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The Cheri monastery is situated among the rugged and awe-inspiring landscapes of the Himalayas, a hidden gem of spiritual tranquillity. This serene Buddhist sanctuary is a place where history, culture, and nature seamlessly intertwine. In this blog, we will set out on a journey to explore the captivating Cheri Monastery, uncovering its rich history, stunning surroundings, and the profound spiritual experiences it offers to all who venture here.

A Glimpse of Cheri Goemba

Cheri Monastery, also known as ChakriDorjeden Monastery, is a revered religious retreat located on a hill above Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan. The name “Cheri” derives from “cheri” which means “small hermitage” or “meditation place” in Dzongkha, the National language of Bhutan. Cheri Monastery is a significant spiritual and cultural centre in Bhutan, and its history stretches back to centuries.

History and Origins

The origins of Cheri Monastery date back to the early 17th century. It was founded by ZhabdrungNgawangNamgyal, a revered Tibetan lama and the unifier of Bhutan. ZhabdrungNgawangNamgyal, often regarded as the spiritual father of Bhutan, established Cheri as the first monastery of the Drukpa Kagyu school of Buddhism in Bhutan. Bhutan’s history also has it that the location was originally blessed when Guru Padmasambhava visited in the eighth century. PhajoDrugomZhigpo, the Tibetan Lama, who brought the Drukpa Kagyu Tradition to Bhutan, paid a visit to the location in the thirteenth century.

One of the most intriguing aspects of Cheri Monastery is that it served as the retreat centre for theZhabdrung himself. Cheri Monastery is also the first Monastery built in Bhutan and established the first monastic body. The small retreat cottage where he resided, still stands as a testament to his profound influence on Bhutanese Buddhism. Pilgrims and tourists alike are drawn to this humble yet spiritually charged hermitage.

The Monastery Complex

Cheri Monastery is not just a single structure, but a complex that consists of several buildings, including temples, monks’ quarters, meditation huts, and stupas. The most iconic structure is the Cheri Lhakhang, a two-story temple embellished with vibrant murals, intricate woodwork, and religious artefacts. This temple is a place of worship and a symbol of Bhutan’s spiritual heritage. Within the base temple, a medium-sized stupa bears witness to a crucial moment in Zhabdrung’s spiritual journey. Here, facing the impermanence of life, Zhabdrung contemplated a retreat. Yet, his Yab intervened, invoking a prophetic duty—to unite Bhutan under one rule. The stupa stands as a symbol of this divine guidance, embodying the harmonious blend of personal introspection and the collective destiny of a united nation.

The surrounding landscape is equally captivating. Lush forests, pristine streams, and a gentle aura of peace make Cheri Monastery an ideal setting for spiritual practice and meditation. The trek to reach the monastery offers an opportunity to immerse oneself in the breathtaking natural beauty of the Himalayas.

Spiritual Significance

Cheri Monastery is not only a place of historical importance but also a vibrant hub of spiritual activities. The resident monks dedicate their lives to meditation, prayer, and rituals, creating a spiritual atmosphere that envelops the entire complex. Visitors are often welcome to join in and experience the rituals and ceremonies that take place within the monastery. Cheri Monastery, like most monasteries in Bhutan, photography is not allowed inside.

The serene environment, coupled with the guidance of experienced monks, offers visitors a unique opportunity to deepen their own meditation practice. The monastery conducts meditation retreats that cater to both beginners and experienced practitioners, fostering spiritual growth and inner peace.

Visiting Cheri Monastery

To visit Cheri Monastery, one needs to embark on a scenic hike from the base of the hill to the monastery complex. The trek is a wonderful experience in itself, as it takes you through lush forests and offers panoramic views of the Thimphu Valley. “The journey is approximately a 45-minute walk from where your vehicle drops you off.” It is advisable to begin your hike in the morning, preferably between 7 and 8 AM, to escape the heat that could make the hike more challenging, especially if you’re not an avid hiker. For seasoned hikers, it’s a breeze! Upon reaching the monastery, you are welcomed by the soothing chants of monks, the scent of incense, and the stunning beauty of the temple and its surroundings. Remember to be respectful, adhere to the dress code (covering arms and legs), and follow the monastery’s guidelines for visitors. The monastery is perched on a cliff, providing a stunning vantage point from which you can overlook the base of Cheri, a popular spot for picnics and gatherings among the youth of Thimphu. It’s a truly beautiful place.

Now, back to the temple. Within the monastery, there are three significant areas to explore. The first is the base, where Yab (which means Father) MiphamTenpaiNima, the father of Zhabdrung Rinpoche, is believed to have spoken in the form of a dream. Below the shire, there is a Museum which holds treasures that date back to the early 18th century, items containing such as swords, shields, and metal pots. It houses the sandalwood boxes the Fourth and Fifth Kings carried that were being taken to the Cheri Monastery to safeguard the ancient relics. The museum also houses a grain that is 3 centuries old (300 years old).

Cheri Monastery is a place of spiritual solace, rich history, and natural splendour. Whether you seek spiritual enlightenment, cultural exploration, or simply a serene retreat into nature, this hidden gem in the Himalayas offers it all. The profound connection between history, culture, and spirituality makes Cheri Monastery an enchanting destination that continues to captivate the hearts and minds of those fortunate enough to discover it. A visit to Cheri Monastery is not just a journey through time; it’s a journey of the soul. So, the next time you find yourself in Bhutan, make sure to carve out some time to experience the profound beauty and spiritual serenity that Cheri Monastery has to offer. It’s a destination that leaves a lasting impression on all who have the privilege to explore the sacred grounds of the Cheri: The Heaven.