Bumthang is the general name given to a group of four valleys – Chumey, Choekhor, Tang and Ura, with altitudes varying from 2600m to 4000m. It is one of the most spectacular valleys in Bhutan and is also known as the holy heartland of Buddhism, a region famous for some of Bhutan’s oldest Buddhist temples and monasteries. Tales of Guru Padmasambhava and the tertons (“religious treasure-discoverers”) still linger in this sacred region.
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This 7th century monastery was one of 108 monasteries built to subdue evil spirits in the Himalayan region. Its present architectural appearance dates from the early 20th century. However, the inner shrine with the Future Buddha is believed to be there some 1400 years ago. Jambay festival (in the late autumn) is famous for the Tercham. English speaking Bhutanese refer to this dance as the Naked Dance. Indeed some dancers appear naked!
Located further along the valley, Kurje Lhakhang comprises three temples. The exciting thing here is comparing the 17th century structure on right side with the 20th century on the left (the one built by H.M. Ashi Kesang Wangmo Wangchuck, Grand-Queen Mother). A 108-chorten wall surrounds these three temples. Kurje Lhakhang is very special as the kings of Bhutan and other Royal Family members are cremated here.
Take a walk from Kurje Lhakhang to Tamshing Lhakhang. Terton Pema Lingpa, a reincarnation of Guru Padmasambhava, founded this temple in 1501. There are very old religious paintings around the inner walls of the temple.
Constructed in 1549 by the great grandfather of the first Shabdrung, the dzong was initially built as a monastery. It was upgraded in 1646, after the Shabdrung had firmly established his power. Jakar Dzong is now used as the administrative center for Bumthang valley, and also houses the regional monk body.
If you are fond of walking, take an opportunity to visit Thangbi Gompa, a walk of about 30 minutes north of Kurje Lhakhang. H.H Shamar Rinpoche of a Buddhist lineage called Karma Kagyu founded it in 1470. If you happen to be around here in autumn, look out for the dates of Thangbi festival.
At Tharpaling Monastery, you can hike along the beautiful alpine ridge above the monastery to experience stunning views of the mountains and valleys. It is so peaceful there and you can really communicate with nature as you enjoy the views from the top be it that of mountains or the valley. They say heaven is a place on earth - perhaps this is one such place.