Source: The rise and fall of the ‘iron castle’ | Kuenselonline
Heritage site in sore need of restoration
History In Passing: A place central to the evolution of Buddhism in Bhutan stands neglected
Chagkhar Lhakhang 9 April, 2010 - On the way to Kurjey, the most visited lhakhang in Bumthang, stands an ancient monument, historically and spiritually significant in the evolution of Buddhism in the country - the Chagkhar lhakhang.
The lhakhang, also called ‘iron castle’, built on the site of Sindhu Raja, the king who first invited Guru Rinpoche to Bhutan, is, however, in dire need of renovation. Located just next to the road opposite the Chagkhar guesthouse, the 400-year old lhakhang has never been renovated properly, according to the caretaker, Tenzin, who is also the son of the owner, Chakar lam.
On a closer look, the inner wall of the lhakhang is cracked, which was worsened by the September earthquake last year. Old timber, damaged by pests, and walls plastered with mud indicate that not even an attempt at restoration has been made. Tenzin said that the present lhakhang was the same one that was restored once by Terton Dorji Lingpa. He said that, while carrying out a partial restoration last year, they saw timber that was completely eaten by pests. “There could have been some sort of renovation during our forefathers’ time, because some timbers aren’t as old and damaged, but it was never given a full restoration,” said Tenzin.
Tenzin, who lives on the ground floor of the lhakhang, is building a separate house so that the lhakhang can be renovated. “The rich heritage will vanish if it’s not restored,” said Tenzin, adding that, being a private lhakhang, it is difficult without fund.
Crack on the inner walls of the lhakhang
The Bumthang dzongkhag support Tenzin is partially restoring the lhakhang last year. Tenzin say that Chagkhar lhakhang plays big role in Jamba lhakhang drup, from providing masks and other things to guiding the ritual as Terton Dorji Lingpa introduced it from there. “But there’s no support from the public,” he said. The lhakhang is still not connected with drinking water, as some residents refused to let the water line pass through their land.
Chagkhar lhakhang is central to the introduction of the Nyingma tradition of Buddhism in the country, starting from the invitation of Guru Padmasambhava in 746 AD by Chagkhar Gyab Sindhu Raja, and later becoming the residence of Terton Dorji Lingpa in 1374 to spread his teaching.
Sindhu Raja, who lost, in one of the family feuds with Naoche, the king of Duars in India, was forced to live in exile with his retinue in Bumthang. He invited Guru Rinpoche to rescue him from a serious illness.
After Sindhu Raja, the daughter of Sindhu Raja and one of the consorts of Guru Rinpoche, Moenmo Tashi Khewdren, is believed to have lived here until she died, before Langdarma destroyed the iron castle.
Later, in 1374, Terton Dorji Lingpa visited Bumthang and restored the Chagkhar dzong for his residence, which became the Chagkhar lhakhang that he also renovated. He also extended Jamba lhakhang, introducing the tradition of Dzogchen.
By Samten Yeshi, Bumthang