Sited at the northern edge of Thimphu Valley at a distance of 15km from the capital city is a famous Buddhist monastery of Bhutan, Cheri Monastery also known as Chagri Dorjeden Monastery. Cheri Monastery was built in 1620 by the first Zhabdrung Rinpoche, Ngawang Namgyal, who is also referred as the founder of the Bhutanese state. Chagri Dorjeden Monastery or Cheri Monastery is the first monastery which Ngawang Namgyal built in Bhutan housing the carcass of a monastic body. Cheri monastery along with being a historical significant monument is now a major teaching retreat centre of the Southern Drukpa Lineage of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism, making it an essential attraction for the tourist who carves to learn more about the Bhutanese religion.
Perched above the hill at the end of the Dodeyna road, the ancient and fascinating structures are not the only prime factors which have ensnared the heart of travelers visiting Cheri Monastery. The uphill trek through the dense alpine forest with awe-inspiring vista of mountainous valley enclosing Thimphu is an added charm which has attracted travelers traveling in the capital city towards Cheri Monastery. Serving as the main retreat centre for the monks of Bhutan’s State Monk Body, Cheri Monastery is still an essential place for meditation. Tourists can see the ashes of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal’s father which is preserved in a luxuriantly decorated silver chorten inside the upper monastery after being smuggled from Tibet. As per the Bhutanese historical testimony the place where the Cheri Monastery is erected was first visited by Padmasambava in the 8th century. In the 13th century it was visited by Phajo Durgom Zhigpo the Tibetan Lama who was the first person to established the Drukpa Kagyu tradition in Bhutan. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal was only 27years old when he founded the Cheri Monastery while spending three years in strict retreat at Chagri or Cheri and resided there for many periods throughout the rest of his life. It was at Chagri in 1623 that he established the first Drukpa monastic order in Bhutan. While hiking towards this ancient monument Cheri monastery, travelers with keen sight might even be graced by the presence of goral, the mountain goat of found in the hilly region of Bhutan. The surreal beauty of the Cheri Monastery’s surrounding has also been described by Johnsingh in 2005.
Trekking through the dense forest while feasting upon the grandiose vista of lofty mountains along with the occasional sighting of snow-capped Himalayan range can be a great way to rejuvenate the tired souls. The tranquil ambiance of Cheri Monastery with the breathtaking murals covering the walls of the age old monuments and fascinating story about remains of human body being smuggled from Tibet has made Cheri Monastery a popular hiking destination for the travelers visiting the capital city of Bhutan, Thimphu.
Travelers who are looking forward for the hike towards the Cheri Monastery should avoid rainy season, since the natural walking trail become quite muddy and slippery making the hike more difficult but if the travelers don’t mind such difficult route, the beauty of Cheri Monastery can be relished throughout the year since Thimphu is blessed with temperate weather.