Chencho Dema | Punakha

LOBESA — The once muddy and dusty path leading to the renowned Chimi Lhakhang in Lobesa, Punakha, also known as the Temple of Fertility, has now been transformed into a smooth and accessible road.

The Chhimipang approach road, spanning 1.5 kilometres, underwent blacktopping from December 27, 2022, to June 27, 2023.

On June 20, after the completion of the blacktopping project, the road was handed over to the local communities of Yuwakha and Chhimipang in Lobesa.

The residents of Yuwakha and Chhimipang expressed immense joy, recognising the numerous benefits this development will bring to their villages.

Kaka Dem, a farmer from Chhimipang, said, “In the past, driving outside the village was a challenge as it was difficult to find vehicles. Due to the rough and dusty route, most taxis avoided it to prevent damage to their vehicles. Even if they did agree to take us, the fares were exorbitant.”

The local community anticipates an increase in the number of tourists and locals visiting the temple, which is one of the most beloved tourist spots in the region.

Bijay Ghalley, a tour guide, said that most international visitors preferred to hike from the Sopsokha Choeten to the temple. However, with the road now in better condition, Ghalley believes that most visitors will opt for the road, appreciating the picturesque scenery of the village as they make their way to the temple.

Built in 1499, Chimi Lhakhang is one of the most frequented destinations in Punakha, second only to the Punakha Dzong, attracting both locals and tourists. The monastery’s unique tradition involves blessing pilgrims, particularly women seeking fertility, by striking them on the head with a wooden phallus.

While the locals and tour guides celebrate the improved route, the owners of handicraft shops and other businesses lining the temple are especially elated.

Kinley Pem, proprietor of a general shop located next to the Temple gate, expressed her optimism about the increase in visitors. “With the shop’s prime location, I hope my business will thrive more than ever before.”

Chimipang and Yuwakha villages together have 18 handicraft shops and galleries.

Sherab Lhamo, the owner of a recently-established handicraft business, said, “Typically, visitors reduce during the monsoon due to the muddy road. However, with the improved road conditions, tourists may now choose to stay regardless of rain or hail.”

Lobzang Cheda, the Gewog Administrative Officer of Barp Gewog, said that in addition to the road blacktopping, renovation work on Chimi Lhakhang is underway and expected to be completed by 2024. A footpath has been constructed from Sopsokha to Yuwakha, a popular route for tourists and locals, especially school-goers.