Bumthang is Bhutan’s most historical valley blessed by many high Lamas.
In the 7th century King Songtshen Gyampo built Jampay Lhakhang and introduced Buddhism. In the 8th century Guru Rimpoche was invited to Bumthang by the local king Sindu Raga.
The landscape bears the shape of a Bumpa (religious water vase) if one looks from the north-east part of Bumthang, hence the name ‘Bum’ meaning water vase and ‘thang’ meaning a flat area. It is comprises the four valleys of Chummey, Chhorkor, Tang and Ura.
In ancient times Bumthang valley was very poor and isolated. This changed in 1982 with the construction of the east-west highway and aided much development in the valley. There are many private farms running businesses like honey production, Swiss cheese farm and apple juice factory.
The place was founded by Zhabdrung’s great grandfather Lam Nagi Wangchuk in 1549 AD. After having found Trongsa, he came to Bumthang and started to build a monastery with the help of donors. During construction, he saw a white bird flying over the construction site towards the ridges where the Dzong is currently sited. The resting of the bird on that site was taken as a good omen and Lam Nagi Wangchuk changed the site of Monastery to where the Dzong is today. Hence the name ‘White Bird Dzong’.
It was repaired in 1683 by the 4th Druk Desi Gaysay Tenzin Rabgay who added a tower water reservoir.
Built in 1857 by the founder of Wangchuk Dynasty, Jigme Namgyel, Wangdicholing was where the first and second kings held court, and where the third king Jigme Dorji Wangchuk grew up.
This is the first temple built by the Tibetan king Songtshen Gyambo in 659 AD. It is one of the 108 temples built by him throughout Tibet and Himalayas to overcome a giant demon. While Kichu Lhakhang in Paro was built on the left foot, Jampa Lhakhang was built on the left knee of demon to subjugate the frontiers.
It is believed that when Guru Rimpoche came to Bhutan in the 8th century, he preached the teachings of the Kagye cycle to King Sendhaka and his consort from the roof of the temple. In 1905 Jakar Dzongpon Chemi Dorji, restored the whole complex. The main statue in this temple is Jojampa (Manteria), known as the future Buddha.
Kurji Lhakhang, where Kurji means ‘body imprint’, was blessed by Guru Rimpoche in 746 AD as one of most sacred place.
Kurji Lhakhang consists of three huge temples. The first temple on the right was built in 1652 by the Trongsa Penlop, Minjur Tempaon the rock with the imprint of Guru. It is oldest temple in the complex. The temple on the left side was built by the first king Ugyen Wangchuk in 1900. In this temple is a 10m tall statue of Guru Rimpoche. The third temple with 3 storeys was built by the Royal Grandmother Ashi Kesang Choden in 1984 with the guidance from Dilgo Khegtshe Rimpoche.
The temple is about 17 km from Kurji Lhakhang towards the north on an unpaved road and lies in the middle of a fertile land. This temple was founded in 1479 by the fourth Shamar Rimpoche of the Karmapa religious school when he came to Bumthang.
On the ground floor is Buddha of the past, present and the future. The first floor houses the statues of Guru Rimpoche’s heaven ‘Zangthopelri’ and heaven of Amitaba.
It was built in 8th century by Tibetan King Thtison Detshen and restored in the 15th century by Lam Pema Lingpa. In the temple are three small statues of past, present and future Buddha, flown in from Kheni Lhakhang in the east. There is a huge, heavy bell (said to be stolen from Tibet) in the temple and it is said that when bell is rung, its sound can be heard from as far as Tibet. There is a crack on the bell – caused when the Tibetan armies dropped it when they unsuccessfully attempted to remove it from the temple.
The temple contains three main statues, center Buddha Vairocana, on the left is Chenrize and on the right of Vairocana is Guru Rimpoche.
Tamshing means ‘good message.’ The temple, founded in 1501 by Lama Pema Lingpa, is one of the most important temples in Bhutan’s Ningmapa sect. Along with Gangtay Gompa, it is one of the places where Lam Pema Lingpa’s tradition of religious teachings continues today. On the ground floor one can find the unique, bare-foot statue of Guru sculpted by Lama Pema Lingpa himself, assisted by Khamdrom (female celestial beings). This is one of temples where one can see original wall paintings from that century.
The Tang river cuts through the first line of hill, forming a narrow gorge, which contains one of the great pilgrimage sites in Bhutan : Mebartsho the “burning lake”. This is where Lama Pema Lingpa, a famous saint from Tang valley in Bumthang, discovered many hidden treasures in 15th century. Today it is pilgrimage site where the devotees float small butter lamps and make wishes. The image of Lama Pema Lingpa and his two sons are curved on the rock.
Ugyen Choling Palace
The palace is 29 km away from Chamkhar town. One reaches the palace from the road point after half an hour walk, across a suspension bridge, and short hike to the hilltop which overlooks the surrounding valley. The palace was founded by the great Nyingma master Longchen Rabjampa in 14th century. After his death his descendents took over his possessions and helped spread his teachings. The Trongsa Penlop, Tshoki Dorji, had built the palace. The legacy was preserved and the palace provided a place for religious studies, research and solitude. The family who owns the palace turned the complex into a museum in 2001.
Ura is a beautiful, small cluster village located on the east-west highway, located 48 km from Chamkhar town. It is at 3000m above sea level and is heavily covered in frost during the winter months. Before the 1980s, locals were mainly dependent on yaks and sheep but today grow potato as the main cash crop.