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Pang Lha Sol: A Buddhist Ritual In The Himalaya!

Pang Lha Sol: A Buddhist Ritual In The Himalaya!

Monks and the localities praying together

Dzongri is a scenically unparalleled place at around 13,000 feet, close to Mount Khang Chen-Dze-Gna, but why is Pang Lha Sol, the prayers to the mountain to protect Sikkim, celebrated there?

The Pang Lha Sol festivities are over for 2020, though this year due to COVID19 lockdown rules, the Pangtoed Chham, the fabled Warrior Dance, could not be held.

But the monks from Pemayangtse monastery, like in all years past, conducted the Nyesol prayers at various monasteries, including at the tiny one at Dzongri, up around 13,000 feet above mean sea level.

But ever since I have been discussing Pang Lha Sol with my friend Yapchung Shandarpa, he and I have been intrigued by one question: Why Dzongri? What is the significance?

“Ask the learned men.” Yapchung sent me a terse whatsapp message. So, I did so…

What my extremely limited information says, and I lie open to whips of criticism,is that the Pang Lha Sol prayers were devised by HH Lhatsuen Namkha Jigmed, who first ordained that Mount Khang Chen-Dze-Gna, is the Protecting Deity of Sikkim. Now, there are a few questions.

First, why Mount Khang Chen-Dze-Gna?

Second, why Sikkim?

And third, why Dzongri?

Let us start from the end, and automatically we shall get all the answers…

Lhatsun Chenpo was a Tibetan Tantric Buddhist monk. He had known that Guru Padmasambhava, who had tirelessly built the Samye Monastery in Tibet, had prophesied that Tibet would not be the place for the Dharma to survive.

monks performing rituals togetherThe Guru had prophesied that Bayul Demajong, now known as Sikkim, would be the ideal last haven of Buddhism.

To follow the Guru’s prophesy, Gyalwa Lhatsuen Chenpo ‘flew’ over the Himalaya guided by a swan, and entered Bayul Demajong to impart his learnings and setting up the system unique to Sikkim: The Dharma Raja, or Chogyal.

And on that occasion, he laid the foundation of Bayul Demajong at Yoksum, with two more great incarnate Lamas, Karthok Rigzin Chenpo and Ngadak Sempa Chenpo.


Yoksum means the meeting place of three lamas, ‘sum’ meaning ‘three’.

Getting back to the original story, HH Namkha Jigmed flew across the Himalaya and landed at Dzongri, as far as I am informed.

But he had to pass a test there.

monks decoratingSikkim had been the preserve of the Lepcha community, and “most Lepchas were not too educated. But Tekung Moensalang, a Lepcha patriarch, had conversed with Guru Padmasambhava and was immensely knowledgeable,” Yapo Sonam Yongda, one of the most learned persons from Sikkim, told me.

My dear friend Chewang Pintso, now the second man to Sikkim’s minister and Sangha MLA Sonam Lama, tells me: “Tekung Moensalang received Gyalwa Lhantsuen Chenpo and interviewed Him to ascertain whether the Lama was truly the Saint that Guru Padmasambhava had prophesied would establish Buddhism in Sikkim.”

That was around the year 1640 CE.

This is the huge significance of Dzongri, actually a place called Dabla.

One lot of this Bheytsen is brought to Dzongri. (One will now realise that Pang Lha Sol is not just a dance festival. The dance brings to the laity the visual meaning of the esoteric prayers by the lamas, which are very intricate.)

Earlier, there used to be small caves where lamas, suffering all their privations, used to keep the Buddhist prayers alive. Now, after centuries, there is a small hut where a gonpa has been created.

The lamas from Pemayangtse Monastery come here, after seeking their blessings at the Norbughang Throne in Yoksum, and thus begins our backward journey in answering the three questions I posed above.

Gyalwa Lhatsuen Namkha Jigmed landed at Dzongri and was interviewed by Tekong Moensalang, (say a sort of ‘visa’ of a spiritual kind). This is why Dzongri is such a spiritually significant place.

And that solves Yapchung and my query: why Dzongri?

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The lamas from Pemayangtsey carry with them the Bheytsen, or coloured strings made to a specific design.

These are made in the erstwhile king’s palace chapel, Tsuglakhang, and distributed across important monasteries of Sikkim.

Originally, this was made from yak wool, but now they are made from normal cotton strings.

One lot of this Bheytsenis brought to Dzongri. (One will now realise that Pang Lha Sol is not just a dance festival. The dance brings to the laity the visual meaning of the esoteric prayers by the lamas, which are very intricate.)

After taking their blessings at Yoksum, the lamas traverse almost three days of arduous trek up to Dzongri.

Tourism websites have exquisite descriptions of both the trek, through Kanchenjongha Biosphere, but that can be easily found on the web. What cannot be is the spiritual essence of the place.

This year, they reached Dzongri on September 1, and started making the tormas for the next day’s prayers for Pang Lha Sol.

lake around the ritual locationThere was, of course, no chaam. But the prayers were held going by the Neysol prayer book, which Gyalwa Lhatsuen Namkha Jigmedhad conceived and written, and there is a hand-written copy of that too!

Now, getting back to the second issue, Gyalwa Lhatsuen Namkha Jigmedhad established the Chogyal dynasty at Yoksum to preserve Bayul Demajong, now called Sikkim, as the last haven for Buddhism.

(Sikkim, by the way, was a term that the Limbu queen of one of the Chogyals gave Bayul Demajong. It literally is a merger of two Limbu words, Su-Khim, or New Home.)

At Yoksum, Gyalwa Lhatsuen Namkha Jigmed established Phuntsog Namgyal as the Chogyal, creating the stone throne, which we have already described.

The highest point in that throne is a triangular piece of small rock, which is the representation of Khang Chen-dze-gna, the Supreme Protecting Deity of BayulDemajong.

Pang Lha Sol thus is a prayer that for all times, may Khang Chen-dze-gna preserve Bayul Demajong!

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