Bumthang Ratings & Reviews

Madhuri Agrawal

Madhuri Agrawalratingratingratingratingratingrating4.3/5

16 reviewsPosted May 2010

Bumthang - A walk in the sacred valley

The Bhumthang valley is beautiful in an ethereal way. Surrounded by hills on all sides that you can see, it looks like an oasis of land. A land which is green and happy, and like all happy places is marked by a meandering river. We were staying in the Jakar valley, beyond which is Ura – another beautiful land I am told, but I have to leave something for a later day.

Bhumthang is considered very sacred amongst the Bhutanese, and its landscape is dotted with many holy landmarks. One can walk through the Jakar valley, visiting these landmarks on foot, learning of an age long gone and still somehow alive here. We started with Jambal, one of the first Buddhist temples in Bhutan, built by a Tibetan king in the 7th century, which holds in itself many old smells – those of animal skin prayer wheels, of old stones and incense. There are three steps in the main temple, out of which only 1.5 is above the ground now. According to Bhutanese doomsday belief, the world as we know it will end when all steps are submerged – it will then be time for the Future Buddha to come to the world.

Walking ahead, at a small distance lies Kurjey Lhakhang, the place most closely associated with Guru Rinpoche or second Buddha. His first appearance in Bhutan was here, summoned by a local ruler Sendhaka. In this place, he lured a ferocius deity Shelging Karpo, and forced him into becoming a guardian of the place. Kurjey L. has three temples, one built by Guru Rinpoche in 8th centiry, the second by (guess?) Zhabdrung, and the third by the king’s grandmother.

The third most important landmark doting the Jakar valley is the Tamshing monastery, which was built in the 15th century by another revered monk Pema Lingpa. The monastery even today preserves a feeling of medieval times, with young monks taking their lessons in the courtyard, and the naughty ones punished in the corridor.
The monastery stands at the banks of the Bhumthang river, which adds to the touch of country idyll, as does the spread of herbs left in the lawn for drying, to make incense sticks, or the stray monks meditating/chanting mantras.

Outside the monastery, a path runs along the river, lined by trees on either side. Up that path, we went to the Jakar monastery where an initiation ceremony had just wound up – scores of school children had assembled for it, almost enjoying a picnic on a school afternoon.

From there, we went to the Dzong - a very quiet one compared to all the other Dzongs I have visited in Bhumthang. It was a steep climb to the dzong, but the view from the dzong is pretty.

Food, sight-seeing and shopping: It is customary in Bhutan to eat the meal of the day - there are very few places where you can order a la carte. We ate mostly at our hotel (Bhumthang Mountain Lodge), where the food was delicious. We also tried a local inn once, but only got a meal on offer. A delicious one to be sure.

Activities & things to do: Bhumthang offers a peace to the visitor, perhaps because of its holy setting. There is much history in the land, as are many beliefs and prayers, which make it sacred. The best thing to do is to walk through its sacred places, or just sit by the river and enjoy the quiet.

Travel tips, How to reach, travel warnings etc: The only way to travel in Bhutan is by road - there are no domestic flights and no trains. The roads are winding and sometime make you feel dizzy.
To visit Bhumthang, you will have to land in Paro, and then drive through Thimpu, Wangdue to Bhumthang. The journey is long and cannot be made in one day - it has to be broken at least in two. On the route, you come across four high passes which offer a spectacular view of the mountains, even the Himalyan peaks on a clear day. A journey which is as beautiful as the destination.

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