Changangkha Lhakhang – the oldest temple in Thimphu

posted in: Asia, Bhutan, Heritage | 45

If the Chimi Lhakhang temple in Bhutan is renowned to bless childless couples with a bundle of joy, there is another temple in Bhutan that bestows a blessing on these young wonders. Considered as the oldest temple in Bhutan, the Changangkha Lhakhang has built an unshakable faith in the people. It is here that people bring their children to get special blessings. Visiting this temple got me more than these blessings. What I saw and felt here definitely made it count as one of the key things to do in Thimphu.

Changangkha Temple in Thimphu, Bhutan
Changangkha Temple in Thimphu, Bhutan

About Changangkha Lhakhang

Well, technically the fertility temple of Punakha – Chimi Lhakhang was built much after the Changangkha Lhakhang. This temple was built in the 12th century while the fertility temple came to existence in the year 1499. There is technically no connection between the two but given that they are meant for children, I could not help but equate the two. It seems as if Changangkha Lhakhang is the ultimate destination to bless the gift that the fertility temple bestows on you. 😉

The fertility temple in Bhutan is renowned worldwide for its miracles. Childless couples across the world have been rewarded for their belief in the temple. The symbol of phallus is attached to the temple. Why this unique symbol? What is the significance? The answers to all this in this unique post about the Chimi Lhakhang Temple.

P.S – it not just the temple that you will enjoy reading about but also, the gorgeous journey to it. 

Kids get blessed by the protector God at Changangkha Lhakhang
Kids get blessed by the protector God at Changangkha Lhakhang

Enough about my views. Let’s get to the actual facts on the Changangkha Lhakhang. The temple exists right in the center of Thimphu, high up on a hillock. It was built on the site chosen by Lama Phajo Drukgom Shigpo. There isn’t anything else that I know about the history except that it is said that the protector deity here –Tamdin blesses the child. As per our guide – it is the spiritual home of Children and hence, everyone in Bhutan brings their kids here to get the deity’s blessing.

Climbing up the ancient temple

It was post noon and we had our bellies full after a delicious Bhutanese meal. Eyes heavy and comfortably snug in the car, shielded from the cold outside, I was almost about to doze off when screech! We stopped! A long flight of stairs seemed to be leading up to a modest looking Bhutanese building. “This is the oldest temple in Thimphu and the most important one. Welcome to Changangkha Lhakhang” – announced our driver cum guide.

Changangkha Lhakhang as we ascended
Changangkha Lhakhang as we ascended

It just took a few steps to realize that the long flight of stairs were actually quite high and ancient too. The unequal size of the stairs made the ascent a mini hike – albeit one that we needed to digest our rich intake. The melodious chimes of whirling prayer wheels greeted us as we entered a small gate. We had reached the Changangkha Lhakhang.

The Central courtyard of Changangkha Lhakhang

Meditation hall in Changangkha Lhakhang
Meditation hall in Changangkha Lhakhang

If you are expecting an elaborate set-up like the Tashichodzong or the Punakha Dzong, you will be a tad bit disappointed. Changangkha Lhakhang is a simple set with oodles of positive vibes. Follow the line of Prayer wheels through a narrow doorway and you will be standing right in the middle of their main courtyard. It is quite like a small home courtyard. The building against which the prayer wheels continued is the main temple while right opposite to that is the meditation hall and the monk quarters.

The main temple windows
The main temple windows

There were very few people around when we visited and that added to the calm around the place. Only a few naughty kids walked around the place, spinning the prayer wheels while old monks smiled at them, indulging them to play in their spiritual space. I loved the little corners of the courtyard with its pretty potted plants. My favorite – the giant lilies blooming in white!

The Temple & Chief Deity

As is the norm in Bhutan, photography within the main temple is not allowed. What lay within this temple were huge statues of the Guru Rinpoche and the other Buddhas. Along with that is one of the main deity – Tamdin – the one who protects the kids. Walls were covered with gorgeous murals and a few Thangkas added the glitz as they strung down the ceiling.

Loved the doors and the unique door frame with deities of the sacred room
Loved the doors and the unique door frame with deities of the sacred room

The main ritual here is that of blessing a kid. Every kid is blessed by the traditional dagger called Phurba. They are given a sacred thread by the monks. Newborns were brought here –  not just to be blessed but also, to be named. Changangkha Lhakhang was known for its auspicious naming ceremony where the temple astrologer looked at the dates and gave a name to the baby. Even if you are not seeing a name, based on your birthdate, the astrologer will give you a lucky flag that you can then hang at your place.

