Chumphu ney, the religious site of the floating Vajravarahi statue
February 5, 2021
Time: 3 hours Distance: 9km
About the ney
Chumphu ney, a sacred site blessed by Guru Rinpoche, is often called the Tsari nyipa (meaning 2nd Tsari) named after the popular Tsari ney in Tibet. Due to this, it is said that visiting Chumphu is the same as visiting the ney in Tibet. It was even prophesized that Tsari ney would steadily decline over time and Chumphu would replace it as the 1st Tsari.
Also called Chumbu/ Chumo phu ney, it is the religious site of Dorji Phagmo (i.e., Vajravarahi), a popular tantric female deity in Vajrayana. The place is, thus, considered a very auspicious site especially for female Buddhists. The main attraction is a life-sized floating statue of the goddess. There are multiple legends regarding the origin of the statue. According to one, it was built to be identical to one in Tibet but the statue turned out to be sculpted shorter, because of which it resides floating above the ground to match the height it was intended to be. In another legend, it is said that the statue was discovered from a lake behind the temple, during which it was only about a foot in size. It later grew to the current size and remained floating as it does today.
Along the way to Chumphu
Previously, an attendant monk of the temple would pass a khadar (scarf) from the back and pull it through the space at the bottom of the statue to prove that it was indeed floating. People would also test it by passing their fingers or a note below the statue, which would go through smoothly without a hitch. However, tainted by the sins of people testing the gap, it is said to have reduced over the years so the statue is now encased in glass with a small opening at the bottom. The attendant monk now shines a flashlight and allows the visitors to observe the gap between the statue and the ground.
It’s an approximately half an hour drive till the base point from Paro town. Head past Dungtse Lhakhang towards Norbuling Rigter college and take the bridge towards the right before reaching the college. Otherwise, you can take the route opposite to the one leading to Shari school and head straight till you reach the base point. I recommend you use google maps; it provides the directions till the base. It’s about a 7km drive from the town till the base and an additional 9km walk till the temple.
It is a very scenic route, crossing multiple mini bridges, decorated with colorful prayer flags, providing good photo opportunities. Also, the cool breeze and sound of gushing rivers all along the way makes the hike a very enjoyable one.
Scenic sights along the route
The path has multiple sacred sites (i.e., neys), connected to Guru Rinpoche and his consorts, along the way with signboards (written in Dzongkha however). The trail runs parallel to the crystal clear Dho chhu (river) and is a leisurely hike except for the last climb after a chorten from where one can get the first glimpse of the temple. From here, the path becomes relatively steeper, but there is the option to take the longer route that features additional sacred sites.
After climbing up for a couple of minutes you come to a junction and the longer route is the diversion to the left. This route, though easier, had some narrow and steep paths passing through high areas, so it can be a little risky for small kids and people with acrophobia. Especially during the monsoon season, this route entails to be a lot harder and riskier, as the rain can make the already steep and narrow pathway more slippery. However, the scenes on this route are much more picturesque even featuring a holy waterfall along the way.
The holy waterfall below the temple
This is believed to be the spirit water of Dorji Phagmo, and is said to have curative properties. The waterfall provided us with a perfect backdrop for pictures before continuing our journey towards the temple.
After walking about half an hour from the waterfall, we reached the temple, at an altitude of about 2900 m above sea level and located at a truly secluded place with no cellular network connection. And as is the case in most monasteries in Bhutan, photography is strictly restricted inside the premises.
The temple as seen from the side
Despite having visited in December, since we were walking, it didn’t feel so cold during the hike. But once we reached the top, we definitely felt the chills of the season and it had also started drizzling and snowing. But the monks were kind enough to provide hot tea and snacks for us and all the other visitors at the place. Expecting more visitors during weekends and holidays, the monks prepare tea and snacks in advance for them. So, for anyone visiting the place, if you can, please take tea leaves, milk powder or biscuits to offer to them.
After the hot cup of tea, we visited the floating statue, offered our prayers and then went to visit the lake from where the statue was supposedly discovered from. We walked a further 10-minute behind the monastery towards the mountains to a small prayer-flag-draped waterfall with the small lake believed to be the lake on the lap of Guru Rinpoche. It is said that blessed people with good merits are able to see Guru Rinpoche in the waterfall. Unfortunately, none of us were that blessed.
The waterfall at first sight (left) and a close-up of the lake (right)
There are other sacred sites in the surrounding areas but those take more than a day’s time to complete so we had lunch and headed back. While coming down, we took the shorter route that also has a few sacred sites.
Besides the auspiciousness of the place, the relaxed ambience of the hike and the photo spots along the way provide enough reason to plan a trip here. And as the trail is covered mostly with evergreen trees, the hike is suitable even for the winter months. In fact, any relatively dry season is okay for visiting the place.