Discover The 108 Retreat Caves Of Guru Rinpoche And Other Wonders At The Sacred Site Of Aja Ney In Bhutan


The Agriculture Minister of Bhutan who had visited the Ney said that it was indeed a great spiritual healing experience.

(Source: Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment)


By Yeshi Nidup BBS

Located at an altitude of more than 3,500 metres above sea level lies the sacred hidden place of Aja Ney which is attributed to Guru Rinpoche, which means ‘precious master’.

Who is Guru Rinpoche?

In Bhutan and Tibet, the highly revered Guru Rinpoche is regarded as a totally enlightened being, a fully awakened one, a Buddha.


Photo: Bodhiactivity


He did not become enlightened gradually through practising the teachings of Buddha Shakyamuni. Instead, he was incarnated as a fully enlightened being. Through his form, primordial wisdom is manifested in the world to benefit all sentient beings.

Today, about more than 800 pilgrims in Bhutan visit the sacred site annually. The entire pilgrimage to Aja Ney usually takes about a week to be completed.

What awaits you at Aja Ney?

The sacred Aja Ney is home to a host of religious sites and symbols such as the Guru’s foot and body prints, Khando Dowa Zangmo’s footprint, the 108 retreat caves of Guru Rinpoche and the footprint of Lam Karma Jamyang, the man who discovered the hidden sacred site.

Aja Ney has also a popular menchu (hot stone bath therapy) in which water is heated by submerging red-hot stones into the bath. Visitors then dip their bodies and stay as long as they like in the bath, adding more hot stones when the water gets cold.

This is a popular curative method which is used throughout the country. It is believed that menchus can cure 18 diseases such as tuberculosis, body aches, ulcer and whooping cough.


Source: Youtube/Tenzin Jamtsho


“We can also see a pair of Jachungs and the wings of the Jachungs are believed to have 108 butter lamps, 108 lakes and 108 Tsa Tsas. It also has a pair of golden fish,” explained Kezang Eden, one of the guides at the site.

There is also a famous stream known as ‘Aai Chhu’ which cascades from the rocky cliff at Tshekor.

“This stream came into existence after the Guru’s walking stick was implanted in the rock. The stream falls into a rock basin forming a pool, where it is believed that the Guru had taken a bath. A bath in the pool is believed to purify a person,” said Sangay Yeshi, a guide at the Ney.

Among the several sacred spots, the most renowned site is a small cave on the bank of Aja Chhu where Guru Rinpoche had meditated for three months.

The rock that bears the 100 sacred syllables ‘Aa’ is said to have been imprinted in the cave after the Guru has completed his meditation.


Photo: Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment


It is believed that the merit gained by chanting just one ‘Baza Guru’ or ‘Mani’ in Aja is equivalent to a thousand chants in other places. This is why people from as far as Arunachal Pradesh in India also come to seek blessings and to offer their prayers.

“Six of us are visiting the sacred site today. We have heard from our grandparents that there are many sacred sites in Bhutan. So we are very happy to visit all the sacred sites,” said Dhendup Pelzang, a pilgrim from the Indian town of Tawang.

How Aja Ney was discovered

Lam Kezang Chhophel, 58, was brought up at Aja Ney by his late father Aja Lam Dorji Tenzin. According to him, Guru Rinpoche had actually prophesised that Aja Ney would one day be discovered by the Ninth Karmapa. However, due to old age, he had instructed his disciple Lam Karma Jamyang to reveal the Ney instead.

“I heard from my father that in the 8th century when Ugyen Guru Rinpoche visited Tibet, he came to Bhutan to subdue one demon which was supposed to be in Gomokora. After subduing the demon, he went back to Tibet. On the way, he visited Aja and blessed the sacred place. He also meditated there for three months,” Lam Kezang explained.

In many ways I think we derive strength by going up to the Ney and once we are there we are blessed, happy, contented and we return happily,” he says.

Importance of preserving Aja Ney and its sacred sites

According to the Minister for Agriculture and Forests, Dr. Pema Gyamtsho, the Department of Forest and Park Services plan to maintain the sacred sites in future.

“So definitely we need to look into that and I’ll be discussing with my friends as well as the concerned agencies such as the Ministry of Home and Cultural affairs and we will see how we can help.”

Aja Ney falls under the ‘Protected Areas’ of the Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary. The ‘Protected Areas’ in Bhutan comprises of four national parks, four wildlife sanctuaries and one nature reserve.

Photo: WWF Bhutan


Revised to represent Bhutan’s complete ecosystems in 1993, the parks network covers 26.3% or 10,758 square km of Bhutan’s land. An additional 9.5% of the country was demarcated as ‘biological corridors’ in 1999, linking all the nine ‘Protected Areas’.

