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Location: Eastern Bhutan
Distance from Mongar: 76 km (3 hrs)
Elevation: 1,700m, 5,580ft
Lhuntse, the rural isolated district is the ancestral home to the royal family of Bhutan. The place is famous for the hand-loomed fabrics typically woven from fine silk, known as Kishutharas, keeping intact one of the most distinctive art forms of the country.
Besides the perpetual royal anecdotes and the idiosyncratic ethnicity of the region, Lhuntse is fairly blessed with several places of sanctity. The quaint Lhuntse Dzong is one of the most picturesque in the country being located in such a position that it overlooks the daunting Kuri-chhu beneath the valley. The Jigme Namgyel Naktsang and Dungkar Naktsang can still be seen in their novel forms. The Singye Dzong is an important pilgrimage site for Bhutanese, but it is not open to tourists.
1. Dungkar Naktshang
Founded by Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck, the 1st King of Bhutan, Dungkar Nagtsang is considered the home of one of the highest nobilities in Bhutan, the Dungkar Chojie. It is located in Dungkar, in Kurtoe village.
The three storied complex houses the statues of Ugyen Yabyum (Guru and his consort) and the look of the building maintains the original designs.
2. Kishuthara (handwoven fabrics with intricate designs)
The weavers of Lhuntse are famous, especially for ‘Kishutharas’ from Khoma and Kurtoe Geogs.
Girls as young as 7, many of them school-going, join their parents to weave. Except during the rice cultivation season, Khoma thrives with weavers.
Most weavers take between 2 and 3 years to master weaving lungserma and kishuthara. Khoma weavers weave a variety of textile including mentse mathra and aii kapoor. The weavers in Lhuntse use only the back strap loom (Pangtha).
Weaving is the major source of income for the people living there. What they earn from farming can hardly sustain them through the year. In winter, women weave while men look after cattle and collect fuel wood.
The price of a silk kisuthara ranges from Nu 30,000 to Nu 60,000 depending on the material used and the intricacy of the pattern. Yarn
Among men’s dresses, lungserma is the most expensive. Three pieces of lungserma (which make a gho) cost up to Nu 60,000.
3. Varied Flora and Fauna
Besides the many day hike trails, picnic spots and camping sites, there is a variety of flora and fauna. The Black-Necked Cranes arrive in Membi Geog in the first Bhutanese month and can be seen in the paddy fields of Tangmachu.
4. Jangchubling Lhakhang
Perched on a hillock in Gangzur geog in Kurtoe, the Jangchubling Lhakhang was built in the 18th century by Pekar Jamtsho who was from Paro. At the age of 27 he traveled to Trongsa and from there further east to Kurtoe. At Jangchubling, he built a small shrine and two stupas. In the 1940s Her Royal Highness, the late Ashi Wangmo, who became a nun and led a religious life sponsored the establishment of a Shedra, a centre for Buddhist teachings at Jangchubling.
With guidance from the 16th Karmapa, Ashi Wangmo was instrumental in transforming the sacred temple to its present grandeur. She administered the construction of the existing main Lhakhang and named it as Dargay Choling Lhakhang.
5. Khinley Lhakhang
Located in Metsho geog in Kurtoe, the principal relics are the Buddha and Guru Rimpoche.
It is believed that the foundation for this temple was laid in 779 AD. Oral accounts say that the temple was built on the spot where a dog was found sleeping and hence it derived the name, Khinley- Temple of the Sleeping Dog. Seven hundred years later, Terton Pema Lingpa renovated and installed many statues. The main deity of the temple is Drak Tsen.
Every year, on the 15th day of the 10 month of the Bhutanese calendar, many villages under Metshog Geog celebrate an annual festival called Ramda at Khinley Lhakhang. It is an annual commemoration of the anniversary of laying the foundation of Khinley Lhakhang after renovation by Pema Lingpa.