Phobjikha

The Phobjikha Valley is a vast U-shaped glacial valley, also known as Gangteng Valley named after the impressive Gangteng Monastery of the Nyingma sect in central Bhutan, where the graceful black-necked cranes in Bhutan from the Tibetan Plateau visit the valley during the winter season to roost. On arrival in the Phobjikha Valley in the last week of October, the black-necked cranes circle the Gangteng Monastery three times and also repeat the process while returning to Tibet. The broad valley with its best-known marshland in Bhutan is popular for its scenic splendour and cultural uniqueness. The valley is covered by a rich sward of grass in the marshy land where a special variety of dwarf bamboo (Yushania microphylla) grows on which the black-necked cranes feed. The Nake Chuu and Phag Chuu River run through this valley. Scenic views of the Phobjikha Valley are best below the spur of Gangteng Monastery and from the Ngelung Drechagling Lhakhang. The valley is rich in faunal biodiversity and has, apart from the globally threatened black-necked cranes, 13 other globally threatened species. Within the ambit of the valley, an area of about 163 square kilometres has been declared a protected area, which is managed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Nature (RSPN), for the protection of nature, authorized to manage, on a lease basis, by the Ministry of Agriculture. Tsechu, the colourful Mask Dance Festival of Bhutan and the Crane Festival welcoming the black-neck cranes in winter months are held every year in the precincts of the Phobjikha Valley, in the Gangteng Monastery courtyard. It also has a popular 3-days trek route.

History: The Gangteng Monastery, generally known as Gangtey Gonpa or Gangtey Monastery, is an important monastery of Nyingmapa school of Buddhism, the main seat of the Pema Lingpa tradition. The Gangteng Monastery was established in 1613 by the first Peling Gyalse Rinpoche who was the grandson of the great Bhutanese “treasure revealer” Terchen Pema Lingpa. Guru Rinpoche, during his visits to the country in the 8th and 9th centuries, had hidden many sacred treasures (called terma) (images and scriptures), to avoid their desecration or destruction during troubled times, at various places in Bhutan to be retrieved in later years by treasure finders, to propagate the teachings of Buddha. These were retrieved at various periods over time and in the 15th century Pema Lingpa, born in 1450, considered an incarnation of Guru Rinpoche, prompted by a revelation of 108 treasure coves in his psychic dream revealed by his Guru Rinpoche. He embarked on the treasure hunt in 1476 when he was 25 years of age. He was successful in locating many treasures of images and scriptures related to Buddhism throughout Bhutan, which resulted in establishing many monasteries throughout Bhutan, and Buddhism took firm roots in the country. Consequently, Pema Lingpa came to be known as the “King Terton”, a revered saint and teacher. The Terton, came on a visit to the Phobjikha Valley as a saint to teach Buddhist precepts to the people and also to bless them. During this visit, after looking at the impressive mountains that surrounded the valley he had foretold that one of his descendants would build a monastery or gompa on the Gangten (meaning top of the mountain) and make it famous as the seat of the Peling tradition. This prediction fructified when a monastery was built by his grandson Gyalse Pema Thinley in 1613, and the spur of the mountain was given the name, the Gangteng Sang Nga Choling (meaning: “summit for the teaching of the dharma”). He became the first Trulku (spiritual head of the monastery or gompa) of the monastery. It was initially built as a Lhakhang, a small village monastery, which was later expanded by his son Tenzing Legpai Dhendup (1645–1726), who succeeded him as the second Trulku. It was built like a Dzong (fortress). The present Wangchuck Dynasty, which rules Bhutan, are descendants of Pema Lingpa.

*(All the above information are from Wikipedia.)

Transport:

Airport: Phobjikha is served by the Paro International Airport which is located at a distance of 184 km.

Road: Phobjikha is connected to major cities of Bumthang, Wangdue Phodrang, Thimphu and Paro.

Local: Phobjikha being a small town transportation facilities are limited and can be availed through the tour operators and vehicles provided by the Hotel. It is advisable to arrange transport from major cities of Thimphu, Paro or Phuentsholing.

Tourist Interest:

Gangtey Gompa: Perched on a small hill that rises from the valley floor, the Gangtey Monastery is the only Nyingmapa monastery on the western side of the Black Mountain’s Gangtey valley, Bhutan and also the biggest Nyingmapa monastery in Bhutan.

Black-Necked Crane Information Centre: Situated on the edge of the forest and wetland along the main road of Phobjikha valley, the black-necked crane information Centre has an observation room equipped with high power telescope and spotting scopes for catching the best view of the cranes.

Hotels: There are few hotels in Phobjikha and nearby areas. Online booking facilities are available in few of them. The guides and the drivers come to great help while looking for hotels. During the off-season, the rates can also be negotiated.

Read my experience in Phobjikha.

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