29 May 2015

Udumbara, the Mythical Flower in Yangthang Gonpa?

I heard about a mysterious flower growing in the compound of the Yangthang Gonpa that is located on the hill overlooking my village Yangthang. They told me that the flower was the mythical Udumbara. I have played in the courtyard of the Gonpa on many occasions as a young boy but I have never heard about any special plant growing there. 
Yangthang Gonpa, In its glorious form after the reconstruction that is funded by His Majesty.
The caretake Asha Kadi from my village, told me that the plant was believed to be brought there by a Tibetan Drupthob in the 15th Century. The Drupthob was on a lifelong pilgrimage and had promised to plant the last seed of the flower in the place he would end his journey. Yangthang Gonpa was where he was said to have ended his journey, before he returned to Tibet. Along with the flower seed he planted he also left behind a Tashigoma (Tashi-Gomang), which he had carried throughout his journey.

The Chest that holds the Drupthob's Tashigoma. One of the most beautiful Tashikoma I have ever seen (I have the picture of  the Tashigoma)

'Udumbara' is a Sanskrit word meaning 'An auspicious flower from heaven'. It's said that the pure and holy flower blooms once in every 3000 years. A buddhist scripture (The Huilin Phonetics, Vol 8) has this to say about the flower:
“Udumbara is the product of ominous and supernatural phenomena; it is a celestial flower and does not exist in the mundane world."
However, the mythical and mysterious flower, according to online sources, was sighted across the world in different countries. One popular claim is that the flower looks like a tiny white bell on a silken thread, with no leaves and nothing green on it. There are pictures taken by different people, available online. However, science has explained that the alleged flower was rather the egg of lacewing insect.

Another literature claims that Udumbara is the unseen flower of fig tree. It's 'unseen' because it blooms inside the fruit of the fig tree. Both the claims define Udumbara as a tiny little flower without leaves.

But the Udumbara at Yangthang Gonpa is a big green plant that could not be identified with any species of plant so far. It's said to bloom on the 15th day of the auspicious fourth month every year. This year, according to the belief, the flower should bloom on June 2 but the caretake Asha Kadi told me that on the night before His Majesty's visit to Yangthang Gonpa five petals opened. His Majesty has asked about the plant and also looked at the Tashigoma.

Until the plant is identified as another worldly plant, this is Udumbara. And if it's falsified then the myth will live on.
'Udumbara' of Yangthang Gonpa 

Top view of the Plant.

Asha Kadi explaining the Legend...
*If you know the ID of the plant I have posted please share with me in my comment box.


  1. Sir, I was bit confused with the term Tashikoma.... I think it refers to Tashi(gomang) meaning many doors and about the plant I am curious to know more about it. If you get the closed up photo of the flowers it would be easier to identify la. The description of the plant even brings Epipogium roseum(plants without chlorophyll) closer.

  2. Sir, now I really believe you are a true Tertoen Passu. It seems to be another great revelation. Thank you so much for bringing this up la.

  3. The plant is Peony...our foresters know the plant as "Do-Tsay-Metog". Udumwara may be a different plant.

  4. This is a tree peony. A similar tree peony exist at courtyard of Gangtey Lhakhang. People consider it auspicious. Tree peony usually bloom in the month of May-June. However, the people of Gangtey say that all the tree peonies in Gangtey valley blossomed in the year present Gangtey Trulku was born during peak winter (11th month of lunar calender).

  5. Scientific name: Paeonia suffruticosa

  6. This is peony plant..its available in Pedtseling Lhakhang..Bumthang too.They say it flowers in April.

  7. This plant is Paeonia × suffruticosa
    Which is very special flowering plants for Chinese people and even in our Bhutanese painting we can see on our house painting.

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