Specificities of Dzongs and Palaces in Bumthang

According to tradition, Bumthang was one of the valleys where the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo (7th c.) built one temple, Jampa Lhakhang, among the 108 that he built all over the Himalayan world. However Bumthang was formally converted to Buddhism by Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) in the 8th century after he restored the health of Sendarkha, the king of Bumthang. Guru Rinpoche is believed to have left numerous traces of his visit to Bumthang and they are highly revered to this day.

Bumthang became the temporary home of famous Tibetan saints of the Nyingmapa school such as Longchen Rabjam (1308-63) and Dorje Lingpa (1346-405) who came from Tibet. The most famous of all the religious men in this area is Pema Lingpa (1450-1521), who was born in the Tang valley of Bumthang.  He built several temples in Bumthang such as Kunzangdra and Tamshing and started a religious lineage.His descendants scattered through central and eastern Bhutan and contributed to the spread of the Nyingmapa school. Dorje Lingpa and Pema Lingpa were also amongst the most important tertons, or “revealers of religious treasures” said to have been hidden by Guru Rinpoche. Drukpa Kagyupa lamas such as Lorepa and the Shabdrung’s father as well as Karmapa lamas also visited Bumthang.

Bumthang valleys were ruled by noble families called Choeje or Dung who descended from prestigious religious lineages. After remaining more or less independent for centuries Bumthang was conquered in the middle of the 17th century by the Drukpas who were unifying Bhutan under their religious and political influence. Jakar dzong became the administrative and religious centre of Bumthang which was governed by a dzongpon. Jigme Namgyal (1825-1881) who was the de facto ruler of Bhutan and the Trongsa Penlop in the mid 19th century, settled in Bumthang where he built the Wangduecholing palace in 1857. His son Ugyen Wangchuck who became the 1st King was born in Bumthang. From Jigme Namgyal until the death of the 2nd King in 1952, Bhutan was governed mainly from Bumthang.