A man on red ropes with curly hair that of Black and beard of Muslim appeared not convincing to thank us for visiting the site. He informed he were once a teacher and now solitude seeking man. He has been there for six months and planning to move to Puna Talo next. I did not Google about the Temple, the words of wisdom I am sharing is his oral narration to our group on the Birth anniversary of Guru. He was Resounding.
It was Divine Madman’s brother Ngawang Chogyel in 15th Century who started with small temple. There are no evidences of the size of the temple; the claim of small size we were told and we would pass onto next generation is through theoretical understanding and orientation of small Nangteens (original small statues) of the temple. The original Nangteens as visible in antique forms are Tempa (Buddha), Tsepamey (Long Life), Guru, Choten and Ngawang Chogyel (his statue most probably after he was gone).
Before British East India Company, Bhutan glued more to the north from trade to Religious associations. Besides the most important event of the period, an arrival of Zhabdrung to Bhutan in 1616, the tight fastening of the central power and several wars were fought between Tibet (Religious Sect) and Bhutan. Bjela is associated with Lama Zhabdrung- at whose feet one summits.
How the name of the site Bjela?
The lama narrates that while Zhabdrung was on retreat at Nangsa Lhakhang (at Paro Town, near vegetable market presently); the guards of the Lama overhear the coming of Tibetan war and reached Jakarthang. Worried improvised Zhabdrung’s guards suggested Lama to move Thimphu for the safety immediately. The lama as was suggested en route Thimphu, the entourage halted a night at Bjela. It was at this temple where the protecting deity of Bhutan Pal Yeshey Gonpo appears in person when he was done with morning routine of retreat and prayers. Zhabdrung was consoled not to worry much, the victory will be his. An appearance of Yeshey Gonpo to Zhabdrung at the temple was ease and thus Bjela. It is said that Zhabdrung praised the site and considered very sacred. It is also said that even if one may not be able to have an audience with one’s own Choesung in this life time, having visited the site, praying and seeking homage would build merits for the next life.
No significant development or restorations occurred since inception until the 60th Je khenpo Sherab Singye built to the present grandeur. He has installed huge Duesum Sangay/Jo Namsum/Choegu Namsum- the Dep Sangay, Dhaata Sacha Thup and Mawong Sangay Jampa Goenpo. One unique feature of Buddha Statue unlike at any other temples, Bjela Dzong has Sherab Lha Phakpa Jampelyang (Wisdom) and Nying Ji Lha Chengrigzee replacing Sangay’s Khor Sharipo and Morepo. Taba Zhabdrung’s project statue is also occupying a beautiful seat throne.
Paintings and other Nangteens:
Like most of the olden temples, Bjela fortress has paintings done on flattened mud wall and the restored paintings on cloth piece and glued. Symmetrical paintings of Phakpai Neyten Chudru, Tempa-37 Jangchup Tungsa -to get rid of all defilements accumulated directly or indirectly in our lives, Tsepamay Tsophu Nga –Long Life empowerment, Nyewai Tsechi Gyee-when Tempa Namsum are gone, they will hold up to continue propagation of dharma, and Four Direction kings.
The paintings of Ngawang Chogyel, Genyeen, Chana Dorji, Guru, Zhabdrung and the Yidam are also intricately mounted.
Choedhu Chorten to the left and Namgay Chorten (get rid of Sickness) on the right are fitted symmetry that adds up the beauty inside.
The Bjela deity symbolically carries parallel name Drel-lha. Drel-Lha a deity helping communicate amongst the travellers, mediate people or regions. I presume it’s a Temple where you could remember, put on faith and pray while having tough time connecting or discharging information sharing. Physically wrathful but I am told Drel-Lha is Speech (Sung) reincarnate of Sangay Kuento Zangpo.
Plastic bottles and edible wrappers were thrown with no care. The woods were cut marked and slim rubbers were tied on the leaves of the trees and the plants for the trekkers to keep on route. Half way from Ta-Dzong Junction to the base, the incessant rain ruined the uphill road and was not pliable except for 4WD. There was only one tin waste bin along the entire route.
Take care of own waste or put some effort to forage plastic waste and carry back home, and to the agents promoting Drukpath Trek and RIGGS Phuntsholing to consider putting on waste bins. To the trekkers not to accept plastic markings or fresh cuts on tree trunks for the route markings but request Tour Operators to mark their trail with chalk dust, sawdust, or colored flour, or to the least degradable papers depending on the environment and weather. I learnt it would be wiser for all pilgrims to take few kilos of rice or cooking oil as a offerings for the Lamas.
How to get to Bjela Dzong:
The smooth road ends at Paro, Ta Dzong and take uphill farm road diversion. Keep on left and wider road until the basecamp. Some construction project is going on at Basecamp where the road ends. The wider road is not forgiving to small cars. 4WD recommended for pouring season. It measures exactly 5.9 kilometers one way from base to Bjela. I know only there is farm road access to Bjela from the Tselung Nye road if one plans to shorten the travelling distance from Thimphu side. Altitude: 3614 Meters.