Jambay Lhakhang Festival in Bumthang
Jambay Lhakhang is located at Bumthang valley, in the central part of Bhutan. It is one of the oldest and the most sacred temples in the Kingdom.
The temple is a one storied complex and is located along the Chankhar Chhu/river on a plateau. The temple is almost a Kilometer from the Kurje Lhakhang complex and around 2km from Jakar Town.
Jambay Lhakhang was founded by, King Songtsen Goenpo in the year 659 AD, the 108 temples known as Thadhul- Yangdhul (temples and across the border) were constructed in a single day to pin down an Ogress that was residing in the Himalayas and causing harm to the human beings and stopping the spread of Buddhism in the Himalayan regions.
Jambay Lhakhang is one of the two, of the 108 sacred temples built in Bhutan. While Kyichu Lhakhang was erected on the demoness’s left foot.
The best known of these temples are Kichu in Paro, Jambay Lhakhang in Bumthang and Jokhang in Lhasa, Tibet.
Legend has it that Guru Rimpoche visited the site several times and deemed it exceptionally sacred. Jambay Lhakhang is also the site where Guru Rimpoche gave the first sermon to King Sindhu Raja and the people of Bumthang. King Sindhu Raja had invited Guru Rimpoche from Nepal to Bhutan to subdue some evil spirits that had been plaguing the land and causing him harm.
Later 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.
The main relics include the future Buddha, Jowo Jampa (Maitreya) from whose name the present name of the temple is derived. The lhakhang also houses more than one hundred statues of the gods of Kalachakra built by the first king, in 1887.
Two Popular sacred dances.
One of the most spectacular festivals in the country, called the Jambay lhakhang Drup is hosted here. The festival has so many colorful dances and rituals but the highlight of the festival is the Mewang (Fire Ritual) and the Ter chham (Naked Dance) that is held in the courtyard late at night.
- Ter chham (The Naked Dance)
The sacred Naked Dance is performed in the midnight and photographs is strictly prohibited. The exact time for the rituals and dances are not available since the Astrologer has to decide on the timing of the dances just minutes or hours before the auspicious minutes. The Sixteen (16) dancers of the Ter Chham are local people from the surrounding villages, specially hand picked by the Lama and the elders. The dancers wear nothing but only a small cloth over their face so as to disguise themselves.The dancers dance around the fire and the Temple for an hour.Thousands of people gather in the courtyard to receive the blessing and take a glimpse of the sacred dance.
According to Chamkhar Lam Dorji, the dance was introduced by the great treasure discoverer, Tertoen Dorji Lingpa, on the prophecy of the Guru Rinpoche in the 8th century. It was first performed in Nabjikorphu under Trongsa Dzongkhag. A band of devils was believed to be causing havoc and misery during the construction of a lhakhang in the area, destroying the work and delaying it.
To distract the devils, Terton Dorji Lingpa launched the naked dance. The outrageous antics of the naked performers during the dance are said to have kept the devil spellbound. In due course, the Lhakhang was completed and consecrated. Terton Dorji Lingpa, who also consecrated Jampa Lhakhang, brought the dance here.
2. Mewang (The Fire Ritual)
A fire dance or Mewang is held in the evening to bless the infertile women so that they may bear the children.
The Monks perform purification rituals and the Mask dancers light the fire, all the people and guests jump and run under the flames to get themselves purified from their sins and evil deeds. It is believed that if one is able to jump over and under the flame three times he or she is protected from ill luck and misfortunes are removed for that entire year.
That is why people of all walk of life from Bhutan and abroad attempts to jump across the flame three times to be blessed for the whole year.
Jambay Lhakhang Tshechu is a very popular and is renowned all over Bhutan and the world. Since the festival coincides with other popular festival/Tshechu in Bumthang region, travelers are advised to book their tour package at least 1 year in advance so as to confirm their air tickets and the rooms during the festival.The duration for this tour is 8-11 days Bhutan tour.