Nye chen Dongkarla stands on the hilltop between the Paro and Thimphu valleys. It is a sacred meadow on the mountain, situated at an elevation of about 3655 meters above sea level and approximately 18 kilometers from the nearest main road.
Our journey to Dongkarla began through pine forests and a winding unpaved road that ascends the hills to the mountains, providing us with extraordinary feelings. Along the way, we passed by several holy sites, villages, and beautiful sceneries. The most stunning aspect of the journey was the sight of snow-
capped mountains surrounding the area, including Mt. Jomolhari, Gangkar Puensum, and other mountains in line. It was a first-time experience that left a remarkable and blessed impression on us, almost as if we were looking from the sky.
Nye chen Dongkarla was blessed by the Terton (treasure discoverer) Tshering Dorji in the 15th century, who was a student of Drubwang Rinchen Chodor at Mendrup Goenpa. While studying there, Tshering Dorji saw a bright blaze on the pinnacle of the mountain. Following the illuminated blaze every night, he sent a monk to verify it. Upon reaching the site, the monk discovered a lake surrounded by a pair of deer, with a dark-colored statue floating on the surface.
The monk reported the findings back to the monastery, and Tshering Dorji informed Drubwang Rinchen Chodor. Drubwang Rinchen Chodor instructed Tshering Dorji to build his seat at the location where the monk found the dark-colored statue. Tshering Dorji built a three-story temple over the lake, and it was recently restored to a two-story temple under the initiative of Paro dzongkhag.
The main statue in the temple is the Buddha Statue, and according to the caretaker, it is believed that the statue will speak in the future. The temple also houses the Choe-Long-Trul Sum (Trikayas) Statues and other statues, along with the Kelpai Marmey (Butter Lamp of epoch).
Visitors can observe the footprint of Terton Tshering Dorji on a stone slab, preserved as an important relic of the temple. Terton’s Lekbum (volume of scriptures), Ritual bell, and Vajra (dorji) are also preserved, along with the Treasure Ritual Dragger (Ter-Phub).
Additionally, the temple conserves Terton Pema Lingpa’s treasure, the Yidam Thongwa Donden statue. According to legend, this statue illuminated the mountaintop before the temple’s founding. The temple also houses a copper urn, and a story is recounted about a thief who attempted to steal it but got caught when daylight broke.
The inner chapel, known as Goenkhang, contains the hand of the thief, cut off during his attempt to escape. The shrine attached to Goenkhang is dedicated to the Naga (serpent) named Thinley Om, who promised to take care of the temple’s properties. Visitors are said to receive blessings of wealth and children by circumambulating the chorten when daylight breaks.
A few kilometers from Nye chen Dongkarla is Phu-Ding Goenpa, where a Stone-Pillar of the same height as Drubthob Thangthong Gyelpo can be seen. Drubthob Thangthong Gyelpo is a pioneer architect in ancient Bhutan, known for his iron chain bridge and famous temples in the country. A short drive down the valley leads to Mendrup Goenpa, where Guru Rinpoche meditated on medicine in the 8th century. The temple is still under reconstruction with the patronage of the 9th Gangteng Trulku.