Prayer Wheels & Good Vibes

Prayer wheels around the main temple of Changangkha Lhakhang
Prayer wheels around the main temple of Changangkha Lhakhang

I followed the ring of prayer wheels that went around the entire temple – feeling a strange peace. It wasn’t just the prayer wheels but the flickering butter lamps lit at corners with pictures of a deity. The fluttering prayer flags also, seemed to be working its magic but transferring some of its positive energy to me. The panoramic view of Thimphu from high up here made me feel like I was in cloud nine – satisfied and at ease with the world.

Butterlamps lit around a deity's picture
Butterlamps lit around a deity’s picture

Unlike all the other heritage destinations that had me in a frenzy with its multitude of stories and things to see, the Changangkha Lhakhang made me feel calm. It may not have the numerous tales but it had oodles of peace. Frankly, it is this simple charm that makes me recommend adding this to your Thimphu Sightseeing. So go and add this pin to the same.

How to get to Changangkha Lhakhang?

  • Thimphu though the capital city of Bhutan, does not have its own airport. The closest and the only international one is at Paro – 50 km from the city. You can get here by hiring one of the local cabs.
  • Refer to this Bhutan guide on the other ways of getting in Thimphu.
  • Once in Thimphu, the Changangkha Lhakhang can be spotted high up on a hill in the center of the city.

Stay in Thimphu

  • Thimphu offers you accommodation in various budgets. You can book a Thimphu Hotel through any of the well-known websites.
  • If you are on a Government Package, your hotel will already be a part of the tour.

Travel Tips

Government Packages, Visas, Permits, Places to visit in Bhutan and more  – these are common queries that you will have about Bhutan. This is where you need to check out this ultimate Bhutan Guide.

  • Changangkha Lhakhang is not a long climb. However, the steps are very uneven and some of them quite high. Be cognizant of the same when heading here.
  • Cover your shoulders and legs when visiting the temple.
  • You will have to leave your shoes outside the temple when entering it.
  • Keep aside 45 mins for a basic visit. It is quite peaceful to sit up there and enjoy the views around. A little time for that too would be nice.
  • The Temple opens at 6 am and closes at 6 pm. There are morning and evening prayer ritual that you might find interesting. Head over between 6 am to 8 am for the morning one and between 5 pm to 6 pm for the evening one.

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45 Responses

  1. Sinjana Ghosh

    I visited Bhutan long ago but the memories of the beautiful country are still fresh. This fertility temple in Punakkha is so different from the rest of the temples and monastries. Amazing photography yet again!

    • Ami

      Hi Sinjana. I think you got confused with my other post. This one is in Thimphu 😀 And is not the fertility temple.

  2. Christopher Rudder

    This one reminds me of a site in Bangkok where women and childless couples offer an image of phallus in hopes of getting pregnant / having kids. This one though is a small shrine unlike this one in Bhutan which is a full-pledged temple, respected and full of history.

    • Ami

      Bhutan has a fertility temple in Punakha that has phallus as its symbol and is for the same purpose. Check out my post on the same. Have shared the link in this blogpost itself.

      • Shreya Saha

        I was not aware of Changangkha Lhakhang even though I have been to Bhutan. I like how to give all detailed information about the temple complex, its chief deity, how to get there, and your feeling about the place. If I have not got it wrong, I think the temple is mainly to bless newborn and protect them with the dagger and also the flag, and also the locals take their newborn there to name them.

        • Ami

          You got that right, the temple is for the kids indeed. Thanks for your lovely compliments on the blog post. Hope you get a chance to see all this again.

  3. Thomas Bourlet

    Good tip with the uneven steps, I’m a little clumsy so I can see myself tripping up a few times. I’ve never been to Bhutan before but it always seems so mystical and intriguing.

  4. Rosemary

    It is always interesting to read about different customs from around the world. This temple with it’s unique role as the ‘Spiritual home of children’ is quite interesting. Is it only newborns who can receive their blessings or can the kids be up to a certain age? Love your description of the positive energy and peaceful vibes around the temple. Certainly made going up all those stairs worth it. Great photos!

    • Ami

      There were not many steps but enough to get you on a high. I loved it there with all those vibes. And it was so refreshing to see no crowd.

  5. Danijela

    I can’t even pronounce the name, but I like the architecture of the temple, the path towards it looks interesting, but how amazing it is that it actually dates to the 15th century and that it’s the fertility temple! Didn’t know that such ‘spiritual homes for children’ even exist, lovely. 🙂

    • Ami

      The fertility temple is actually the one in Punakha . While this one is the spiritual home. It is so calming to be and that makes me believe in the spiritual part.

  6. Ruma Dey Baidya

    Hi Ami

    Its a nice post. Thanks for sharing. Your guide will really help me when I visit Bhutan.
    Thanks
    Ruma

    • Ami

      Thank you Ruma. Do check out my Bhutan guide before you plan for it has all the information you need for your trip – that is in addition to these individual places.

