Nima Wangdi

When there were disputes and arguments among the people in Thimphu, one would say, “I will make you bask in the sun by the choeten at Changlimithang.” 

This is because the choeten is located near the court where people waited for hearings. People still do the same to this day.  

Popularly known as Namgyal Choeten, the monument stands tall. It is sacred, probably the most sacred stupa in Thimphu, according to elderly people from Thimphu. 

Built on an area of approximately 10 square metres, the choeten is as tall as a two-storey building. 

It is whitewashed and it’s decorated with traditional paintings. Paintings of some Buddhist gods on stone slabs are arranged in traditional Bhutanese window frames as if they are looking out through windows. 

 Towards the south of the choeten is the wooden structure in which water (yoenchab) and butter lamp (karmey) offerings are made. Three small statues of about 10 centimetres sit there in a small wooden frame, all together. A framed portrait of Zhabdrung from an old calendar is also placed in the altar. 

In each of the four faces of the choeten are metal boxes for offering butter lamps. Nowadays, the caretaker makes water offerings. 

There are no written records of the choeten. 

What is Changlimithang today was, centuries ago, a vast paddy field. A farmer on his way to guard his paddy field one evening found a lama sitting on a rock on which the choeten stands today. 

Phuntsho, 86, from Sephu in Wangdue, who served as the caretaker of the choeten for more than 20 years said the farmer found the lama lying dead on that rock the next morning. 

He then informed other villagers, who came together to cremate the lama’s body. Then, they built a kudung choeten, burying the rock as the main relic inside.

According to Phuntsho, some men from the locality went to Phajoding to invite Gyelwa Shakya Rinchen, the ninth Jekhenpo to consecrate the choeten. Shakya Rinchen is believed to have told the people to burn incense by the choeten, and said he would consecrate it from Phajoding. 

When the people started burning incense at the choeten, there was a light shower in the form of thruesoel. People heard the sounds of the chandru (holy grains) being scattered from Phajoding monastery on the roof of the choeten. 

Some say that weeds grew on the roof of the choeten, believed to be from the holy grains that landed there from Phajoding.

Today, the choeten has a Serto, and there are no weeds growing there. 

Thinley Dorji, 80, from Changangkha, said Namgyal Choeten has been there as long as he can remember. “I was told that one of my uncles renovated it.” 

Thinley recalls the central monastic body doing three rounds of this choeten when monks left for their winter residence in Punakha and while returning to their summer residence in Thimphu. 

Some believe that choeten was built as Kudung Choeten of the first Jekhenpo, Pekar Jungney. According to some history books, Jekhenpo Pekar Jungney had an accident involving his horse at Changlimithang and died at the age of 68. However, there is no mention that the choeten is his kudung choeten.

 Some also say Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal built it, hence its name, Namgyal Chorten.

Tempa Nima, 57, the present caretaker said that the choeten had openings through which people could walk, but they have since been blocked to prevent littering. 

As per the information on the stone block, written in gold and stuck on the choeten, Zung includes a relic of the Buddha, a relic of Dremo Jotsun and Pema Lingpa, a hundred copies of the Diamond Sutra, a Jajradhara statue, Namgyalma, Tshepamey, Mitrukpa, Chenrezi, and many Dharani texts and also stupas. 

According to the stone slab at the choeten, the choeten was built by Khenpo Yangar Wangpo. However, there is no mention of the date or year of construction.