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Drubthop Nagi Rinchhen lhakhang: A spiritual monument restored
His Majesty the King, Their Majesties the Queens, the royal family, the council of ministers, senior government officials and devotees from all sections of Bhutanese society gathered together on December 6, 2005 for the consecration of the old Guru lhakhang which was renovated and expanded on the sacred site blessed by the Buddhist Saint Drubthop Nagi Rinchhen and many other well known religious figures.

The inner sanctum of the statue contains relics of Lord Buddha, Guru Rinpoche, Buddhist saints, successors of Zhabdrung and Sungtrul Chogley.

The new images that are built in the Wogmin Ngayab Choeling lhakhang includes the life-size images of Ugyen Padma Jungney, Drubthop Nagi Rinchhen, Choley Jigme Tenzin, Damchoe Gyeltshen, Drubthop Terkhungpa, and Zhabdrung Khamsum Zilneon. The lhakhang also houses a Jangchub Chorten (stupa of enlightenment).

The religious texts in the lhakhang include a set of Kanjur printed from wood blocks and a hand written Gyetongpa brought from Sersa Lam(s ancestral home in Dagpo Domkha (Arunachal Pradesh), the birthplace of Zhabdrung Jigme Dorji. The murals on the lhakhang(s inner wall depict Phagpa Chuchi Zhe, Zhabdrung(s life and his works, Guru Tshengye and other well-known Buddhist saints.

The top floor of the lhakhang contains the life size gold plated image of Goenpo Yeshey Tsepamey (Amitayu Buddha), a six-inch Buddha image which was believed to have been built at the same time as the Jowo statue of Lhasa, and 108 one-foot tall gold Tsepamey statues.

The mural paintings include Tsepamey, Guru Padma Jungney, Kuenkhen Pekar, Namsey and Mila Repa surrounded by Tshering Chenga (five sister-deities of longivity), protecting deity Choechong Gyalchhen and Jagpa Milen.

The lhakhang complex includes living quarters (drashag) for monks, a kitchen, a store, a guesthouse, and four chortens on the four sides of the lhakhang, a courtyard and a place for butter lamp offerings.

The renovation and expansion of the lhakhang was initiated in 2003 when the business community of Khuruthang requested His Holiness the Je Khenpo and Yab Ugyen Dorji, father of the Queens, to restore the Guru lhakhang for the propagation of Buddha Dharma and the well being of the nation.

Punakha dzong
According to Yab Ugyen Dorji, the lhakhang will be handed over to the Dratshang and a lam appointed to conduct regular tshechus and Nyungneys (religious practice dedicated to Avaloketesvara) and other religious ceremonies. There is a plan to enroll about 50 young gomchens (lay-monks) from disadvantaged families and train them in the art of Zorig Chusum.

The old Guru lhakhang, which was originally built by Drubthop Nagi Rinchhen has also been renovated and its mural paintings restored. The lhakhang lies within a newly built Rangjung Chorten, which is a replica of Swayambhunath Stupa in Nepal.

The site is believed to have got its name Khurung from the exiled prince Dremi Kuenden (Visantara). According to legend, Dremi Kuenden was on his way to Duedri Hashang on his 12-year exile when on reaching the site all his courtiers returned to India leaving the prince and his family with their belongings and rations. Dremi Kuenden is believed to have said "Khurung" meaning "We can carry the load".

Later the name was changed to Guruthang when Drubthop Nagi Rinchhen built a lhakhang and installed a Guru statue after the construction of Dzongchung near Punakha dzong.

In the 15th century several lams like Drukchhen Ngawang Chogyal, Drukpa Kinley, and Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal visited the lhakhang and blessed it.

In the 1800s a flood submerged half the lhakhang including the statue of Guru but the lhakhang survived with minor damages.

Drubthop Nagi Rinchhen (Vanaratna) was born a prince in the Chittagong district of Bangladesh in 1384. He received monastic ordination and became an ascetic at the age of 20 and left home. Popular belief in Bhutan is that he came to Bhutan in search of his mother(s soul. His mother had been reborn as a frog and was trapped within a large rock, now called as Do Jagarlam (Rock of Indian Saint) in Punakha.

The people of Khuruthang town and the two gewogs of Guma and Dzome will become the immediate beneficiary of the lhakhang. According to 53-year old Rinchen Drukpa from Khuruthang, the lhakhang further enriched the spiritual heritage of the Punakha valley.

His Holiness, the Je Khenpo
"With Khuruthang becoming a modern town, the consecration of the lhakhang completes what we all longed for," he said. "The blend of modernity and tradition is complete with the consecration of the lhakhang." For an 18-year old student of Khuruthang Middle Secondary School, having a sacred lhakhang in the vicinity of the school was a source of spiritual comfort and solace.

The Tashi Rabney ceremony was conducted by His Holiness the Je Khenpo.

By Rinzin Wangchuk, KUENSEL, Bhutan's National Newspaper 2005
Mo Chhu Valley, Punakha

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