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Kyichu Lhakhang: Bhutan's Oldest and Most Sacred Temple

Updated: Mar 1, 2023

Photograph by Atlas Obscura

Get ready to step into a world of wonder and spirituality as we take a journey through the history of Kyichu Lhakhang. From its origins as a temple built by the Tibetan Emperor Songtsen Gampo to its modern-day status as one of Bhutan's 108 border taming temples, Kyichu Lhakhang has been witness to centuries of spiritual practice and worship. Its sacred sculptures, many treasures and inner courtyard murals depicting great beings await visitors.

So, buckle up and join us on this thrilling adventure through the history and significance of Kyichu Lhakhang!

The History of Kyichu Lhakhang

Come, lets explore the rich history of Kyichu Lhakhang! Legend has it that the Tibetan Emperor Songtsen Gampo built the temple in the 7th century to pacify the troublesome borders of Tibet. Later, in the 8th century, the great Padmasambhava visited the temple and concealed many spiritual treasures there.

Fast forward to the 15th century, where Pema Lingpa uncovered and restored the temple to its former glory. In 1836–1838, the 25th Je Khenpo Sherab Gyaltshen further restored and re-consecrated the temple, adding to its impressive history. And in 1971, a Guru Temple was built next to the old Jowo Temple by Kesang Choden Wangchuck.

The Significance of Kyichu Lhakhang

Its status as one of the most sacred sites of worship in Bhutan speaks volumes about the spiritual significance of this ancient temple. It contains the original statue of Jowo Jamba, a sculpture that is so sacred that it's said that its mere sight can bring peace to one's soul. The temple also houses a statue of Chenrezig, an all-knowing deity that embodies the compassion of all Buddhas.

If that wasn't enough to excite you, the inner courtyard of Kyichu Lhakhang features a mural portraying King Gesar of Ling, a warrior who is said to have conjured the longest poem in history! Annual rites of great accomplishment for the deities Vajrasattva, Palchen Heruka, and Vajrakilaya are held here for the well-being of the country, making this temple a true treasure of Bhutanese culture.

Geomancy and Architecture of Kyichu Lhakhang

This magnificent temple was built on the site of a giant ogress, with the aim of subduing her and spreading the teachings of Buddhism throughout the region. The main temple features a stunning three-tiered roof and central tower, with a mandala at its heart that represents the universe.

The temple is also closely linked to the surrounding environment, with its construction using local granite and strategically placed boulders to harness the power of geomancy. This is further enhanced by its location near a river, where the temple captures the energy of the flowing water to create a spiritually and physically powerful space.

With a smaller temple located on a hill overlooking the main temple, Kyichu Lhakhang is a stunning example of how the environment can be used to create a truly awe-inspiring piece of architecture. It's no wonder that both locals and tourists alike are drawn to this important part of Bhutanese culture.

Visiting Kyichu Lhakhang

Located just a short 10-minute drive from Paro, this temple is a testament to the country's deep spiritual roots and vibrant cultural heritage. Visitors are welcome to explore the temple's cloisters, fortified walls, and inner courtyards, which are populated with lush fruit trees and prayer wheels.

Open hours, from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. until 5 p.m., allows plenty of time to take in the incredible sights, sounds, and energy of this incredible site.

Whether you're a seasoned traveler or a first-time visitor to Bhutan, a trip to Kyichu Lhakhang is an unforgettable experience that will stay with you long after you've returned home.


Kyichu Lhakhang is a temple of immense historical and cultural significance in Bhutan. From its inception as a temple to tame the border to its present status as a sacred site of worship, this temple has stood the test of time.

The original Jowo Jamba statue and the annual rites of great accomplishment for the country's welfare serve as reminders of its rich history. With tranquil cloisters, contemplative spaces, and fruit trees, Kyichu Lhakhang is a peaceful and rejuvenating destination.

So, why are you still waiting? Plan your visit to this old sanctuary today and discover the magic of Bhutan's past and present.

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