Jambay Lhakhang Festival
Venue: Jambay Lhakhang (Bumthang) grounds
Total Duration: 10 days
Other places: Western and Central Bhutan.
The Naked Dance of Jambay Lhakhang Drup is one of the most unique amongst sacred mask dances held around the country. At midnight, 16 naked men perform the sacred dance, which has its origin in the 8th century.
It is said that the dance was first held in Nabjikorphu in Trongsa by the great treasure discoverer, Terton Dorji Lingpa, on the prophecy of Guru Rimpoche. Like several dances, this has a story too.
Legend has it that a band of devils were obstructing the construction of a Lhakhang (Temple) in Nabjikorphu, delaying the work. As a ruse to distract the devils, Terton Dorji Lingpa launched the naked dance. It served the purpose as the outrageous antics of the naked performers during the dance kept the devils spellbound. The construction was thus completed. The dance reached Jambay Lhakhang as Terton Dorji Lingpa also consecrated Jambay Lhakhang.
This dance is performed by selected men from the four villages of Jambay Lhakhang, Nobgang, Changwa and Nashphey.
The main highlight of this festival is the sacred naked dance known as ‘Ter Cham’ and ‘Mewang-the fire blessing’. A fire dance or Mewang is held in the evening to bless the infertile women to bear children.
Day 01: Arrive at Paro
Arrive at Paro international Airport.
During the journey to Paro, one will experience a breath taking view of Mount Everest, Kanchenjunga and other famous Himalayan peaks, including the sacred Mount Jomolhari and Jichu Drake in Bhutan. Particularly exciting is the section through the Bhutanese foothills and the thrilling landing. On arrival at Paro international airport, you will be received by representatives of our company. After checking in and lunch you will visit places of historical importance in Paro, such as the National Museum of Bhutan, and Paro Rimpung dzong (fortress on a heap of jewel). You will also be visiting Kyichu Lhakhang, which was built by King Songtsen Gyempo of Tibet in 659 AD.
Day 02: To the Tiger’s lair (Taktsang)
After an early breakfast drive up to Ramthangka (base camp) of Taktsang and then hike up to the famous Tiger’s Lair.
It is a 5 hour round trip. Follow an ancient path marked by stream powered prayer wheels to the monastery, perched some 1000m/3000ft up on a cliff overlooking the valley. It is said that the legendary Indian saint, Guru Padmasambhava, flew from Tibet on the back of a tigress to defeat five demons, who were opposing the spread of Buddhism in Bhutan in 746 AD.
On the way back, visit Drukgyel dzong, located 16 km away from Paro town. Although in ruins, this dzong is of great historical importance. It was here that the Bhutanese finally defeated the invading Tibetans and drove them back. From here, Jomolhari peak or “Mountain of the Goddess” can be seen on a clear day (7329m/24029ft). If time permits, we will visit a local farmhouse. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 03: Paro-Punakha
The four hours drive from Paro traverses through a constantly changing kaleidoscope of vegetation, waterfalls, flowers, mountains and meadows. In about 45 minutes we will reach the famous Dochula pass (3100m) where on a clear day we can see the entire eastern Himalayan range, teeming with 6000m to 7554m snow-capped mountains. The pass, also known for its abundant species of extremely beautiful flowers has 108 Buddhist stupas exquisitely built around a mound, adding to the natural splendour of the place.
From the pass we descend to the sub-tropical valley of Punakha. Punakha served as the ancient capital of Bhutan and still possesses the country’s main treasures in the form of Buddhist relics inside the Punakha dzong. Resembling a gigantic ship on an ocean floor from afar, and flanked on either side by two (Male and Female) rivers, the castle-fortress also represents the best specimen of Bhutanese architecture.
After lunch in a small nearby village together with a rural farming household, we will walk along a footpath flanked by an endless view of ripening paddy fields to the Temple of Fertility – Chimi Lhakhang. This temple, built in the 15th century to honour the “Divine Madman”, a saint iconoclast who is also associated with phallus worship, attracts barren couples from all over to receive fertility blessings from an anointed phallus.
Night halt in Punakha
Day 04: Punakha-Phobjikha
After breakfast, we will drive to Phobjikha, a bowl-shaped valley on the western slopes of the Black Mountain. After lunch, we will visit Gangtey Gonpa, seat of the Peling tradition of Buddhism. Later, walk around the valley which is also the winter home to the rare black-necked cranes, which migrate from remote parts of Tibet, China, Mongolia and Siberia during winter to this valley.
Overnight will be at hotel.
Day 05: Phobjikha-Bumthang
After breakfast, we drive to Bumthang via Pelela pass, the traditional boundary between Western and Eastern Bhutan. En-route we will stop at Chendebji, where a stupa built by King Zhida stands.
Halt at Bumthang.
Day 06: Bumthang-exploring the mystical valley
Chakar Lhakhang (Iron Castle): It is the site of the palace of the Indian King Sendha Gyab also known as Sindhu Raja.
Kurjey Lhakhang (Kurjey means, “Body imprint”): The temple to the right was built by Minjur Tempa in 1652. It was built around the cave in which Guru Rimpoche meditated and left his body imprint.
Tamshing Lhakhang: This temple is also known as Tamshing Lhendrup Chholing (Temple of the Good Message).
Jakar Dzong: The fortress is now used as an administrative centre of the valley and summer residence of monks. Later in the evening witness the festival. The first day of the festival begins late at night.
Apart from the Naked dance, another attraction unique to this festival is the Fire Dance (Mecham), where an arch of pine is set on fire. The fire is said to purify the earth of evil spirits. People who pass through the arch have their sins cleansed. A dancer chases away the evil spirits.
Night in the hotel.
Day 07: Jambay Lhakhang Drup and Mebartsho (Burning Lake):
After breakfast, we will attend the second day of Jambay Lhakhang Drup (festival) and after lunch, we will drive to Tang valley to visit Mebartsho (Burning Lake.) Legend has it that the great Terton (Treasure Discoverer) Pema Lingpa found several religious artefacts hidden by Guru Rimpoche in the lake.
Night halt will be in the hotel.
Day 08: Bumthang-Trongsa
After breakfast we drive to Trongsa. Upon arrival there, we will visit Trongsa dzong-seat of the district administration, built in 1648. We will also visit Ta dzong (former Watch Tower), which has been converted into a museum.
Overnight at hotel in Trongsa.
Day 09: Trongsa-Thimphu:
After breakfast drive to Thimphu and overnight at hotel in Thimphu.
Day 10: Thimphu sightseeing
In the morning we will visit places of cultural and historical office in the capital.
Memorial Chorten (Stupa): Your day will begin with visits to the Memorial Chorten, one of Bhutan’s most beautiful stupas built in memory of the Father of Modern Bhutan, Third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck.
Buddha Point: The next visit will be to Buddha Point, where the gigantic sitting Buddha statue stands.
Changangkha Lhakhang: A 13th century monastery, built by Phajo Drugom Zhipo and later embellished by his son Nyima, the monastery is believed to be the protector of all people born in the Chang valley.
Others: We will also be visiting the Takin Zoo, taking a drive to Sangaygang, a point from where you can have a bird’s eye view of Thimphu valley, Handicraft’s emporium, the local Bhutanese paper making factory, a Nunnery and the Arts and Craft School.
Tashichhodzong: The country’s main secretariat building, built in 1642, it is today the hub of Bhutanese polity. This massive structure houses the office of the King, the Throne Room, some government ministries and the State Monastic Body. It is also the summer residence of the Chief Abbot and senior monks.
Day 11: Departure from Paro
After breakfast, you will be driven to Paro international airport for your onward flight. Our representative will see you off.