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Tourist Places To Visit In Bumthang
Bumthang plays a central role in maintaining the sacred and historical legacy of Bhutan. There are a number of monasteries in Bumthang, most of them associated with Guru Rinpoche who visited Bumthang around 746 AD. In fact, Bumthang derives its name from ‘Bumpa’ the urn of holy water kept in a Lhakhang and ‘thang’, a flat piece of land. The present dynasty of Bhutan traces its antecedents to saint Pema Linga, a treasure revealer and religious teacher who was born in Bumthang.
The Ura, Chumey, Choekhor and Tang Gewogs or mountain valleys of Bumthang look like pages taken off a picture book, with charming little houses huddled together as if to keep themselves warm, fields of rice and buckwheat, women herding sheep and yak on the Ura mountainsides. Now Bumthang sounds like poetry, doesn’t it? Nothing should stop you from visiting this place of poetry in person and if you would, here is a list of the most magical tourist places you should visit while in Bumthang.
Jambay Lhakhang or the Temple of Maitreya is in Jakar, about 15 minutes away from Chamkhar Township. Reminiscencing a little on legends, in 659 CE, the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo built 108 temples on a single day, to subdue an ogress who was obstructing the spread of Buddhism. The temples were said to have been built wherever the body parts of the dead ogress fell, and Jambay Lhakhang is said to sit on the place where the ogress’s left knee was knocked down.The chief idol of Jambay Lhakhang is Jampa, the Buddha of the Future. Built as a low walled little monastery originally, the Lhakhang had later additions dating back to the early 20th century, with a closed courtyard and four more sanctuaries, including the Kalachakra Temple, built by Ugyen Wangchuck. The temple gets busy in November for the ‘ter-chaam’ or naked religious dance and the fire blessing ritual called Me Wang (practised by women seeking offspring).
The Ngang Lhakhang is on the upper Choekhor valley in a tiny region called Ngang Yul (Swan land). The Lhakhang is not very far away from the Phephela Pass that leads to the Tang valley on the Bhutan Cultural Trail. You can drive up the road to the Lhakhang and cross the bridge over Bumthang River or you can walk from Thangbi Lhakhang, along the banks of the river to the Swan Temple. It takes about 3 hours but the landscape is attractive and you can reach the Lhakhang before long. The Lhakhang was built in the 15th century by Namkha Samdrup, a Tibetan Lama, who according to legends was directed to the very spot where the Lhakhang stands today, by two swans.
There are beautiful paintings and murals on the interior walls and a main statue of Guru Rinpoche, along with a host of other deities.
Mebartsho or Burning Lake is about 30 minutes drive away from Bumthang’s Chamkhar town. The lake is a little above Bumthang’s main road and very close to the Bumthang Airport. According to legends, when Guru Rinpoche visited Bhutan he hid many spiritual treasures and religious texts across the country. These treasures were left a secret, until Pema Lingpa, the treasure hunter, discovered them one after the other. Legends say that Pema Lingpa jumped into a lake that was formed by the Tang Chuu River, with a lit butter lamp in his hands. As the people watched with wonder, he rose up from the depths, holding a box and a paper scroll in one hand and the lamp in the other. The surprise was that the butter lamp was still burning bright after all that dunking. The Bhutanese consider the Burning Lake a place of religiousness.
The lake flows through the huge uneven rocky boulders, adding mysticism and charm to the calm place. Beware of the uneven steep slippery steps that lead to the lake and the treacherously rocky ledges that jut out over the sides.
Kurje Lhakhang, about 5 km away from Bumthang district is one of the most blessed places of Bhutan. It is believed that Guru Rinpoche meditated here and left his imprint on a rock over which a temple was built. There are three temples in the complex, the oldest one dating back to 1652.
When you visit Kurje Lhakhang, don’t miss the rock in the meditation cave in the first temple where Guru Rinpoche left his body imprint, the cypress tree which is said to have sprouted from Guru Rinpoche’s walking stick, the huge statue of Guru Rinpoche in the Sampa Ihumdrup or second temple and the spiral mandala in the Ka Gon Phur Sum; or the third temple. There are idols of protective Gods and beautiful murals and paintings on the walls. The Monastery is open from 9am-6pm.
Tamshing Lhakhang is one of the most significant Nyingma monasteries founded by Pema Lingpa. Built in 1501, the temple has some ancient paintings unique to that period, including a portrait of Pema Lingpa and his teachings. Tamshing Monastery is the chief among the Bhutanese centres that teach Pema Lingpa’s Nyingma philosophy to the young monks who stay in the monastery. The monastery has an iron chain mail made by Pema Lingpa himself and according to legends, if a person wears the chain mail and walks round the temple thrice, all his sins would get washed away and the heavy iron suit would magically turn lighter. Tamshing Monastery is home to the traditional masked dances of the various Tshechus held across Bhutan. The Monastery is 5 km from Jakar.
Padtselling Monastery lies in the most beautiful part of Choekhor Valley. You can hike up the mountain to the Monastery in about 2 and half hours. It’s a long hike but surrounded by tall trees and meadows, an abundance of medicinal herbs and wild bushes with fragrant flowers. It's said that the name Padtselling comes from the local term for a 'bunch of flowers'. If you go hiking up the mountain, look around for the Meto Dong-do-la flowers. They are the most fragrant blossoms that bloom over the Choekhor valley. The monastery was built by Master Drupthop Namgyal Lhundup in the year 1769. The temple is open from 8am-6.30pm.
Ogyen Choling Palace Museum
Ogyen Choling Palace Museum in Tang Valley is undeniably worthy of a visit. The only private Museum in Bhutan, the manor house which has been in the family for 22 generations, displays the period artefacts used by the families of Ogyen Choling. The Tsuglhakhang close by has temples to Drolma the Goddess of Kindness and Jowo, the Young Buddha. The central tower has been converted into a Museum and the creative exhibit of ancestral artefacts used by the people of the family is sure to be a remarkable exploration. The Ogyen Choling Palace Museum is about an hour’s drive from Jakar.
Wangduechhoeling Palace Museum
Wangduechhoeling Palace in Jakar was built in 1587 for the Bhutanese warrior Trongsa Penlop Jigme Namgyel. Ugyen Wangchuck, the first king of Bhutan who was born in the Wangduechhoeling Palace, ruled the country from this Palace till the 1950s, before the capital and the Royal Family shifted to Paro. The palace is a stunning example of the Bhutanese styles of architecture and craftsmanship. There is a temple in the central court with a unique collection of texts, murals and sculptures. The Wangduechhoeling Palace is set to be converted into a Museum and is under renovation. You can visit the ancient Palace for the paintings, architecture and the rooms which the Royal Family used.