Dongkala – a Rare Buddhist Pilgrim Site
I felt as if I have been straying. On 25th May, a group of us, including my family members went to Dongkala in Paro, a very important spiritual place. I had longed to visit it for a very long time, but somehow the plan never fell into place. There is a road right up to the monastery now; though it is a very rough uphill drive, it is worth all the heat and dust that you have to tolerate for around two hours. Now, I feel as if I am on the path.
It is right up on the top of the mountain, above all other hills and mountains; when you reach there, you feel as if you are above the world. From that plateau of heaven, you can see other temples and monasteries on the nearby hills. You can see both Thimphu and Paro valley as well.
Dongkala monastery was founded by Terton Tshering Dorji, who has left a footprint on a slab of stone, now stationed inside the monastery. The main nang rten is the statue of Buddha which is discovered by Terton Pema Lingpa from Mebar Tsho in Bumthang. It is said to have flown from there to Dongkala. There is a Guru Rinpoche’s statue which is believed to have spoken when some people were trying to take it from there to another place – asking them to keep it right where it was (this is all I heard on my visit). It is believed to have been kept in Dekiling monastery before and was later taken to Dongkala by someone known as Dongkala Trulku (http://www.khamshimeto.com/neys-bhutan/dongkala/).
Then there is a big bronze bowl that is kept outside the temple. The main monastery was destroyed by earthquake and later it caught fire. So it is under construction and the statues and nang rten are right now housed in a temporary shelter. It is believed that when a man was trying to steal this bronze bowl, his hand got stuck on it and he couldn’t take it off. So he had no choice but to cut his hand off and run away. His hand, covered with a glove made from hide (from wrist up) is still hanging in the mgon khang (guardian deity’s chapel). People fear and respect the guardian deity and is believed that even if you take a small piece of something from there, you will be stricken sick.
I noticed two big butter lamps burning with multiple dkarme ras but didn’t know its significance. From http://www.khamshimeto.com/neys-bhutan/dongkala/, I read that they are called the timeless light and have never been put off. My two year old daughter took them for candles and sang ‘happy birthday’ song more than two times (I am just trying to note how they take a significant place in the temple). We can’t help notice. They actually burn, all so bright and ready to dispel our ignorance.
I am glad that I finally made the trip. I think one of the reasons I wanted to visit this place was because I grew up hearing the song, ‘ney chhe sa dongka la ley’ which is a tribute to this place. If you grew up with this line of song nagging your heart, you better do yourself justice and clear it off. You will not regret.
Note: Please note that I have used transliteration only for those words that I thought might be misread if I wrote in English as they sounded.