Posted on 10/03/2021
Jamba Lhakhang, Bumthang, central Bhutan
Bhutan is recognized for its breathtaking views, which range from tropical plains to rugged mountains. The valleys are filled with monasteries and temples, located in the Eastern Himalayas. This piece of writing will take you through one of the majestic historical monuments that still stand unfallen, The Jamba Lhakhang, Bumthang, central Bhutan. But before starting, It is a must that everyone who reads this should know about
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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 subdivided into four blocks 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. Some of the oldest and the most worshiped temples in Bhutan are located in Bumthang, including Jamba Lhakhang which is also known as the 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 to 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 that was causing obstruction the spread of Buddhism in the Himalayan regions. The temples were constructed on her body parts that spread across Tibet, Bhutan, and the borderlands. Jamba Lhakhang was built on the left knee of the ogress leg.
Guru Padmasambhava visited the temple during his visit to Bumthang. 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 about Jamba Lhakhang
There are 4 temples. The oldest temple is Jowa temple with Jowa Jamba, the future Buddha also known as Maitreya. It is the central figure 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, the present Buddha with 16 arhats, 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 the historical Lord Buddha Sakyamuni, and its step is level with the ground. The top step represents the new age (future). It is believed that when the second step, which signifies present age reaches the ground level, the Gods will turn into humans and the world will come to an end.
On the left side of the main temple, is the Dukhor Temple (The temple of Kalachakra or wheel of time). It was built by Sir Ugyen Wangchuck when he was Trongsa Penlop in 1887. The reason was to commemorate the victory over his rivals Phuntsho Dorji who served as Punakha Dzongpon and Alu Dorji, 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 stands the temple of Guru Rinpoche which was built during the 19th century by Chimi Dorji, the Jakar Dzongpon. The main statue is of Guru Rinpoche along with his 8 manifestations, Tshepame and Longchen Rabjam at right, Chenrizig and Tertoen Pema Lingpa at left. On the wall, it 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.
Jangchub Chorten Lhakhang
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 are 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 the 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 the first and second king of Bhutan.
Social Culture Functions
The highest point of the year is the festival called Jamba Lhakhang Drup. This festival takes place from the 15th to the 19th day of the 9th month of the Bhutanese calendar. It is remarked 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.