Rigsum Goenpa lhakhang in Trashiyangtse

Neten Dorji | Trashiyangtse

Monks of Rigsum Goenpa in Bumdeling, Trashiyangtse, will no longer have to worry about spending nights in a lhakhang on the verge of coming down.

The Department of Culture will reconstruct the lhakhang with the approval of a budget by the government.

Believed to be one of the most sacred monuments in the eastern part of the country, the lhakhang was reconstructed and consecrated by His Holiness the 70th Je Khenpo in 2004.  But the three-storey structure suffered damages in the 2013 earthquake.

The lhakhang’s lam, Pema Gyeltshen, said it needs reconstruction, as the walls have suffered major cracks. “Wooden poles support the structure.”

Lam said that His Majesty commanded the reconstruction in 2018 and they proposed to the dzongkhag administration and Department of Culture.

Major reconstruction works, he said, were necessary to preserve the sacred monument. “Rigsum Goenpa is an important lhakhang from an historic point of view,” he said.

Lam Pema Gyeltshen said they had proposed to construct all the required amenities, including a guest room, a classroom, a library, a drasha (hostel) and a separate room for the lam.

About 20 workers have already reached Bumdeling for the reconstruction work.  They will also install a ropeway.

The project manager, Sonam Tobgay, said the main lhakhang would be dismantled and restored within the 12th Plan.

“We’ll first reconstruct the main lhakhang. But construction of other amenities like drasha will be completed in the 13th Plan.”

The project, he said, also includes site development, electrification work and the installation of a fire safety system. “The project is expected to be fully complete by the end of the 2024-25 fiscal year.”

The Government of India is providing Nu 176 million for the project.

Located at an altitude of about 2,500-3,000 metres, it takes between three to four hours to reach the goenpa on foot from Dungzam in Bumdeling gewog.

The lhakhang was founded by Lam Tshering Gyamtsho, a close disciple of the 9th Je Khenpo Gyalwa Shacha Rinchen (1744-1755).  Later it was renovated and extended by his nephew Lama Jangchu Gyeltshen.

His nephew, Lam Ngawang Loday, who was appointed as the third abbot of Rigsum Goenpa by 13th His Holiness Je Yoenten Thaye, succeeded him.  He further extended the goenpa.

The lhakhang houses important relics, which include the Jowo Shakyamuni statue.  Lam Ngawang Loday brought the Jowo statue from Punakha Dzong.

It is believed that the fifth abbot, Lam Shacha Gyalpo, witnessed the statue speak.  Hence, the statue was named Jowo Sung Joem – the Jowo that speaks.

Local residents believe that if people can’t go to Tibet for pilgrimage, they should visit Rigsum Goenpa to receive an equivalent merit.

It is believed that a famous craftsman and iconographer, Pentsha Deva, who came from Nepal, made the statue during the reign of the 4th Desi Gyalsey Tenzin Rabgye.

Today, the lhakhang serves as the summer residence of some 45 monks whose winter residence is Choeten Kora.  It is also one of the Goenzin Dratshangs in the eastern dzongkhag.