Bumthang- the origin of the name is ascribed to the shape of the valley – that of a “Bumpa” a sacred Vase which usually contains holy water and placed at the alter of all temples and Monasteries, while second part of the name “thang” means a flat land. Sacred in character, Bumthang region has the highest number of temples and monasteries. Considered one of the most beautiful, this gentle green valley with its wide terraces enjoys a sense of space that is uncommon to Bhutan due to its mountainous terrain. There are lots of trails for hikes and light treks. Apart from the Jakar Dzong which houses the district head quarters, smaller monasteries are situated all over the valley. The great master Guru Padmasambhava visited the region and therefore his tales dominate the valley. The valley is home to the Jambay and Kurjey Lhakhangs where body imprints of Guru Rimpoche remains preserved upon a rock.
MONUMENTS AND PLACES TO VISIT
Jakar Dzong: Which literally means “The Castle of White Bird” was built in 1646. The building was damaged by fire and then again by earthquake of 1897 after which it was rebuilt by King Ugyen Wangchuck in 1905. Today it is the administrative Head Quarters of Bumthang district.
Jambay Lhakhang: Believed to have built on the same day as Kyichu Lhakhang in Paro by a Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo in the year 659. The temple is dedicated to Maitreya or Jampa and the central shrine holds a large statue of the Buddha of the future, surrounded by four boddhisatvas. The statue is guarded by iron chainmail handcrafted by Pema Lingpa. Under the temple is said to be a lake in which Guru Rimpoche hid several Terma. In October one of the most spectacular festival, “Jambay Lhakhang Drup” is staged here.
Chakhar ( Iron Castle ) Lhakhang : This is the site of the palace of the Indian King, the Sindhu Raja who invited Guru Rimpoche to Bumthang. The Original palace is believed to have been an awe inspiring iron-clad, nine storey high structure that held ‘all the treasures of the world’.
Tamzhing Lhakhang: (Temple of the good message), was established in 1501 by Terton (treasure reveler) Pema Lingpa and is the most important Nyingmapa temple in the kingdom. Tamzhing commands a very good view of Kurjey Lhakhang which is just located on the other side of the river.
Wangdicholing Palace: The first palace in Bhutan was built in 1857 then Trongsa Penlop (Governor), Jigme Namgyal the father of the first king.
Kurjey Lhakhang: This monastery is the country’s most historical holy place – the complex is surrounded by 108 chortens (stupas), transforming it into three dimensional mandala patterned on the lines of the Samye Monastery in Tibet. ‘Kur’ means body and ‘jey’ is print – it is here that guru Padmasambhava meditated when he first arrived in the country, leaving an imprint of his body on the rock enshrined here.
Kenchoesum Lhakhang: Located very close to Tamzhing Lhakhang this monastery is believed to have built in the 8th century in the fifteenth century by Pema Lingpa. In the Lhakhang is an ancient bell believed to have cast for the Tibetan royalty and there is an interesting tale about it – the bell was spirited away to Bhutan but its chimes could still be heard in the distant Lhasa. It is made of a unique alloy of gold, silver, bronze and tin. Pema Lingpa also discovered religious treasures from a subterranean water body below the Lhakhang. He is supposed to have sealed the entrance with a large stone bearing his lotus insignia – this stone can still be seen in the center of the courtyard.
Tamshing Goempa: It was established in 15th century by Pema Lingpa and is most important Nyingma goemba in the Kingdom. He himself built this monastery with the help of Khandroms (female celestial beings).
Ugyencholing Palace: This Palace was restored in the nineteenth century and it is now privately owned and has been turned into a museum depicting the life of Bhutanese nobility and also serves as a retreat for those engaged in religious studies.
Meybartsho: About 11 km drive from Chamkhar town you can visit the site of some of Terton Pema Lingpa’s (Treasure Discoverer) greatest finds – Meybartsho or ‘Flaming Lake’ which is one of the popular pilgrim sites of Bhutan.
Swiss Farm: The project is overseen by Mr. Fritz Maurer, one of the first Swiss to work in Bhutan. Besides gouda and emmenthal cheese, Red Panda beer is brewed here as also the brandy, apple and peach wines.