Dochorten & Sacred Stupa
Paro Dochorten Hike – 108 hidden self-arising rock Stupa via Labtoekha Lhakhang – Bjelela Dzong – Shaba, Paro:
Paro Dzongkhag is situated in the northwestern part of the Kingdom of Bhutan at an altitude of 2,250m above sea level. The Dzongkhag is blessed with numerous temples and monasteries, some dating as far back as the 14th century. Since it is home to many historical and religious sites. Some of the most iconic landmarks include Taktsang Monastery, Paro Ta Dzong, Paro Kyichu Lhakhang, etc and among many holy places, we have hiked to Dochorten with hikers (Pungala Hiking and Trekking) to explore 108 Hidden self-arising rock Chorten (stupas).
Dochorten (108 Hidden self-arising rock Stupa) is located in the north of Shaba valley and it is approximately 10kms away from Neyphug Heritage, Shaba by walking it’s almost 6 hours to reach Dochorten. On the trail to Dochorten from Shaba, the Labtoekha Lhakhang a two-story traditional building is located which is surrounded by monks’ residences and some construction labor camps. During our visit to Lhakhang for blessing the lopen (monk) said that there is no written record regarding the construction of the temple available, nor do the local people have many ideas. However, the informant’s oral account states that the two-story temple was founded by a great master Gyalwang Kuenga Paljor in the 14th century and it’s a private Lhakhang that carries out the community rituals and festivals.
The main relics inside the Labtoekha Lhakhang are the statues of Buddha Shakyamuni, Chukchizhey (Avalokiteshvara with Eleven heads), Gyalwang Kuenga Piljor, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, and the Zhabdrung’s guardian and a protector deity. On the right side of the altar, there are wall paintings of Guru Padmasambhava, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, and a host of wrathful deities. On the left side, there is a wall painting of a host of peaceful deities. Thought you believe it or not a statue of Jawoo Jampa (Buddha Shakyamuni) has verbalized to the carpenter while renovating the old temple built in the 14th century, and after the blessing, we continued our hike to Dochorten – 108 hidden self-arising rock stupa.
We were very much surprised after reaching Dochorten because we had never seen a holy place like that before. Dochorten is located on a hilltop that looks like a self-arising rock stupa. It was founded in the 14th century by the great master Tshungme Gyalwang Choeje or Gyalwang Kuenga paljor the second Gyalwang Drukchen (lama Drukpa Kuenlay and Lama Ngawang Chhogyel’s uncle). There is a ruin of his retreat house from where it is said that he became like a seven-birthed (Dramze Kedun) and later flew from the hilltop to Zangtopalri. Gyalwang Drukchen has visited the Kingdom of Bhutan serval times and became the main teacher of Drukgom Zhigpo’s descendent. The place gives you a magnificent viewpoint of Paro village, Mount Jhomolhari, Chele-la pass, Dongkola Goenpa, Phudru Goenpa, Mendru Goenpa, Bumri Goenpa, and Drakarp Lhakhang.
During our sight excursion around the paradise of Dochorten with a caretaker Lopen Gyeltshen, we were introduced to 108 hidden Chorten, Zangtopalri, Gyalwang Kuenga Paljor’s Drubchhu, lama Drukpa Kuenlay’s Drubchhu, Gyalwang’s holy seat, and the ruins of the monastery and university with many studying and residing rooms. Lopen shared that looking at the ruins of many rooms, Gyalwang has many disciples who are studying and taking the oral transmission of Drukgom. Later, lama Ngawang Chhogyel and Lama Drukpa Kuenlay also visited and mediated at Dochorten. While saying this we can see many ruins and caves used as retreat places by many great masters and still there are many Bhutanese meditators residing.
After, a sight excursion and getting a blessing at Dochorten, we hiked a short descent through rhododendron and oak forest to a ridge up and down to Drela Dzong and back to Shaba. Drela Dzong or Drela Samten Choekhor is located at 3600m. In the local dialect, it is commonly called Bjelela Dzong. It is believed that the Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal met Pal Yeshey Goenpo in person at this place. The two-story temple was founded by Lam Ngawang Chogyal in the 16th Century. The hiking trail is 28.8 km. 05. hours, burning 2,266 kcal, 42,704 steps, 3,695m max elevation and the vegetation is mostly oak, rhododendron, spruce, and hemlock.
If you are an ardent hiker, you can either choose to do a day hike or simply take time to visit the pilgrim site by deciding to stay at Dochorten. If you wish to camp, it would be a wonderful camping experience too. it’s a little difficult to hike in a day (especially in the autumn season.