Birth Place of Khandro Sonam Palden

Across the river at Wang Sinmo, the sight of the ancient house in Danglo is so prominent that one can’t help stealing several glances from the highway at it. The house, blackened with age was the home of Khandro Sonam Palden, consort of Phajo Drugom Zhigpo who lived from 1184 to 1251. The fascinating details of the lives of the divine couple has survived centuries undiluted. Their popularity is evident from the Bonko festivals held in most villages in western region, which is an enactment of life of Phajo.

Ancient History of Bhutan can be compared to a blank sheet of paper with few dots separated by huge gaps. After Guru Rimpoche’s visit in 8th Century the next dot of history documented is probably the story of Phajo and Khandro.

To pinpoint the 900 year old birthplace of Khandro Sonam Palden today is intriguing, although the house itself being that old is out of question because over these many years we can assume the house must have been rebuilt and renovated dozens of times.
I stupidly asked if there was any direct descendent of the Khandro, since there was no one currently occupying the house. The monk said, ‘it has been over 900 years and if we trace back we all would be direct descendent of Phajo and Khandro.’

I must have travelled on that highway for hundreds of time and I have looked at the house as many times and wished to visit it. It was just there across the river and all these years I have pushed it for another day. Now I think I have reached the age where if I wish to do something I go and do it because I have realised the importance of taking charge of my life. It’s equally important to have friends who share your passion to make every moment worthwhile.

With Nawang Phuntsho I just have to tell him my next plan and he would be there ready to go. Our passion dragged our families and even my cousin’s family to the place. And from there I looked at the highway and wondered why I took so long to take this short journey.

Upon reaching the village the road winds away from our destination, so we stopped to ask a little boy standing by the roadside for direction. The boy said he would show us and began running ahead of our cars. We followed him for some time and realized that it was farther than we expected and though full of energy the boy was exhausted. We asked him to get in the car and he did. Once in the car he introduced himself as 7 year old Passang Dorji studying in PP. From the way he talked he sounded like a 50 year old. By and by he became our tour guide and stayed with us for the entire duration.

He didn’t know the history and significance of the place, which I am sure he will learn now, but he made our tour special. What I envied most about the boy was his independence, which can’t be taught in the school. He led a group of adults with so much confidence. He rightfully earned a decent fee for his service.

By Passang Tshering

The writer is a teacher at the Royal Academy in Paro


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  1. Awakening story sir.
    I am an Architect student. i want to do a research on this remarkable building so that i can find a way to conserve its original traditional architecture for the good of nation. So, if u got more information about this building , like its evolution along its 900 years of journey/others, please share whit me.
    Thank you.

  2. Little more on Khandro to be traced la. Here important information is on Fajo. Khandro when born? How long she lived?
    How talented she was? I heard she was a pioneer weaver with nettle fibre? Emphasis on khandro would enrich us…

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