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Paro: The legend of Dongkola

Almost every lhakhang (monastery) in the country is steeped in stories of myth and legend.

One among many stories surrounding the Dongkola lhakhang in Paro is that nothing can be stolen from the monastery.

The monastery founded by the speech incarnation of Terton (treasure revealer) Pema Lingpa stands on the highest peak between Paro and Thimphu.

The Dongkola Lhakhang
Legend has it that one night, a long time ago, a thief tried to steal a throe (bronze vessel) from the lhakhang. "The thief has picked the vessel at midnight," said the lhakhang caretaker Tenzin. "But he couldn't carry it very far."

It is believed that the thief had been circumambulating a chorten below the lhakhang for the whole night but was under the impression that he had got away with the vessel.

"As dawn broke he realised that he was still near the lhakhang and fearing that somebody would notice him he tried to drop the vessel," said caretaker Tenzin.

"But his right hand was stuck on the vessel and when he heard the caretaker wake up, he severed his hand."

The vessel was recovered from below the chorten and the severed hand kept in the lhakhang. Today the hand has become a part of the lhakhang's relics. Nobody knows when it happened but village elders believe that the hand must be about 300 years old. It is wrapped in leather and kept in the goenkhang (inner chapel) of the lhakhang.

According to villagers, the lhakhang was under the care of a few choeps (local monks) and was attacked by thieves many times in the past. "The lhakhang is isolated and not many people visit it except during religious functions," said a village elder from Jamdo, a village at the foothill of the lhakhang.

Villagers also say that a Phurb (cup) stolen from the monastery one night had miraculously returned to the lhakhang the next morning. "It is believed that a thief can never be successful in stealing anything from the monastery," said Nima, a village elder from Paro.

Dongkola is about a six-hour walk from the nearest road head from Thimphu and four hours walk from Shaba in Paro. A lam and 12 monks look after the lhakhang.

Contributed by Ugyen Penjore, Kuensel 2006

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