Sunday, November 20, 2016

An Experiential Narrative of The Sacred Sites of Singye Dzong: Part - I

Disclaimer: It is my earnest effort to contribute my version of "what's what" to the existing information pool about Singye Dzong. The figures and other decisive information mentioned herein in this write-up are truly my own experiential point of view as deemed factually appropriate to me and it may vary from the ones you have heard, seen or felt.  

Located at an altitude of over 3800 meters above the sea level, Singye dzong is one of the most sacred sites to be blessed by Guru Padmasambhava and his consort Khandro Yeshey Tshogyal. Guru Rinpoche and his consort subdued wrathful demons in this region and hid many treasures to be revealed by tertons at appropriate timesMany tertons (treasure revealers), accomplished masters and the likes subsequently blessed this place over the period. Terton Ratna Lingpa revealed "Zabter damchoe longsal nyigthig" treasure from Singye dzong. The most recent discovery of the treasure was in 1908 where Terton Zilnon Namkha Dorji discovered a treasure called Chimi Sogthig which is believed to be originated from Tshey pagmey (Amitayus) which has a power to cure diseases, prolong life and avert war & famine. This sacred text was recited for the long life of His Majesty the King Jigme Singye Wangchuck during Ngagyur Dorji Thegpai Moenlam Chenmo held at National Memorial Chorten, Thimphu in 2014.

Out of the five main Nyes (sacred sites) associated with Guru Padmasambhava, Monkha Neyring Singye Dzong is considered as Thrinley Nye. The four other Nyes are Kui Nye Drak yang dzong, Sungi Nye Samye Chimpu, Thuki Nye Lhodra Kharchu and Yonten gi Nye Yarlung Shedrak. Except for Singye dzong, all others are located in Tibet.  After the subdual of the evil forces, Terdag Zolha Rakey and his consort Thramenma were made the principal guardian deities of these hidden treasures. There are actually eight sub-divisional dzongs representing the eight manifestations of Guru Padmasambhava and they are Tsemo dzong, Rinchen dzong, Singye dzong, Gawa dzong, Duelwa dzong, Pema dzong, Dorji dzong and Namkha dzong

Although dzong literally suggests some sort of a gigantic fortress, there is no such thing as fortress or fortification of any kind in these dzongs.  These dzongs are just but huge cliffs and rocks as seen by the ordinary beings. It is said that, to those accomplished ones, this place is seen as Zandopelri zhingkham (paradise of copper-colored mountain). Except for Gawa dzong, Singye dzong and Dorji dzong, other dzongs do not yet have a lhakhang. Gawa dzong and Singye dzong houses the sacred nangtens (inner relics) and the principal deity is Dorji phurba (Vajrakilaya). There are eight dhue threy (charnel ground) to each of these eight dzongs. It takes one full day to visit all these dzongs and the sacred nyes. This trip is generally referred as Nangkor (Inner tour). It is believed that, one earns immense merit by merely making it there and has the potentials of liberating oneself from taking rebirth in the lower realms.

Going further up from these dzongs, there are various spiritual lakes referred to as lhatsho (deity lake). Tsho kar is Gurui lhatso, Tsho Nak is Phurbai lhatsho and there is also Terdag lhatsho and Yum Thramenma lhatsho. Tour of these external sacred sites is referred as chikor (outer tour).

Aerial view of Singye Dzong
The adventure:
Singye dzong is indeed a beyul (hidden land) even to this day and age. It can only be visited by no other than the true and the determined ones. Tourists are strictly prohibited from entering this restricted area. Even for us Bhutanese, we are required to obtain a travel permit from the Khoma gewog administration to visit this sacred area. The first thing the Dzongpoen does on arrival at Singye Dzong is, check our permit. It is handed over sealed and signed on the day of our return to be surrendered at the Tshikang army checkpoint. It is that serious and strict. 

Like any first-timer would do, anxiousness caught the better of me. My shoulders weighed even more heavier as we were only three men of the fourteen member team. Some had just got out of the ward and some were still on medication, but that did not deter our collective determination. I had to frantically look for any piece of information that could better prepare myself and the team. Like me, others did their part by collecting word-of-mouth information from the previous travellers. After surfing the internet for quite some time, I came across the Lhuentse Dzonkhag Administration website which provided a good deal of information about Singye Dzong. However, to utter dismay, my all time guide and the best bet for visualizing a new place - the google map, had little to offer. Khoma village was the last place to be labelled along this route. Ever since then, I felt the urge to put an update of these places in google earth/map. The first thing that I did upon my return is to geo-tag the locations and submit it to google team for an update. Though I received their e-mail confirmation, these locations are yet to appear online after verification. Hopefully, this should help future visitors.

Exact location of important landmarks
Journey to Singye dzong  takes three full days walk from the road-end at a village called Khoma (best known for Kishuthara - kira with exquisite patterns). Although, the journey is just moderately difficult, the footpath precariously cuts through slide zones and cliff faces at some stretches. Travelers have to be extra careful. One wrong step could be life-threatening if not fatal. However, on the whole, one could see notable efforts of the improvement made in the footpaths. Travellers generally opt to make the first night halt at Tshikang transit camp and the second at Thangkarmo transit camp. Though these camps can accommodate adequate travellers (approximately 30 pax), it would be always advisable to carry a tent during peak seasons.

Courtesy: Lhuentse Dzongkhag Administration Website
If you are a moderately paced walker, you could easily beat the duration indicated in the above map, like we did. We could always make it to the destination couple of hours earlier than expected.

In my next part, an elaborate explanation about the Nyes would be presented.

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