Bumthang is the fabled heartland of Bhutan both geographically as well as spiritually and culturally. The region comprises four major valleys , viz, Choekhar, Tang, Ura and Chumey. Many important temples are concentrated in the vast Choekhar valley and is therefore commonly referred as The Bumthang Valley.
Places of Interest in Bumthang (Altitude 2,600m)
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.
Situated before Jambey 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. 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 most holy. The third temple was built in 1990s by Ashi Kesang, the Queen Mother. These three temples are surrounded by a 108 chorten wall.
Located opposite Kurje Lhakhang on the other side of the river, this temple was founded in 1501 by TertonPema Lingpa, the re-incarnation of GuruPadsambhava. 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.
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 administrative centre for Bumthang valley, and houses the regional monk body.
Excursions around Bumthang
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.
A few hours walk 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 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.
This place is about five minutes walk from Tang valley (in Bumthang). Pema lInga found several of Guru Rinpoche’s hidden treasures here. A wooden bridge crosses the river and is a good vantage point to look down into the lake. The importance of this site is indicated by the extensive array of prayer flags and the small clay offering called ‘tse tsa’ in rock niches.
Jakar to Ura is 48 km, about one and a half hour drive. To reach here, the road climbs to amazingly open countryside, only occasionally running into forest. Large sheep pastures line the road up to 20 km behind the southern tip of the Tang valley. 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 prosperous valley.