The Northern Rigsum Gonpo temple or shrine is one of the four Rigsum Gonpo Lhakhangs all built in the seventh century during the time of King Songtsen Gampo, each situated in a cardinal direction with the Jokhang at the center. Popular legend credits Songtsen Gampo with building the four Rigsum Gonpos to protect the Jokhang. The Rigsum Gonpo are Avalokiteshvara, Manjushri and Vajrapani, a triad of deities known as Lords of the Three Families, representing the body, speech and mind of all buddhas of all times. In addition to the four Rigsum Gonpo Lhakhang, the four Tsam Rigsum Gonpo, the Intermediate temples, were constructed at a later time. Together, these temples make a full circle around the Jokhang. Of the four cardinal Rigsum Gonpos, the Northern Rigsum Gonpo and the Southern Rigsum Gonpo are still extant.