Tour of NLAB

NLAB Complex

The current library complex is dominated by a towering, four-storeyed Main Building suitably designed in the form of a traditional Bhutanese temple. On the left (south side) is our three-storeyed Administration building, and on the right (north side) and connected to it by a covered passage, is a two storeyed building housing the National Archives. A smaller building behind the Administration Building houses manuscript conservation facilities.

Main Building

The four storeyed Main Library Building is built in the form of a traditional Bhutanese temple in order to provide an appropriate environment for the Buddhist scriptures and other texts written in Choekey (Dharma Language or the classical religious language) housed therein. This imposing structure incorporates and integrates – in a typical Buddhist fashion – the three aspects of the Buddha and his teachings and it is therefore considered to be a sacred place. The physical (sku) aspect of the Buddha is represented by statues and paintings decorating inside of the building; the speech (gsung) aspect of the Buddha is represented, most appropriately here, by the many books and printing-blocks; and the mind or heart (thugs) aspect of the Buddha is represented by the eight stupas found on the shrine on the ground floor of the building.

Ground floor

When you enter the main library building, there is a counter on your right where you will find our guest book as well as some of our librarians who are ready to help you.

The ground floor is dedicated to traditional print heritage museum. It was inaugurated on the auspicious date of the 20th day of the 5th lunar month of the Iron Ox Year, corresponding to the 29th June 2021 under the generous funding support of the Foreign Ministry of the Federal Republic of Germany through German Bhutan Himalaya Society, Bon, Germany with the main aim of contributing to the twin goals of promotion and preservation of the Traditional Print Heritage for posterity.

Our display includes the raw materials and equipment for traditional papermaking; materials and engraving tools for xylographic woodblocks, raw materials and tools for printing; a variety of inks and ink-making ingredients, as well as ink pots, pen materials, and pen containers; texts and documents written in different inks using a range of calligraphic styles; writings by famous historical figures; writing samples from contemporary calligraphers; gold script texts; and examples of older printing technologies, such as typewriters.

At the rear of the ground floor is a shrine on which are found eight small stupas (choeten; chos-rten)which represent the Mind of the Buddha. Each different choeten commemorates a major event in the Buddha’s life. The Stupa of Heaped Lotuses (Pelpung Choeten) commemorates his birth at Lumbini; the Stupa of Enlightenment (Byangchub Choeten), his enlightenment at Bodhgaya; the Stupa of Many Doors (Trashi Gomang Choeten), his first teaching at Sarnath; the Stupa of Miracles (Chotrul Choeten), his defeat of non-Buddhists at Sharavasti; the Stupa of Descent from the God Realms (Lhabab Choeten), his return to Sankasaya after teaching in the Tushita heaven; the Stupa of Reconciliation (Edum Choeten), his healing of differences amongst the sangha at Rajgir; the Stupa of Complete Victory (Namgyal Choeten), commemorates the Buddha prolonging his life at Vaishali; and the Stupa of Parinirvana (Nyangde Choeten) commemorates his passing away at Kushinagara.

Behind the stupas can be seen mural paintings of the Kagyu Masters. Facing the shrine, the paintings depict (left to right) Tsangpa Gyare (1161–1211), founder of the Drukpa Kagyu Lineage; Milarepa (1052–1135); Marpa the translator (1012-1100), first lineage holder of the Kagyu tradition in Tibet; Gampopa (1079–1155); and Phajo Drugom Zhigpo (1154–1252), whose life and deeds are intimately linked with the initial spread of the Drukpa teachings in Bhutan.

The mantra written on the crossbeams near the shrine is Om Ami Dhewa Hri , invoking the Amitabha Buddha.

First Floor

On the first floor of the Library you enter our collections are of Sakya and Geluk traditions in Choekey. The floors also houses collections of Kadam, Jonang and Zhalu, the sub-schools of Sakya and Geluk and, also Bon Kangyur and Tengyur wrapped in blue cloth.

The shrine on the rear wall contains images of three of Bhutan’s most important Buddhist teachers. Facing the shrine, the images depict (from left to right): Zhabdung Ngawang Namgyal (1594–1651), unifier of our country and founder of the Bhutanese state; Bhutan’s patron saint Padmasambhava (popularly known as Guru Rinpoche), who first brought Buddhism to Bhutan in the eighth century; and Pema Lingpa (1450–1522), the great treasure-revealer of Bhutan who revealed numerous teachings from amongst those which Padmasambhava had concealed at sacred sites in different parts of the country. The mural paintings behind these images depict (left to right): Namgyelma (Buddha Vidarana), Tshepamed (Buddha Amitayus) and Dolkar (White Tara). These three deities together are called Tshe-Lha-Nam Sum – the Three Long Life Deities. The shelves on either side of the shrine hold volumes of the Derge Kangyur written in vermillion.

The mantra written on the crossbeams is the Mani Mantra, Om Mani Padme Hum, invoking Chenrezig, the Buddha in his compassion aspect.

Second Floor

The collection on this floor entirely comprises works from the Nyingma (Ancient) tradition of Bhutan and Tibet including Sungbum and Kabum (collected works of Nyingma masters) wrapped in red cloth.

The shrine at the back of this floor holds images of the Three Bodhisattvas (Rigsum Gonpo). Facing the shrine, the images depict (left to right); Jampelyang (Manjushri), the embodiment of enlightened wisdom; Chenrezig (Avalokiteshvara), the embodiment of enlightened compassion; and the fierce figure of Chagdor (Vajrapani), embodiment of enlightened power. The shelves on either side of the shrine hold the volumes of the Lhasa Kangyur (Beijing reprint).

The mantra written on the crossbeams is Om Ah Hum Vajra Guru Padma Siddhi Hum, invoking Guru Rinpoche.

Top Floor

The top floor holds the collection of Kagyu texts including Sungbum and Kabum (collected works) of Kagyu and Drukpa Kagyu masters wrapped in orange cloth.

The elaborate shrine at the back of this floor holds an image of Shakyamuni Buddha installed in the centre with representations of 48 smaller Buddhas around it. The shelves on either side of the shrine hold the volumes of the Narthang Kangyur. The volumes of the Narthang Tengyur are displayed in the book cabinets directly facing the shrine.

The mantra written on the crossbeams is Om Ami Dhewa Hri, invoking the Amitabha Buddha.

Photo Gallery/Room

On this top floor and on the right side as you climb up is a room where photographs concerning Royal Families, dzongs, foreign delegations, etc are displayed.