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Report 1790: Bhutan - Land of the Dragon
By Eleanor from UK, Fall 2009
Page 18 of 24: Jakar Valley
Jakar Dzong dominates the valley and is reached by a steep climb up steps from the road. A huge wooden doorway leads into the admin courtyard. This is long and narrow with steps up into the Monks' courtyard. The defensive wall was lined with buildings with the monks quarters on the top floors. The original building was 15thC but there have been recent restorations and repainting. The monks were taking musical instruments - drums and horns - into the courtyard as they were needed for use in a service outside the Dzong.
Wangdicholin Palace was the Summer Palace of the first and second kings. It was a large wooden house inside a walled enclosure with granaries and servants quarters built against the side wall. It was given to the monk body by the fourth Kingís sister as the family no longer needed the building.
There was a feeling of decayed grandeur as paint work was faded and peeling. Thirty small monks with a Head Monk study and sleep here. Out in the garden, several small boys were playing cricket with a make shift bat and stumps. They were full of enthusiasm but not very good. One missed the ball completely and his bat flew off in our direction.
We drove up the valley to Jampa Lhakhang, which is one of the oldest in Bhutan. The original foundation was 7thC. The present building is 15thC with later additions. The golden roofs and temple area were surrounded by a wall with small prayer wheels.
There were great preparations for the Naked Monk Dance festival which began at midnight the following day. The courtyard was being cleared of weeds using knives. Stalls were being set up outside. Old people were walking round clockwise with hand held prayer wheels and prayer beads.
The Naked Monk Dance is basically a fertility rite begun by Guru Rinpoche and danced by the local monks. Women who were unable to conceive or give birth came and believed if they could touch one of the monks they would conceive within the year. It is still popular with the locals who travel for miles to the event and also attracts many tourists.
We walked along a track through the fields to Kurje Lhankhang. This is an important temple complex at the end of the paved road. There are three large Lhakhangs set on the hillside facing south, surrounded by a 108 chorten wall. It is one of the most sacred sites in Bhutan as Guru Rimpoche meditated here and left an imprint of his body on a rock in a cave inside the 17thC temple. A second temple was built by the first King in 1900 and a third temple by the Queen mother 1984.
From Kurjke Lhakhang we dropped down the path to the river for lunch. The river here is very wide and a deep turquoise colour with lots big rocks. The village dogs soon appeared looking hungry and hopeful. They demolished the remains of our lunch - chilies and all.
We went across the suspension bridge and followed the path along the river to Tamshing Goempa. Parts are early 16thC and were built by Perma Lingpa who was responsible for the paintings on the walls in the corridor around the main temple. Butter lamps are left burning on a shelf around the walls and offerings left. These are probably the oldest paintings in Bhutan. The present Head Monk is the 11th reincarnation of Perma Lingpa although he is not normally here. His picture is left on his chair in the temple.
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