In August 2016, His Royal Highness visited the Bumthang Valley for the first time, with His Majesty The King and Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen. The maternal ancestral home of Her Majesty, Bumthang is also an important religious site. Dasho Kinley Dorji, the former information and communications secretary, writes about this deeply significant visit. 

There are times when present day events assume historical, spiritual, and mythological significance. Such was a moment this week when His Royal Highness Gyalsey Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck made his first journey to Bumthang valley, an ancestral home of Bhutan’s Royal Lineage, a cradle of Bhutanese culture, and a spiritual heartland of the Buddhist world.

His Majesty The King, Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen, His Royal Highness The Gyalsey, and members of the Royal Family were received in a profoundly emotional atmosphere by the clergy, officialdom, youth, and the people of Bumthang. History was brought alive by the presence of the Royal  relatives and the community in the historical valley of Chumey, the ancestral home of Her Majesty the Gyaltsuen.

His Royal Highness The Gyalsey’s first visit to Bumthang binds him as yet another landmark figure of Bhutanese history. The Royal Birth, on February 5, 2016, re-affirmed an uninterrupted lineage of Terton Pema Lingpa and the union of the great lineages of Dungkar Chhoje and Tamzhing Chhoje. Stemming from the noble genes of Gongsar Jigme Namgyel and Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck, it is an assurance that the Kingdom of Bhutan will continue to draw its strength from the continuity of the vital institution of the Monarchy.

Thousands of people from all corners of Bumthang lined the streets and crowded the celebration venues to greet the Royal Family and to offer their reverence to His Royal Highness whose birth has been heralded as the collective good fortune and merit (Soedey Soenam) of the Bhutanese people. His Majesty The King granted tokha to the gathering in Chumey and spent time sharing his Royal views with the people.

During the Royal visit, from August 9 to 14, Their Majesties and His Royal Highness offered lamps and prayers at Bumthang’s spiritual landmarks: the Jakar Dzong, Kenchosum Lhakhang, Tamzhing Lhakhang, and Jambay Lhakhang.

Jakar Dzong was built in the 15th century by Ngagi Wangchuck, the great grandfather of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel and still houses the monk body and administrative offices today. Jampa Lhakhang was built by the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century, as one of 108 temples designed to pin down a supine demoness across the Himalayan region. The Lhakhang, dedicated to Jowo Jampa, is said to have been renovated by the Guru Rinpoche himself when he visited Bhutan in the 8th century.

The Kenchosum Lhakhang was built in the 8th Century and later restored by Terton Pema Lingpa. Besides paintings by Pema Lingpa and Longchen Rabjampa, one of the most sacred relics of the temple is an ancient bell from Samye in Tibet. Tamshing Monastery was built in 1501 by Pema Lingpa, and houses a sacred Guru Sungjenma Statue.

Kurje Lhakhang is one of the most sacred temples dedicated to Guru Rinpoche, housing, in its main altar, a natural grotto upon which it is believed that an impression of the body of Guru Rinpoche was left after he sat there in meditation.

At Kurje Lhakhang, Their Majesties and His Royal Highness attended the climax of a 14-day Drubchhen ceremony on August 13, organised by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche. A total of 115 monks from the Mindruling Centre performed the Ka Gyed Drupchen, a Terchho practice revealed by Terton Ngadag Nyang Ral Nyima Ozer. More than 100 monks of the Trongsa Dratshang performed the practice of Lama Gongdue. A congregation of Bartsham gomchens conducted a Phurba ceremony that is a revelation of the treasure practice of Tragtung Dudjom Lingpa.

The Drubchhen is performed to clear unfavorable circumstances, diseases and conflict and enhance favourable circumstances such as happiness, wealth, prosperity, and power. This year being the year of Guru Rinpoche, the Drubchen is performed to clear the obstacles to the Buddha’s teachings and to the well being of His Majesty the Druk Gyalpo and His Royal Highness the Gyalsey.

A highlight of the Royal visit was the consecration of the Dungbethang Nangsid Zilnon Phodrang in Tang valley, a sacred memorial for the Queens of the second King of Bhutan, His Majesty Jigme Wangchuck. It is dedicated to the late Gyaltsuen Ashi Phuntsho Choden Wangchuck (1911-2003) and late Gyaltsuen Ashi Pema Dechen Wangchuck (1918 – 1991).

Constructed on the command of His Majesty The King, it is believed that the ceremonies performed at this special “Palace of the glorious subjugator of appearance and existence”, with sacred relics like the statue of Guru Nagsid Zilnon, will safeguard spiritual and temporal activities of the Royal lineage and pacify potential obstacles including violence, famine, diseases and other sufferings.

Blessed by the physical imprints and sacred impressions of Guru Rinpoche, of Terton Pema Lingpa, and many saints and bodhisattvas, the verdant valley of Bumthang is a spiritual paradise for Buddhists around the world. This is the land where the Guru, the “Second Buddha” subdued celestial beings, evil demons, and wild humans in the eighth century and transformed it into an abode of hidden dharma treasures.

It is believed that Bumthang offers an environment for the practice of Dharma and to achieve Siddhi. The mere sight of the physical relics of the Guru, it is believed, is sufficient for one to attain liberation.

Bumthang is also the birthplace of the celebrated 15th century genius, Pema Lingpa, ancestor of the present Royal Family. A scholar-saint, treasure-discoverer, master of medicine and various arts and crafts, he left an indelible impression on Bhutan.

It is in Bumthang that illustrious personages including Kings and ministers, scholars and saints, arose to lead the nation. It is here where we find sacred temples and marvellous cultural icons. Such magnificent structures for worship and refined ancient culture characterise Bumthang which is recognised as a seat of the future Buddha Maitreya.

Today, against the tide of the changing times, the rolling hills that are covered by lush forest and medicinal herbs, fertile valleys carpeted by wild flowers, and the fields of organic buckwheat, charm Bhutanese and international visitors alike.

People across the country and around the world see Bumthang valley as a sacred site that holds the core of the Bhutanese identity.