Jamba Lhakhang, Bumthang, central Bhutan

Posted on March 10, 2021

Bhutan is recognized for its breathtaking views, which ranges from tropical plains to rugged mountains and valleys filled with monasteries and temples, located in the Eastern Himalayas.

Bumthang

Bumthang is the nation’s religious heartland and home to some of the oldest temples and monasteries. In this holy area, tales of Guru Padmasambhava and tertons (‘religious treasure-discoverers’) are still lingering.  The district is sub-divided into four blocks of Chhoekhor, Chhume, Tang and Ura. Choekhor is the highest of the four and the ‘Bumthang Valley’ is highly regarded. The valleys, formed by ancient glaciers, are deep and gentle. Every year, a large number of tourists are attracted to the vast and scenic valleys.

In terms of historic and spiritual legacy, Bumthang is one of the most richly endowed districts. In Bumthang, some of the oldest and most worshiped temples in Bhutan are located, including Jamba Lhakhang which is also known as Temple of Maitriya. Jamba Lhakhang is located at the elevation of 2700 meters above sea level just above Chamkhar River. It is one kilometer south of Kujey temple four kilometers north of the Chamkhar town which takes about 20 minutes drive from the town.

History of Jamba Lhakhang

According to legend, the Tibetan Buddhist King Songtsen Gampo founded this ancient temple in 659 A.D. It is said to be one of the 108 temples built in a single day to pin down an ogress to earth who was causing obstruction to the spread of Buddhism in Himalaya regions. The temples were constructed on her body parts that spread across Tibet, Bhutan and borderlands. Jamba Lhakhang was built on the left knee of ogress’ leg.

Fig.2 Jamba Lhakhang

The temple was visited by Guru Padmasambhava during his visit to Bumthang and it was renovated by Sindhu Raja after Guru Rinpoche returned his life force. It has been repaired and rebuilt several times over time. During Guru Rinpoche’s visit to Bhutan, it is said that he preached the teachings to Sindhu Raja and his court from the root of the temple.

Relics

There are 4 temples. The oldest temple is Jowa temple with Jowa Jamba, the future Buddha also known as Maitreya as the centralfigure with past and present Buddha and Guru Rinpoche above the main door. It is one of the oldest clay statues and it is protected by an iron chain on the door that was made by Tertoen Pema Lingpa (1450-1521). On the wall of the temple, we can see the painting of Guru Rinpoche with his 8 manifestations, present Buddha with 16 arharts and so on.

Inside the main Jamba Lhakhang there are three stone steps signifying three ages. The first signifies the past Buddha and this step has descended into the ground and is covered with wooded planks. The next age is present, the age of historical Lord Buddha Sakyamuni and its step is in level with the ground. The top step represents the new age (future). It is believed that when second step which signifies present age reaches the ground level, the Gods will turn into human and the world will come to an end.

On the left side of the main temple, it is the Dukhor Temple (The temple of Kalachakra or wheel of time) built by Sir Ugyen Wangchuck when he was Trongsa Penlop in 1887 to commemorate his victory over his rivals Phuntsho Dorji who served as Punakha Dzongpon and Alu Dorji Who was the Thimphu Dzongpon after the battle of Changlimithang in1885. Inside the temple we can see the statues of Kalachakra with his different formations.

On the right side of the main temple is the temple of Guru Rinpoche which was built by Chimi Dorji, the Jakar Dzongpon in the middle of 19th century. It has Guru Rinpoche’s statue as the main statue along with his 8 manifestations, Tshepame and Longchen Rabjam at right, Chenrizig and Tertoen Pema Lingpa at left. On the wall it is has the paintings of Chenrizig (Avalokiteshvara), the Buddha of compassion and Tshepame (Amitayus), the Buddha of long life, 21 Taras, Chenrizig with thousand eyes and thousand hands and past Buddha.

Below the Kalachakra temple is the Jangchub Chorten Lhakhang built by Azhi Wangmo (daughter of first king), who became the nun of Karmapa school. The temple is dedicated to the first Benchey Lama. On the right side of the wall there is paintings of the lineage of Karmapas and the left wall depicts the 35 Buddhas of compassion.

The Sangay Lhakhang (temple of Buddha) which was founded by 2nd king Jigme Wangchuck is above the main entrance of Jamba Lhakhang. The main statue represents the Buddha of seven ages. On the walls of the temple, we can see the paintings of the Guru Rinpoche and the paintings of medicine Buddha.

Behind the main temple are two large stone Chortens (Stupa), one is in the memory of second king’s younger brother, Gongsar Dorji and the other one is in the memory of Lama Pentsen Khenpo who was the spiritual advisor to first and second king of Bhutan.

Social Culture Functions

The highest point of the year is the festival called Jamba Lhakhang Drup which takes place from the 15th to the 19th day of the 9th month of Bhutanese calendar to commemorate the establishment of Jamba Lhakhang and to honor Guru Rinpoche. Its highlight is the ‘Mewang’ – the fire ceremony and the ‘Tercham’- a religious naked dance.

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