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Popular religious festival or Tshechu in Bhutan - Nalakhar Tsehchu festival

Nalakhar Tsehchu - Popular Festivals in Bhutan

Ngang Lhakhang sometimes also spelt as Nalakhar, is a private temple built in the 15th century by a Tibetan lama Namkha Samdrup who moved from southern Tibet and settled in south Bumthang. When he reached the place where the temple stands today, a beautiful swan or Ngang-ma came flying in circles and landed there. The Lama considered this an auspicious sign and decided to build temple there. Until late 19th century, the temple was not maintained properly and at the time of King Ugyen Wanchuck, it was taken over by one of the lama’s collateral lineage. Ngang Lhakhang was later restored in the 1970s.

The temple which looks like a large farm house, typical of the rural religious architecture, has two storeys and is preceded by a large courtyard. The lower temple has beautiful statues of Guru Rinpoche as padmakara with his two consorts. The upper temple is a gonkhang dedicated to protective deities and house the masks for the festival as well as the protective deities images and the three deities of long life (Amitayus, Tara and Usnishavijaya).

A motorable road leading north to the upper Chhoekhor valley has been constructed to reach Ngang Lhakhang. This road passes in front of Thangbi temple and continues on the right bank of the river to the north till opposite of Ngang lhakhang, taking about one hour. Before Ngang, on the left bank of the river in the mountain, one can see the ruins of Draphe dzong; it was the residence of the Choekhor Penlop who was ruling the valley before the Drukpa conquest in the 17th century. It is now being excavated and the site renovated by a Bhutanese-Swiss team. To reach Ngang, one has to cross the bridge on foot and walk for 20 minutes through the beautiful landscape on the left bank of the river. The “Swan temple” is in a lovely location on a knoll, above the river valley and looks from far like a big Bhutanese house. The trail to the Tang Valley via the Phephela pass (3,900m) starts not far from Ngang.

The community holds a festival from the evening of the 15th day to 17th day of the 10th Bhutanese month. The family members from the two main lineages of Samdang Dung (said to be descendants of the 8th Tibetan King Trisong Detsen) who had settled there, and the Ngang Lhakhang Choeje, heirs of Lama Namkha Samdrup, play a central role.

The festival gives visitors the opportunity to witness its unique tradition and culture. People from all over the village and from various parts in Bhutan visit the festival annually in order to celebrate and to pray for better harvest, prosperity and happiness of the villages and the entire country of Bhutan. The spectators witness the festival dressed in their finest Ghos and Kiras (National Bhutanese Dress) and enjoys the spectacle with special Bhutanese packed lunch namely Shaakam Paa (Dried Meat) with Rice and Ema Datshi (Chilli curry made with lot of cheese). The festival is a grand occasion for all the local villagers and people from all over Bhutan visit Nalakhar during the time of the festival.

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