  7. Punita Malhotra

    The oldest temple of Thimpu is a work of art, with all those intricate carved solid doors and windows. Did you already know about the place when you went to Bhutan or did a local recommend it to you? The picture of the little girl adds so much depth to the narrative.

    • Ami

      The temple was a surprise for I had not known much about it. Glad that our guide took us there. Thanks for your lovely comment, Punita.

  8. james

    Great post & bhutan is also a very famous tourists destination and you can find and feel the peace and nature beauty of places and i have visited many time and great Information shared by you

  9. Suruchi Mittal

    Changangkha Lhakhang Temple is really beautiful and peaceful. The interesting part is the spiritual home of children and we have never heard anything like that before. Your narration is beautiful as always and pictures actually made me feel the peace one can enjoy being there.

    • Ami

      Thank you Suruchi. The place was a surprise for me too. Loved the calm for a change.

  10. Medha

    Oh I did not know there is a fertility temple in Thimphu and I see why you have related the two temples, even though there isn’t any existing proof of the relation, hehe. Climbing that high and ancient staircase after a heavy meal could not have been fun but the temple does look really nice, and just like you said, very calming. I love that dong in Buddhist temples as well, it brings a weird sort of peace to the mind.

    • Ami

      It is not really a fertility temple . More of a protective temple. However, it just seems befitting that it follows the blessings of the Punakha temple – I mean logically it does, doesn’t it?

  11. Tami Wilcox

    In my church, we have sacred temples, too. I understand how meaningful it is to visit a place of high religious significance and leave with renewed peace and inner calm. How wonderful that you were able to have this experience too. It helps us do better with our everyday lives.

    • Ami

      Oh yes, and the best is that I went without any expectations or knowledge. So it was sweeter.

  12. Emman Damian

    Changangkha Lhakhang looks like a very amazing and sacred place. I have a classmate from Bhutan who studies business too. I’m so sure he knows about this place. I really hope to converse with him in the next few days to talk about this place. I really want to visit it next year!

  13. Lisa

    What an inspiring temple to visit in Thimphu. I’ve never been to Bhutan, and honestly never thought about visiting. However, this place, and the blessings it bestows upon it those wanting children, and the children itself makes me want to visit. The detail on the building is pretty incredible too.

    • Ami

      I highly recommend adding this country to your list and maybe soon. It has some amazing things to showcase.

  14. Campbell Kerr

    This place looks so peaceful! I love the Buddhist temples around Asia as they are just so relaxing and quiet. Such a ncie place to gather thoughts.

  15. Emily

    Changangkha Temple sounds epic. A spiritual and educational experience for certain. Bhutan in general looks to be a great place to travel. I haven’t seriously considered traveling to Thimphu, but I’m tempted to reconsider.

    • Ami

      Don’t miss any chance that you may get. Trust me, Bhutan is a treasure trove of culture and nature.

  16. Yukti

    It would be great to see Changangkha Lhakhang temple in Thimpu. I loved its faith story and how childless couple flock here to revive their hopes. Prayer wheels around the temple really send the positive vibes and even while reading your post makes me feel positive and happy. Good to know how to connect to Thimpu from Paro. I would surely check Thimpu hotel for my stay.

  17. Soumya Gayatri

    The temple of Changangkha Lhakhang in Thimphu is a mouthful to pronounce but seems like the calmest part of the world to visit. The place looks so beautiful, clean, and sublime. I can already feel the sense of peace that must have enveloped you here. This temple must be such an important part of life in Bhutan with its miraculous blessings. It’s amazing how faith works.

    • Ami

      Oh yes, they have so much faith in it. And somehow, the vibes make the faith seem so strong.

  18. Yukti Agrawal

    It would be great to see Changangkha Lkhakhang temple in Thimpu. I loved the fact that this people bring their children for blessings. Prayer wheels around the temple really send positive and happy vibes even though while reading your post. It is good that you shared how to reach Thimpu and I would surely check Thimpu hotel for my stay.

    • Ami

      Thimphu is quite an unusual city and you are bound to find it fascinating. Hang in there as I share a few more posts on it.

  19. Paul Healy

    Sounds like it was an incredible place for you to visit. I’ve never been to Bhutan but I’m sure it’s a fascinating place to visit. The temple looks beautiful too, so much amazing detail on the prayer wheels.

    • Ami

      Bhutan is very very different from the other popular places in Asia. You must visit to know the difference yourself.

  20. Sandy N Vyjay

    Changangkha Lhakhang seems to be a place surcharged with positive vibes. No wonder children are brought here for blessings. It is so interesting to note that the faith and belief of the people in the temple and its deity has stood solid across the passage of time. After having read about the fertility temple in Punakha, this one seems to complete the full circle.

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