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15 June 2015 / leggypeggy

A burning lake, prayer flags and a resident guru

Burning Lake, Bhutan

Poor John, Anand, Deepti and Tek see where Pema Lingpa jumped into the Burning Lake

From the time we arrived in Bhutan, our guide, Tek, talked about having us visit the Burning Lake—a very sacred site.

While this remote destination is plenty watery, it is neither burning or a lake—it’s a widening in a river. Nevertheless, it is an important part of Bhutanese legend.

In the later 1400s, a Buddhist saint named Terton Pema Lingpa told villagers of his vision that a guru had hidden sacred treasures in their nearby ‘lake’.

Not surprisingly, the locals weren’t convinced and the local governor was especially suspicious. He assembled a large group of people to watch Pema Lingpa retrieve the treasures.

prayer flags, Burning Lake

Prayer flags decorate a bridge across the river/lake

river feeding the Burning Lake

The river flows towards the Burning Lake

The governor told Pema Lingpa that if he successfully got a treasure, he would support him. If he failed, he would punish him for disrupting his district.

Pema LIngpa is said to have grabbed a burning butter lamp and proclaimed, If I am genuine, let me bring back the treasure with this lamp still burning. If I am a fraud, let me die in the waters below.

Obviously, he popped up with the goods or he and the lake wouldn’t be famous.

The story goes that after quite some time, Pema Lingpa resurfaced with the still-lit butter lamp, as well as a small box crafted of joined skulls and a small sculpture.

According to tradition, this miraculous occurrence caused all those present to become followers and patrons of Pema Lingpa. The event also gave the lake its name of Mebar Tsho, or the Burning Lake.

The path down to the ‘lake’ is festooned with brilliantly coloured prayer flags, other devotional items and a small altar dedicated to Pema Lingpa.

Pilgrims are still drawn to the site and on auspicious days they will offer butter lamps at the water’s edge. According to Tek, the guru who is currently resident at the Burning Lake is a great character. He’s in his final year of a stint that will last three years, three months and three days.

The guru was coming down to ‘do his job’ as we were leaving and he stopped to speak to Anand, who was our driver for this journey. He was full of gorgeous smiles and hearty hellos, and offered to show Anand the way to enlightenment. Anand graciously declined, explaining that he was Hindu. I wasn’t quick enough to get a photo of them together, but I did get a pic of the guru descending to his ‘workplace’.

Burning Lake guru

A guru on his way to work


Leave a Comment
  1. jeanettev2014 / Jun 15 2015 7:43 pm

    Very nice Peggy as it is a very interesting story. Plus I loved the flags. I do not know what a Butter Lamp is but I am sure on one evening with everything lite must look wonderful. I am sorry Peggy I got confused where is this place?


    • leggypeggy / Jun 15 2015 8:42 pm

      Hi Jeanette. I love the flags too. The Burning Lake is in Bhutan, which is northeast of India. A butter lamp is a small dish filled with butter, oil or ghee, which is then lit. They’re common in temples and monasteries, and for religious occasions.


      • jeanettev2014 / Jun 15 2015 11:03 pm

        Thank you Peggy for the explanation. I have a “Buddha” here that I received as a gift 50-60 years ago. He sits at the very top of my China Cabinet. Very high up so he can look over all.


      • leggypeggy / Jun 15 2015 11:51 pm

        You have a sixth sense when it comes to buddhas. They are supposed to be placed high in a room. Yours must be very content and happy!


  2. Gary Walker / Jun 15 2015 8:25 pm

    I live vicariously thru your and Poor John’s travels! You make me smile.


    • leggypeggy / Jun 15 2015 8:43 pm

      That guru would have made you smile too. He has such a gorgeous face and beautiful smile. A great laugh too.


  3. Mike / Jun 15 2015 11:03 pm

    What a neat story my friend.


  4. jeanettev2014 / Jun 15 2015 11:05 pm

    I thought it was really nice for you to take a photo of the guru to show us.


    • leggypeggy / Jun 15 2015 11:48 pm

      I just wish I’d been quick enough to capture his amazing face. Guess I’ll have to go back before his stint is up. 🙂


      • Curious to the Max / Jun 16 2015 2:24 am

        Peggy, I think you actually got a picture for an important part of your story – it looks to me like you captured the “working” end.


      • leggypeggy / Jun 16 2015 7:15 am

        The picture doesn’t show that he was carrying a small briefcase. 🙂 Now that’s dedication.


  5. afterthelasttime / Jun 15 2015 11:19 pm

    Thank you! Well done my friend.


  6. Curt Mekemson / Jun 15 2015 11:56 pm

    I wonder Peggy if it was also three hours and three minutes. 🙂 –Curt


    • leggypeggy / Jun 16 2015 12:05 am

      Good question. In fact, I asked about that but apparently minutes aren’t that critical.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Sy S. / Jun 16 2015 2:31 am

    LeggyPeggy- Since Bhutan is so remote and few people/tourists/trekkers go their, I was looking forward to learning about this country via this blog.

