Central Bhutan

Tharpaling Goemba

Tharpaling Goemba central bhutan

Founded by the dzogchen master LongchenRabjam in 1352, the monastery was also home to the famous Nyingma guru JigmeLingpa in the 18th century. It can be reached by an unpaved road.

Tharpaling Monastery is situated above Chumey valley at 3,600m. A 10 km. feeder road goes up to the monastery from Gyetsa village in Chumey valley, but it may be impracticable in summer due to rains and so a walk is often necessary. The main part of the monastery was founded by Longchenpa or Lonchen Rabjam (1308-1363) during his self-exile from Tibet for ten years. This monastery was also used as place of meditation by Jigme Lingpa, Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche and Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. The monastery contains statues of Longchenpa and Jikme Lingpa in meditation posture and frescoes of the lineage of Longchenpa and Jigme Lingpa. Above the Tharpaling Monastery (to the north) is Chodrak Monastery, a place where Guru Rinpoche is said to have meditated and the first settlement here is attributed to the Drukpa Kagyupa master, Lorepa (1187-1250), who founded Choedrak. Above Chodrak Monastery, there is a meditation cave of Guru Rinpoche, a meditation cave of Longchenpa and a rock throne, where Longchenpa wrote part of the Seven Treasures. Tharpaling is known for Longchen Rabjampa, who was a major teacher in the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism. His major work Seven Treasures, encapsulates the previous 600 years of Buddhist thought in Tibet. Longchenpa was a critical link in the transmission of the Dzogchen teachings. He was abbot of Samye, one of Tibet's most important monasteries and the first Buddhist monastery established in the Himalaya, but spent most of his life travelling or in retreat.

Jakar

Jakar central bhutan

Jakar (altitude 2,800 m) is the principal administrative town of Bumthang district in the north of Bhutan

JakarDzong means the 'Fortress of the White Bird', and it was constructed in 1667. Apparently, when a group of lamas were in the area searching for a suitable site for the new dzong, a single white bird continuously circled overhead before settling on the top of a hill. This was considered a good omen, and the hill was selected as the site for the dzong and White Bird was adopted as its name.

Jakar was the first place in Bhutan that Guru Rinpoche visited, and as the ruler of the region subsequently converted to Buddhism, Jakar is accorded the title of the birth place of Buddhism in Bhutan. In addition, one of most venerated and accomplished teachers of the Vajrayana school of Buddhism, PemaLingpa, was born in the Jakar area.

Kurjey Lhakhang

Kurjey Lhakhang central bhutan

One of Bhutan's most sacred monasteries. A body print of Guru Rinpoche is preserved in a cave around which the oldest of the three buildings is built. The original building was constructed in 1652 by TrongsaPenlop, while the latest addition was added by the late Queen Mother AshiKesangWangchuk in 1990. A huge cypress tree (or perhaps a decedent tree) that over hangs the building is said to have grown from Guru Rinpoche's walking stick.

During the 8th century, Sendhu Raja who was the king of Bumthang fell ill and he invited Guru Rinpochhe who brought Buddhism into Bhutan to cure him. Guru Rinpochhe found out that the King’s illness was caused by the local deities including the powerful Shelging Karpo. Finding the cause of the illness, Guru chased the deities into a cave, and Guru meditate d inside the cave for three months. Guru then subdued the deities including the powerful Shelging Karpo and left his body imprint inside the cave, thus giving the name Kurjey (Body Imprint). Beside the Monastery is a tall cypress tree which is believed to have sprouted from the walking stick of Guru Rinpochhe.

Zangto Pelri Lhakhang

Zangto Pelri Lhakhang central bhutan

This private chapel, built in the 1900s by Dasho Aku Tongmi, a musician who composed Bhutan’s national anthem, is south of the weekend market. It’s beside the older Yigja Dunkhar Lhakhang and is a replica of Guru Rinpoche’s celestial abode. It is one of Bhutan’s tallest lhakhang and houses many large statues, including a 4m-high image of Guru Rinpoche.

Jambay Lhakhang

Jambay Lhakhang central bhutan

Jambay Lhakhang is one of the oldest temples in the kingdom. It was founded by, Songtsen Gampo, a Tibetan King in the 7th century AD. The king was destined to build 108 temples known as Thadhul- Yangdhul (temples on and across the border) in a day to subdue the demoness that was residing in the Himalayas. The temple is one of the two of the 108 built in Bhutan. A second is located in Paro, the Kichu lhakhang also built on the same day.

Legend has it that Guru Rimpoche visited the site several times and deemed it exceptionally sacred. Chakhar Gyab, the king of the Iron Castle of Bumthang renovated the temple in the 8th century AD. The first king of Bhutan, Gongsa Ugyen Wangchuck constructed the Dus Kyi Khorlo (Kala Chakra- Wheel of Time) inside the temple, to commemorate his victory over his rivals Phuntsho Dorji of Punakha and Alu Dorji of Thimphu after the battle of Changlimithang in 1885. Later, Ashi Wangmo, the younger sister of the second king of Bhutan, built the Chorten lhakhang.

