This fascinating valley is the religious heartland of the nation and home to some of the oldest Buddhist temples and monasteries. Here tales of Guru Padsambhava and his re-Bhumthangincarnates, known as Lingpas, still linger in most nook and corners, that have become now sacred ground.
Famous Places to Visit & Things to Do in Bumthang
- Jambeylhakhang: This monastery was built in the 7th century by Tibetan King, Songtsen Gernbo, believed to be the reincarnation of the Buddha of compassion. It is one of the 108 monasteries built by him to subdue evil spirits in the Himalayan region.
- Kurjie Lhakhang: Located above Jambey Lhakhang, the Kurje Lhakhang consists of three temples. The one on the right was built in 1652 on the rock face where Guru meditated in the 8th century. The second temple is built on the site of a cave containing a rock with the imprint of Guru's body and is therefore considered the holiest. The third temples were recently built by the present Royal Queen Mother. These three temples are surrounded by 108 chorten wall, symbolic of each joint of the human body.
- Tamshing Lhakhang: Located opposite Kurje Lhakhang on the other side of the river, this temple was founded in 1501 by Terton Pema Lingpa, the re-incarnation of Guru Padmasambhava. The monastery has very interesting religious paintings like 1,000 Buddhas and 21 Taras (female form of Buddhistava). The temple was restored at the end of the 1 9th century.
- Jakar Dzong: Founded by great grandfather of Shabdrung, the Dzong was initially built as a monastery in 1549. It was upgraded after the Shabdrung had firmly established his power in 1646. The Dzong is now used as the administrative center for Bumthang valley.
- GANGTEY GOMPA/PHOBJIKHA (altitude 9,840 feet)
Towards the east of Bumthang, there is an old monastery of Gangtey Gompa dating back to the l7th century. A few kilometers past the Gompa, on the valley floor, is the village of Phobjikha. This is the winter home of black-necked cranes that migrate from the arid plains in the north to pass winter in milder and lower climate.
- Chankhar Lhakhang
Beyond Jambay Lhakhang is Changkhar Lhakhang, the site of the palace of the Indian King Sindhu Raja. Because of its simplicity it looks like an ordinary village house. The original palace was built of iron and this is why it was named Chankhar, meaning iron castle. It was rebuilt in the 14th century by a Saint called- Dorji Lingpa.
- Excursion to Ngang Lhakhang
A few hour's walks from the Tangbi Goemba is the small region of Ngang Yul (Swan Land) and this temple here is 100 m above the valley floor. The site was visited by Guru Rinpoche and the present temple was built in the 15th century by Lama Namkha Samdup, a contemporary of Pema Lingpa. A three days festival is held here each winter with masked dances in honor of the founder of the temple.
- Excursion to Tangbi Goemba
A walk of half an hour north of Kurje Lhahang leads to this monastery, founded in 1470 by Shamar Rinpoche of the Kagyupa religious school. The temple has two sanctuaries and a temple of terrifying deities. The sanctuary on the ground floor contains statues of past, present and future Buddha and three clay statues probably dating end of the 15th century. On the upper floor, the vestibule contains two remarkable paintings of Guru Rinpoche's heaven and the Buddha Amitabh's heaven.
- Excursion to Ura Valley
Jakar to Ura is 48 km, about one and a half-hour drive. The route crosses Ura la pass (3,600m) with a magnificent view of Mount. Gangkhar Puensum. Villages in Ura have clustered houses, which is quite unusual in Bhutan. Above Ura village (3,100m) is a new temple dedicated to Guru Rinpoche. Inaugurated in 1986, it contains a huge statue of the master and remarkable paintings of the cycle of his teachings. Since last 25 years, Ura has been transformed from a marginal community to a prosperous valley.
- Jakar Dzong
Founded by great grand-father of the first Shabdrung, the Dzong was initially built as a monastery in 1549. It was upgraded after the Shabdrung had firmly established his power in 1646. The Dzong is now used as an administrative center for Bumthang valley and houses the regional monk body.
- Jambay Lhakhang
This monastery was built in the 7th century by Tibetan King, Songtsen Gampo. It is one of the 108 monasteries built by him to subdue evil spirits n the Himalayan region. Its present architectural appearance dates from the early 20th century.
- Konchogsum Lhakhang
It was built in the 6th century but was renovated in 1995, which accounts for its fresh look. It contained a large bell and it is said that when this bell was rung it could be heard all the way in Lhasa in Tibet. During the 17th century, a Tibetan Army tried to steal this bell but was too heavy and they dropped it and cracked it. It is now displayed at the National Museum in Paro.
- Kurje Lhakhang
Situated before Jambay Lhakhang, Kurje Lhakhang consists of three temples. The one on the right was built in 1652 on the rack face where Guru meditated in the 8th century. The second temple is built on the site of a cave containing a rock with the imprint of Guru's body and is therefore considered the holiest. The third temple was built in the 1990s by Ashi Kesang, the Queen Mother. These three temples are surrounded by a 108 chorten wall.
- Lhodrak Kharchhu Monastery
The monastery was founded by Namkhai Nyingpo Rinpoche in 1984 who was recognized at a very young age by H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama and H.H. 16th Karmapa as the reincarnation of a Tibetan lama whose spiritual lineage dates back to the nearest disciples of the great 9th-century master. Since then the monastery has developed considerably with an increase in the number of monks to almost four hundred. The monastery has become part of an extensive effort to preserve and revitalize Tibetan culture.
- Tamshing Lhakhang
Located across the river from Kurje Lhakhang, this temple was founded in 1501 by Terton Pema Lingpa, the re-incarnation of Guru Padsambhava. The monastery has very ancient religious paintings like 1,000 Buddhas and 21 Taras (female form of Buddhistava). The temple was restored at the end of the 19th century.
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