The Chief Planning Officer of the Ministry of Agriculture, Tenzin Chophel said that eco-tourism will be a solution for the benefit of the people living within the park areas.

The Agriculture Minister of Bhutan who had visited the Ney said that it was indeed a great spiritual healing experience.

“It is a sacred site blessed by the Guru Rinpoche and I think sites like Aja is very important not only for practising Buddha Dharma but also for promoting the faith.

Therefore, for the followers of Buddhism, practitioners and the potential believers of the faith, I think we have to really maintain and protect such sites.”


This article first appeared in BBS and has been edited for Daily Bhutan.


Related Posts

Discover The Mystical Neys Of Bhutan – Sacred Sites Rich In...

A Ney can extend across an entire valley or a mountain. It can even be a very specific site such as a single rock, tree...

Feb 27, 2019 18:57

In Its Third Year, The Royal Highland Festival In Laya Showcases...

Laya was turned into a hub of celebration as the Third Royal Highland Festival got underway from 23-24 Oct 2018.

Oct 25, 2018 17:59

The Theme Of Bhutan’s Jhomolhari Festival 2018 - Living In...

The theme of this year’s festival 'Living in Harmony with the Ghost of High Mountains' is centred on the conservation of...

Nov 02, 2018 16:20

More Than Just Exoticism, The Royal Highland Festival In Laya...

The heart of the festival celebrates the highlanders’ unique and beautiful clothing, dance, music, handicrafts, food,...

Oct 07, 2018 09:07

Hidden ‘Igloos’ Of Dochula – Caves Where One Can Meditate And...

The caves will benefit those who seek inner peace.

Jan 10, 2019 16:29

Discover The Wonders Of The Black-Necked Crane Festival – A Day...

This unique festival will leave a lasting impression on you. With more than a hundred villagers participating, see the...

Nov 09, 2018 21:39



Their Majesties, Prime Minister Dr. Lotay Tshering And Other Dignitaries Of Bhutan Offered Prayers For Sri Lanka

His Majesty also sent a message of condolence to the President of Sri Lanka, Maithripala Sirisena, expressing the solidarity of the people...

Apr 24, 2019 20:08

WFP Shifts Focus To Capacity Development In Nutrition And Disaster Preparedness In Bhutan

The decision was made after consultations with Bhutan's government, in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals

Apr 19, 2019 13:02


How Bhutan Changed My Life: Tamiki Nakashima

Tamiki Nakashima, who is from Japan, speaks about how life is like for him while living in Bhutan.

Apr 25, 2019 11:11

Addressing Some Challenges As Bhutan Prepares For Rise In Tourist Arrivals

The gross receipt from tourism is expected to increase from Nu 10.6 billion in 2018 to about Nu 39.16 billion in the next five years.

Apr 23, 2019 17:40


Bhutan To Hold First 'Sports And Culture Festival' For Runners And Cyclists

There are two tiers to the event, comprising of a full-race distance of 50km and a half-race of 25km.

Mar 06, 2019 17:14

Bhutan’s HRH Princess Eeuphelma Choden Wangchuck Attended The General Assembly of the Asian Paralympic Committee In Dubai

The General Assembly is the highest decision making body of the Asian Paralympic Movement.

Feb 08, 2019 18:15


Celebrating Bhutan's Entrepreneurs: Kinley Dema Of BuBu Bakery, Lobesa

This story is part of an exclusive feature by Yeewong Magazine in Dec 2018 on celebrating entrepreneurship in Bhutan.

Apr 20, 2019 19:18

Celebrating Bhutan's Entrepreneurs: Sonam Choden of Rolling Pin Bakery in Thimphu

This story is part of an exclusive feature by Yeewong Magazine in Dec 2018 on celebrating entrepreneurship in Bhutan.

Apr 11, 2019 11:08


Can Bhutan Take Its Happiness Brand To The Next Level?

Two key challenges: galvanising citizens as brand ambassadors and applying brand recognition to growth sectors.

Apr 21, 2019 10:40

The Magical Waters Of Gasa Tsachu – A Popular Hot Spring In Bhutan

While most people visit the hot spring in the hope that it could cure them of various ailments, it has become an annual visit for many to...

Mar 25, 2019 14:38


Food Review: Cloud9 Cafe & Bar

Cloud9 has always been known in Thimphu for dishing out handcrafted gourmet burgers.

Mar 09, 2019 09:44

Tshering Zangmo Represents Bhutan At The 5th Young Chef Olympiad In India

Tshering Zangmo has successfully made it to round two of the Olympiad.

Feb 04, 2019 16:35

Subscribe to our newsletter

Never miss out on new happenings and news stories!