    I heard that you have to use a “Tourist/Travel Guide” and be escorted throughout the country… how did that go ? How long did you stay in Bhutan? Did you use a car, van, bus, horse (animal of burden).. have a Sherpa ? And I guess taken to specific hotels/hostels for overnight stays and eating. Where there any local food stalls on the way? Please describe the Asian food you had?
    Where the people friendly? Ease in which to take photos of them?



    • leggypeggy / Jun 16 2015 7:13 am

      Trust me Sy, there are many more posts coming on Bhutan. We had poor internet connections in the country so I was forced to hold the posts until we left. So bear with me. Hey, we even saw the king and queen, the queen mother and a royal uncle (he was fishing). Only royalty can fish in Bhutanese waters unless you have special permission. We didn’t. 🙂


      • Sy S. / Jun 16 2015 8:35 am

        How do you say in Bhutanese, “Sy has Ants In His Pants”….. Ok I will wait and look forward to your posts…. commentary, pictures…. and your guess on ingredients on some of the food/dishes you tried…


      • leggypeggy / Jun 16 2015 1:04 pm

        Don’t you worry and I already know what ingredients they use—cheese and chillies and some fiddlehead ferns.


      • Sy S. / Jun 18 2015 9:05 am

        I never knew about Fiddlehead Ferns and cooking these until last year…. I don’t think it is popular in America. But I did buy some at Whole Foods market here. You have to be careful about cooking these the proper way… To see what they look like, Google “Fiddlehead Ferns Images.”

        Ants In Me Pants Sy S.


      • leggypeggy / Jun 19 2015 7:20 pm

        Hey Antsy, I’m trying to get something done tonight (my time). Watch for a pic or two of fiddlehead ferns.


  8. susan@marsha'sbungalow / Jun 16 2015 7:47 am

    Great devotionals, too. I wonder where the guru will go when his time is up?


    • leggypeggy / Jun 16 2015 8:20 am

      Good point. I imagine he’ll find a new sacred site that needs tending. Bhutan has no shortage of sacred places.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Jane / Jun 16 2015 11:07 am

    I really enjoyed the way you told this story. A very interesting tale, Peggy! I am quite fascinated by the history and current situation in Bhutan so look forward to reading more posts as they come. Great photos too! 🙂


  10. Alexia Lauren / Jun 16 2015 4:39 pm

    A wonderful blog, great photography. Happy travelling 🙂


  11. The Sock Mistress / Jun 16 2015 6:45 pm



  12. thehutownerblog / Jun 17 2015 3:30 am

    i like the places where you’ve been! So, I nominate you for Thr Creative Blogger
    award, Please see: Congratulations!


    • leggypeggy / Jun 17 2015 6:56 pm

      Thanks so much for thinking of me. Out of necessity, I have had to make this an award-free blog. As I explained on my ‘A bit about us’ page:
      ‘Thanks in advance to everyone who nominates me for an award. It is most appreciated, but I will have to keep this blog award-free. We travel so much and in such remote places, I feel lucky when I have enough internet connection to get a blog post done. So thanks, but please understand.’

      Liked by 1 person

      • thehutownerblog / Jun 17 2015 7:27 pm

        it’s ok, no problem! i nominated your blog because i like it….i’ll still like the blog…cheers! :0


      • leggypeggy / Jun 17 2015 9:28 pm

        Aw thanks, I’m so pleased you like my blog so much. Most appreciated.


  13. carlygolightly / Jun 20 2015 10:35 pm

    Great story, I’d love to go to Bhutan some day. Love all the photos of the prayer flags.


    • leggypeggy / Jun 21 2015 3:04 pm

      Bhutan is definitely worth seeing. Hope you make it there one day to see the prayer flags all over the country.


  14. jakesprinter / Jun 21 2015 11:31 am



  15. kayuk / Jun 22 2015 1:10 pm

    This sounds like such an incredible journey! It has always been my dream to see the world up close and personal rather than from the chair in front of the TV. I live vicariously through your photos and words.


    • leggypeggy / Jun 22 2015 5:17 pm

      We’ve had some wonderful travels in India and Bhutan with Anand and Deepti. Glad you have come along for ‘the ride’.


  16. Mithai Mumblezz / Jun 27 2015 10:21 pm

    I always love what you write. Its amazing reading such beautiful descriptions of such wonderful places……specially when these places are so close to home…..the pics are very detailed and amazing as well 😀


  17. dmill96 / Jul 1 2015 3:01 pm

    Amazing travels, Dorthy’s not in Kansas (Iowa, Nebraska) any more. Great photos and descriptions, almost feels like being there.


    • leggypeggy / Jul 1 2015 8:34 pm

      Thanks so much. Nebraska is a long, long, long way away for this Dorothy, but I still love Nebraska.


  18. / Jul 6 2015 9:54 pm

    Beautiful photos, greetings Wolfgang


    • leggypeggy / Jul 6 2015 10:00 pm

      Thanks so much. I’m enjoying your blog too.


  19. LaVagabonde / Jul 18 2015 5:33 pm

    I love this look inside a country where so few visit. I’m envious, but also grateful for your photos and words.


  20. Charlotte Ruijun Zhou / Jul 29 2015 2:28 pm

    Nice blog! Thank you for sharing! Love your posts!


    • leggypeggy / Jul 29 2015 3:30 pm

      Thanks, I’ve only just found yours and am loving it too.


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