Dongkala (also written as Dongkarla) Gonpa was established in the 16th century by Terton Tshering Dorji, who was a student of Drubwang Rinchen Choedor of Mendrup Gonpa.
Story has it that Drubwang Rinchen Choedor, who was the resident lama of Mendrup Gonpa, saw a fireball on the peak of Dongkala, which was unusual. He instructed Tshering Dorji to take a hike up and check out.
Terton Tshering Dorji found a ter (sacred relic), which was discovered by Terton Pema Lingpa from Mebar Tsho (Burning Lake) and which had flown in to Dongkala. This ter can be seen in the main altar room on the top floor, today.
In the same altar room of the temple are the urn, which the infamous thief wanted to steal, and the Kaypi Marmey (Eternal Butter Lamp), which has been burning since the foundation of the temple in the 16th century. A kudrung chorten (memorial stupa) of Terton Tshering Dorji is on the left side of the altar, and believed as wish-fulfilling stupa.
And then my favorite – the rescued statue of Guru Padmasambhava, which came from another temple in the area. Apparently, that temple was caught by an accidental fire and the statue cried for help to rescue it. The statue is believed to have been brought by a single person, despite its size.
Dongkarla is also the abode of the powerful mountain deity Dongko Tsen, Lotey, who according to one story prevented a thief from stealing a sacred urn from the temple. The thief got his hand stuck on the vase. Desperate to leave when dawn broke, the thief chopped his wrist and escaped leaving behind his severed hand. The mummified hand is still visible in the goenkang today and is a main attraction for the visitors.
While the Zhung Dratshang manages the gonpa, the goenkang (altar room of the guardian deity) still maintains the dharma protectors of the Peling tradition, such as Gonpo Maning Nagpo, and the daily propitiating rituals are conducted in their honour. The goenkang also has mural paintings of several local deities such as Genyen Jakpa Melen, and Dongko Tsen Lotey.
Dongkala is the most beautiful viewpoint in the Thimphu-Paro region. On a clear day, you can see as far as Mt Kanchenjunga to the west (Nepal-Sikkim border), and Mt. Jumolhari, Tsherim Khang, and the most beautiful Mt. Jichu Drakey to the north. To the east, one can see the Table Mountain and Mt. Gangkar Puensem, the highest unclimbed peak in the world. To the south, you can see Takti Peak.
A visit to Dongkala is, of course, incomplete if one does not visit Mendrup Gonpa, which is on the hill below. This is because the two temples were respectively founded by the Lama and his disciple, and thus the sacred Lama-Loma Damtsig is a powerful source of blessing and inspiration.
Mendrup literally means “Medicine Making” and is named after Drubwang Rinchen Choedor, who was an accomplished medicine maker. Even today, the stone grinder he used is believed to possess the power to cure skin diseases and muscular pain.
Mendrup Gonpa was founded by Drubwang Rinchen Choedor, who was a prominent disciple of Terton Pema Lingpa. In fact he was assigned to the western regions of Bhutan by Terton to hold the Peling tradition.
It is believed that Drubwang Rinchen had hundreds of students, some of whom were the likes of Terton Tshering Dorji, who established Dongkarla; terton Ngawang Drakpa, who established the Neyphu Gonpa; and Lam Sangay who built Jabdho Gonpa.
Mendrup Gonpa is still under the patronage of Gangtey Trulku Rimpoche, the mind reincarnation of terton Pema Lingpa, while Neyphu Gonpa is under the spiritual leadership of the line of reincarnation of Ngawang Drakpa, referred to as Neyphu Trulku.
The centerpiece of Mendrup Gonpa are the stone grinder, and the footprint of the Drubwang.
At Shaba Bridge, on the Paro-Thimphu highway, take the dirt road to the left and drive upstream. And follow the sign to Yuthok Gonpa first, and then continue uphill and drive past Dra Karp.
The first temple to the right is Mendrup Gonpa. From there you will see Phurdo Gonpa on the left and Dongkarla on the right peak
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