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Chhairo Gompa

Chhairo Gompa courtyard

 

Tashi Shagagh Jyochen Chhoyokhor monastery, known locally as Chhairo Gompa (goenpa, gumba), Chandanbari Gompa and historically Cherok (Tserok) Gompa, is situated in Ward No. 9, Marpha Village (VDC), Mustang district, in the Western Development Region of Nepal.

The gompa is thought to have been established in the 16th century by Lama Chhiwang Thilen and was the first Nyingma monastery founded in Mustang. Lama Thilen came from Tibet, but later incarnations have been born in Mustang district.

Chhairo is located on the historic salt trade route between Tibet and nations to the south. Customs offices were established in Nhechung near Rhyamdo, and thereafter in Jomsom, Mustang, Chhairo and Tukuche to serve the salt trade. The trade routes contributed to the rich political, social, religious and cultural activities of the late 1800s. The salt, grain and livestock trade enriched the economic and living standards of the local Thak communities, providing a conducive environment to establish the gompa which then served residents and traders alike

The population of both Chhairo gompa and Chhairo village fell into decline when first China closed the border with Nepal in the 1960s to restrict movement by pro-Tibetan activists, and most recently due to security concerns during the 2008 Olympics.

Chhairo Gompa
Chhairo Gompa courtyard

The last remaining monks left the gompa in the 1970s and as of 1981 only 4 nuns were taking care of the monastery. At some time between 1981 and the 1990’s the management of Chhairo Gompa was left wholly to Chhairo village.

It is at 2680m about 20 mins walk south from Marpha town on the Annapurna circuit in the Dhaulagiri zone, on the left bank of the Kali Gandaki river reached by a small footbridge from the main road south of Marpha, and about 1.5hours walk north of Tukuche village, signposted to Chimang.

Chhairo is believed to be named after a local waterfall, the Nepali word for which is chhahara. An alternative etymology is that the gompa is named after the grove of juniper trees that it lies within, Chandabari compa (gompa of the sandalwoods).

Since the mid 2000’s efforts to reconstruct the main gompa complex have been made. This work is restricted to the gompa, Guru Rinpoche shrineroom and main rooms that form the quad around these rooms. The larger monastery complex of rooms for monks, visitors, pilgrims and their horses remain in ruins to the east of the gompa.