Lhodrak Kharchu Lhakhang

Lhodrak Kharchu Lhakhang central bhutan

This monastery is a more recent addition to the pantheon of monasteries in Jakar and is located above the town. The abbot, NamkhaiNyingpo Rinpoche, is a very highly respected teacher in Bhutan and speaks some English.

On the hill to the east of Jakar this large Nyingma monastery was founded in the 1970s by Namkhai Nyingpo Rinpoche and has more than 380 monks in residence. The new Tshokhang (Assembly Hall) has massive statues of Guru Rinpoche, Chenresig and Sakyamuni. If you're here between 4.30pm and 6pm (April to November), check out the mass debating in the courtyard of the shedra, behind the main monastery, where monks reinforce their theological arguments with a stamp of the foot and a victorious slap. Don't disturb the debates with your photography.

Tamshing Gompa

Tamshing Gompa central bhutan

A monastery established in 1501 by the local Buddhist saint PemaLingpa. The two story building contains some lovely frescoes, and has a very low ceiling (apparently PemaLingpa was very short!) In addition, there is 500-year-old suit of metal chain made by PemaLingpa located on the first floor. It is considered auspicious to circumambulate the temple three times with the chain draped over the back and shoulders.

Chakhar Lhakhang (Iron Castle).

Iron Castle central bhutan

This small and unassuming temple marks the site of the palace of Sindhu Raja, the Indian monarch who first invited Guru Rimpoche to Bhutan. The original palace was said to be made of iron and nine stories in height. The current building was constructed by DorjiLingpa in the 14th century.

Chakhar is located the east of the new town Dekiling and Jampa Lhakhang, on the edge of the plateau overlooking the river and close to the royal guest-house. It is made of a cluster of three houses and besides a prayer-wall and chortens.

Tang

Tang is a small village in Bhutan famous for its sacred Buddhist sites.

Mebar Tsho (Burning Lake)

Burning Lake central bhutan

A place where some of Guru Rinpoche's scriptural treasures (Tib:terma) were discovered in the 15th century by the famous treasure seeker PemaLingpa.

According to the legend Terton Pema Lingpa had a vision of the sacred treasures that Guru Rimpoche had hidden within the lake centuries earlier. However the people of Tang and the local ruler were cynical of his claims. In order to prove his claims, Pema Lingpa held a butter lamp in his hand as he jumped into the lake. After remaining under water for a long time he re-emerged holding a chest and a scroll of paper with the butter lamp held in his hand still burning bright. Thereafter, the lake came to be known as Mebartsho (the burning Lake).

Ugyen Choling Palace

Ugyen Choling Palace central bhutan

The original building was constructed in the 16th century, but was partly rebuilt after being damaged in the 1897 earthquake. The palace also has associations with the great Buddhist saint LonchenRabjam. Today the building serves as a museum, preserving the rich religious and cultural history of Tang and Bumthang.

Trongsa

Trongsa is in town in Bhutan, often known as the gateway to the east of the country.

Trongsa Dzong

Trongsa Dzong central bhutan

Built in 1648, it was the seat of power over central and eastern Bhutan. Both the first and second kings of Bhutan ruled the country from this ancient seat. All four kings were invested as Trongsa Penlop (“governor”) prior to ascending the throne. The dzong is a massive structure with many levels, sloping down the contours of the ridge on which it is built. Because of the dzong’s highly strategic position, on the only connecting route between east and west, the Trongsa Penlop was able to control effectively the whole of the central and eastern regions of the country from here.

Thruepang Palace

Thruepang Palace central bhutan

The palace was built by the second king and was the birth place of the third. Currently it used by reigning monarchs when on official visits to Trongsa. The building is closed to the public and like many of the early palaces is unimposing, but from an architectural and historical point of view it is still worth viewing.

Trongsa Tower (Ta Dzong)

Ta Dzong central bhutan

Ta Dzong is located strategically above the Trongsa Dzong on the left bank of the Mangde river. It is a short, steep walk from the main Trongsa town. A road now also makes Ta Dzong accessible from behind. The building is a massive circular five-storey tower flanked by two lower towers. Two smaller, free-standing towers are below the main building.

Sumthrang Lhakhang

Sumthrang Lhakhang central bhutan

A several hundred year old monastery with a lot of simple but beautiful artwork. Those visiting in January should notice the two flowering trees near the main gate, while other trees of the same variety lay bare. Legend states that these trees sprouted from a walking stick placed at the gate by the monastery's founder, GyelwaLhanangpa.

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