, built the statue. The sculptor was assisted by his eldest son Karma Tshering. Gyeltshen Babu was awarded the contract to build the statue. His Holiness offered the Zungs and Nangtens for the Buddha statue.

The then Dzongda Rinzin Gyaltshen spearheaded the logistical supplies for the construction. When he was entrusted with such an important responsibility from the highest level of the Religious Body in Bhutan, he took it as a blessing. He mobilized resources and expertise from different agencies under the Dzongkhag to complete the project on time.  

The statue faces south to India, so that people visiting our country from across the border gain good merits upon the sight of calm Buddha in meditative position. The statue was built for peace, prosperity and propagation of the Buddha Dharma in the region.

Thubten Choekhorthang, the land where the Buddha Statue sits, is a historical ground. His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo celebrated the National Day with his people in 1978 and 1996. 

The Buddha statue underwent major facelift and beautification of the surrounding in the mid-2023. The Gelephu Thromde undertook the project, and Sarpang Rabdey Lam Neten Dawa Gyeltshen consecrated the renovated statue in presence of Dzongda, Thrompon, regional officers, generous donors and local business community on 6 December, 2023. The statue is a center of attraction with exquisite Bhutanese architecture and paintings. At night, the statue looks solemn with confetti of different-colored lights brightening the statue. People of all walks of life visit the statue for recreation and for religious activities.  

During those days when statue was constructed, Gelephu was spelled as Gaylegphu. According to His Holiness the 68th Je Khenpo, Gaylegphu means Gawa Legpai Phu.

Contributed by 

Dr Choeda Gyaltshen

Central Regional Referral Hospital, Gelephu

Source of Information: Former Zhung Kalyon Dasho Rinzin Gyaltshen. 

Editor- Monu Tamang, Physiotherapist, CRRH.

Water Female Rabbit Year, December 2023.