Choki Wangmo | Dagana

Perched among warm broad-leaved forest of Tashithang hills in Dagapela, the popular Sherpa lhakhang lies in ruins. Its moss-laden walls stand like gates to nowhere in the middle of the forest.

The origin of the lhakhang is unclear but the Sherpas and Tamangs of Gozhi and Geserling gewogs, mostly Buddhists, seek connection to their roots through the ancestral lhakhang.

The locals call it Gompa Tar.

According to an oral history, the lhakhang is more than a century old. A Khampa Buddhist from Tibet first settled in the area. Suray Lama from upper Gozhi is said to have built the lhakhang.

Suray Lama was also known by the name “Sherpa Lama”.

“After Suray Lama relocated to Lhamoidzingkha, there was no one to look after it. This could be one of the oldest lhakhangs in Dagana,” 48-year-old Lhakpa Tshering Sherpa from Geserling said.

He recalls herding cattle in the nearby area. “It was in ruins since then.”

 Residents claim that some 60 years before Suray Lama’s death, the lhakhang was said to house many relics and statues; no one knows where they all vanished. Some suspect that they might be buried within the ruins.

Gozhi Mangmi Santa Bahadhur Subba said: “People have strong traditional and cultural links with the lhakhang. The Khampas and Sherpas have similar culture, particularly language and dress.”

Historian Karma Phuntsho (PhD) said that Sherpa people from the hills claim their descent from eastern Tibet. “Thus, the name, Sharpa (eastern people). Sherpas in Nepal are mostly followers of the Nyingmapa sect.”

It could thus be assumed that the ruins in Gozhi could have been that of a Nyingmapa lhakhang.

Son of Surya Lama, Dawa Sherpa, is 61 years old and lives in Lhamoidzingkha. A recently superannuated engineer, he said that he wasn’t interested in the path forged by this father, whose birth name was Rinzin Lama.

My father built the lhakhang in the 1920s but when I was two, the family relocated to Lhamoidzingkha. “I don’t know much about the Lhakhang. It is said that my grandfather, Kheybar Lama was a Tibetan who settled in Gozhi.”

The place has signs that people have lived in the lhakhang’s vicinity in the past. Cypress trees and flowers can be seen surrounding the ruins. About 30-minutes above the ruins, there are four lakes.

“The location of the lhakhang and the lakes nearby means that it is a sacred place,” a villager said. 

Lhakpa Tshering Sherpa said that about five hermits tried to rebuild the lhakhang a few years ago. Villagers even requested the former labour minister to support renovation of the lhakhang.

Dawa Sherpa said that in 2018, he visited the lhakhang’s ruins and told the people that he would support anyone who takes the responsibility of rebuilding the lhakhang.

Since the people of upper Gozhi do not have a temple to celebrate their annual rituals, local festivals, and make daily offerings, residents said that rebuilding the lhakhang would be a good initiative.

“Though the Lhakhang falls under Gozhi gewog, the local government members and people of Geserling are willing to give their hands in the renovation,” a resident said.

If it is renovated, the lhakhang is expected to benefit around 300 households of Geserling, Gozhi, and Tshendagang gewogs, with a total population of about 2,000 people.

However, Dagana’s culture officer said that there were no records of the lhakhang in the registry and the infrastructure falls on the State land. According to the law, no constructions are allowed on the State land unless it is leased out.

With the issuance of State land on lease stopped currently, he said, rebuilding the Sherpa lhakhang would not be easy.

Edited by Jigme Wangchuk