Over 1300 years old, Nagpo Lhakhang Nagpo stands heavily with thick, ancient stone walls and a simple square shape. The monastery, whose name means “black temple,” houses only two monks. Grand wooden beams uphold its roof structure above walls covered in fading ruby, white, and yellow paints.
A great Tibetan ruler and lama, or Buddhist teacher, named Songtsan Gampo supposedly started construction of the temple in the 7th century. According to local legend, two birds, one black and one white, emanated from his consciousness and flew from Tibet to this location. The black bird landed on the site of Lhakhang Nagpo, hence “black temple.” Locals built Lhakhang Karpo, the “white temple,” where the white bird landed.
Just up the hill from the main building, two chortens each house three crude statues symbolizing the three mountain peaks towering above the valley. Local lore attributes a god to each of the three mountains; collectively, the gods are called “Risum Gyenpo.”
In addition to these guardians, the temple receives protection from its own deity named Da Dochen. This multitude of spiritual protectors reflects Bhutan’s saturation with Buddhist culture as well as indigenous folklore.
Roughly another fifty yards into the forest from the two chortens, an enormous boulder naturally displays patterns similar to a traditional mandala design painted on the ceilings of all Bhutanese Buddhist monasteries. The resemblance between the designs of the rock face and these sacred images causes locals to revere the boulder as a wish fulfilling site.
Visitors to Lhakhang Nagpo will enjoy its fascinating history and majestically ancient architecture, and delight in the joyful ease of its natural surroundings.