One of the most well known monasteries under Pemagatshel Dzongkhag in eastern Bhutan is the Yongla Riwo Pelbar Dargeychhoeling Gonpa or the Pelri Gonpa, widely known today as Yongla Gonpa. It is located on top of a mountain and as one travels over the national highway linking Samdrup Jongkhar to Trashigang, one can catch a glimpse of the temple at the junction known as Tshelingore where the road diverts and leads to Pemagatshel. From this junction it is a half an hour drive to the monastery. Yongla Gonpa is believed to have been built by the second Yongla Lam Dorji Jamtsho in 1736. That was exactly a year after the death of Khedrup Jigme Kuendel who identified, meditated and blessed this sacred place following the instructions based on the vision of his master Rigzin Jigme Lingpa 1729-1798, a great tertoen (treasure revealer) and Nyingma master.
The founder of the monastery Kheydrup Jigme Kundel was from Darlung Kha in Wang, Thimphu in the 18th century. It is said that Jigme Lingpa instructed Khedrup Jigme Kuendel to identify a place resembling Tsari in Tibet that looked like ritual dagger (Phurpa) where he was to spread the teachings and where his destiny lay. Jigme Kuendel reportedly travelled from Tibet through Bumthang looking for the destined place until he reached the present day Yongla accompanied by Khandro Dechen Gyalmo. When he asked the Khandro if this was the place prophesied by his master, the Khandro said, ‘Yong Yong’, meaning ‘Yes, Yes’. Thereafter, the place came to be known as Yongla. Now positive that he was in the right place, Jigme Kundel meditated immediately. As time passed, people from the nearby villages approached him for blessings and teachings. Jigme Kundel graciously gave them blessings and teachings and over time built a meditation centre.
He soon attracted many disciples and centres flourished around Yongla. A nunnery was also established close by, and was looked after by Kudung, a disciplinarian.
The famous Yongla Phurpai Drubchen is said to have begun right from the time of Jigme Kuendel. It, however, lost some of its significance during the successive Lams. It was restored back to the past glory by Lam Sonam Zangpo, the great Yogi Master in the 1960s. Its significance peaked once again in 1970 following the visit of His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche during which time His Holiness gave the present name, Pemagatshel, meaning “the Blissful land of the Lotus”. According to elderly people of the Dzongkhag, the Lhakhang was built in the late 1980s. A total of 16 successive Lams have served as the abbot of Yongla Gonpa. Besides, several Buddhist masters and luminaries have also blessed this sacred place in the past. Earlier, the Drubchen always began on the descending day of Lord Buddha, but it was rescheduled for September each year. The drubchen earlier depended on the contributions of the people following the harvest. This is no longer the case. The government now sponsors the event.
Unfortunately, the Lhakhang was severely damaged by the 6.1 magnitude earthquake that struck the entire country on 21st September 2009. Visiting the Gonpa in 2009, His Majesty announced that the Gonpa will be restored to its glory with immediate effect. The re-construction of the Gonpa began in 2012 and the construction is in full swing at the moment.