Bhutan | Bumthang

Kurjey Lhakhang

Embrace Bhutan Cultural Tour

Bumthang | Bhutan

13 Nov 2019 | Wed

Day 07 of 13

  • Drive | Jakar to Tang Valley
  • Jambay Lhakhang
  • Kurjey Lhakhang
  • Nature Walk to Tamshing Lhakhang – Swinging Bridge & Local Handcrafts
  • Tamshing Lhakhang
  • Lunch in Bumthang
  • Mebar Tsho – The Burning Lake
  • Pema Choling Nunnery
  • Ogyen Choling Manor and Museum

Kurjey Lhakhang

Our next interesting stop of the day was only a few minutes away – the beautiful Kurjey Lhakhang.

Visit the impressive Kurjey Lhakhang (where the Guru Rinpoche subdued a local demon and left his body imprint on a rock).

Embrace Bhutan Travel

Entrance Into Kurjey Lhakhang Temple Complex

Kurjey Lhakhang, which translates as ‘Temple of the Sacred Body Imprint,’ is one of the holiest sites and an important place of pilgrimage for all devout Buddhists. It was built around a rock on which Guru Rinpoche left an imprint of his body while mediating there in the 8th century, where he had arrived to save the life of Sendha Gyelpo, the king of Bumthang. At Kurjey, the Guru, in the form of a Garuda, defeated and subdued the local deity Shelging Karpo, who had commandeered the king’s life force. The king’s life having been saved, Shelging Karpo was further converted to the faith and made its staunch guardian, bound by oath to protect and propitiate the Dharma. Today Shelging Karpo is revered as the Local Deity at Kurjey Lhakhang and is regularly propitiated by visitors and locals alike.

The first of the three Temples – the Guru Lhakhang (temple on far right), is the oldest and was built in 1652 by Mingyur Tenpa, the Trongsa Penlop (or Local Governor). Tucked just below the eaves is the figure of a snow lion with a Garuda above it, a depiction of the subjugation of Shelging Karpo by the Guru. At the entrance to the lower floor – Sangay Lhakhang is a small crawl-through rock passage. The belief is that crawling through the passageway results in the cleansing of one’s sins. Behind the three Buddha statues is a secret passageway that is said to lead to Tharpaling. The upper-floor sanctuary is the holiest in the complex. There are a thousand small statues of Guru Rinpoche neatly lined up along the left wall, along with statues of Guru Rinpoche, Pema Lingpa and Drolma (Tara). The main relic in the temple is the statue of Guru Rinpoche, flanked by his eight manifestations and eight Chortens. Hidden behind these figures is the very cave where the Guru meditated and left his body imprint. The far wall has images of Guru Rinpoche, his eight manifestations, his 25 disciples and various other figures connected with the Guru. The big cypress tree behind the Lhakhang is said to have sprouted from the Guru’s walking stick.

Ugyen Wangchuck, the First Hereditary Monarch of Bhutan, built the second temple , the Sampa Lhundrup Lhakhang (middle temple), in 1900, while he was the Trongsa Penlop (and yet to be crowned King). On the entrance porch are paintings of the Guardians of the Four Directions and of various local deities who were converted to Buddhism by Guru Rinpoche. The white ghostlike figure on the white horse above the doorway to the right is Shelging Kharpo, along with the other Local Guardians – Yakdu Nagpo (on a black yak) and Kyebu Lungten (on a red horse). Inside the temple is a towering 10 meter high statue of Guru Rinpoche, flanked again by his eight manifestations. A smaller image of the Guru sits facing towards the direction of Tibet with a defiant stare.

The third temple in the complex (temple on far left) was built in 1984 by Ashi Kesang Wangchuck (Queen to the Third King), under the guidance of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. She also built a wall of 108 Chortens around the whole complex and had the courtyard in front of the three temples paved with stone slabs. These Chortens, known as Jangchub Chortens are symbols that commemorate Buddha’s victory over evil forces and the absolute purity of his claim to enlightenment. They enclose the Kurje complex, transforming it into a three-dimensional Mandala, in the likeness of the Samye Monastery in Tibet.

– Breathe Bhutan Kurjey Lhakhang

Walk Around the Temple Grounds

When we first arrived at Kurjey Lhakhang we spent some time walking around the temple grounds. The Kurjey Lhakhang complex is made up of three temples Guru Lhakhang (far right – built in 1652), Sampa Lhundrup Lhakhang (middle – built in 1900), and the third temple built in 1984 (far left) by Ashi Kesang Wangchuck (Queen to the Third King).

Third Temple (left) Sampa Lhundrup Lhakhang (middle) and Guru Lhakhang (right)
Large Cypress Tree – Thought To Have Sprouted From Guru Rinpoche’s Walking Stick

Visit Guru Lhakhang Temple

After walking around the temple grounds in the front, it was time to walk up a series of stairs to reach the entrance into the “Temple of Three Buddhas” and cave that Guru Rinpoche meditated and left his body imprint. Before our walk up we had to first remove our shoes (a common practice in all Buddhist temples). We were not allowed to take pictures while inside any of the temple/caves areas.

Temple of Three Buddhas

Below is a picture of the entrance into the Temple of Three Buddhas (past, present and future buddhas). At this entrance in the corner there is a small crawl-through rock passage. Bhutanese people believe that in crawling through a narrow passage like this will leave or clean your sins behind.

Embrace Bhutan Travel

Entrance Into the Temple of Three Buddhas
Cave Entrance Into Where Guru Rinpoche Meditated and Left His Body Imprint

Map – Kurjey Lhakhang

Leave a Comment