TANGO AND CHERI MONASTERIES IN THIMPHU BHUTAN (Day hike north of Thimphu).
This sacred monastery is located about 30 minutes drive due North of Thimphu. After getting off at Dodena (2600m), we hike uphill for about an hour. As you walk up it will be shaded with pink, white, and mostly red rhododendron shrubs in late spring. Once you get there you will be greeted with a sight of a beautiful white structure. The surrounding buildings and the three-storied central tower which stands proud to these days was build in the 18th Century by Druk Desi Tenzin Rabgye.
Tango monastery was once the abode Pajo Drujom Zhipo and his descendants, however many influential and important lamas graced the place on later dates. One of them was Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, who meditated in the nearby caves in the 17th century. It was during the time when Bhutan was frequently invaded by the Tibetans. A legend has it that Zhabdrung’s meditation ensured their defeat and the temple was then offered to him. He carved a statue of Chenrezig (avalokiteshvara) out of sandal wood and installed it as the main relic.
Note: Phojo drugom Zhipo is one of the founding fathers of Drukpa Kagyu in Bhutan. He took a consort from Wang Simo in Thimphu, called Sonam Pelden a reincarnation of Machig Lhabdron. They had 4 sons together who went to other parts of western Bhutan to spread Buddhism.
On the adjacent side of the hill is Cheri Monastery. Compared to the winding and genteel climb towards Tango, one has to be a little sure footed while hiking to Cheri. It takes anywhere between 45 minutes to an hour depending on the person. After crossing a small cantilever bridge over the Wang Chhu it’s a steady climb up hill. It is believed that Zhabdrung spend 3 years in retreat at Cheri. Even to these days Cheri is one of the most popular destinations of monks going into retreat. The surrounding area of both Tango and Cheri is home to many hermitages.
Cheri is often counted among one of the sacred places of Bhutan as it houses the remains of Zhabdrung Rinpoche’s father Tempa Nyima. The inner walls of the sanctum are covered with beautiful frescoes of Buddhist saints. As the temple standing atop a hill, it boasts a spectacular view of the surrounding forest and river. If you’re lucky there are chances of spotting a goral or two grazing by the rocky slope.
Tango, Cheri, and the whole of Dodena village have many places of religious connotation if one gets into the depth of it. After being done with both the hikes a picnic lunch by the river awaits for later that day. The tranquility and cleanness of the place is ideal for people seeking to escape the humdrum life.