Dumtseg Lhakhang Restored To Its Former Glory By Her Majesty The Royal Grandmother Of Bhutan
Her Majesty the Royal Grandmother graced the consecration ceremony of the renovated Lhakhang on 15 November.
By Phub Gyem | BBS
The Jangtsa Dumtseg Lhakhang (Temple), located a couple of minutes’ drive from the town of Paro, is one of the oldest temple and a popular tourist destination in Bhutan.
Built about 600 years ago, it has now been restored to its former glory by Her Majesty the Royal Grandmother Kesang Choeden Wangchuck from 2017- 2019, under the Dumgtseg Lhakhang Restoration Project.
Her Majesty the Royal Grandmother graced the consecration ceremony of the renovated Lhakhang on 15 November, presided over by the Letshog Lopen of the Zhung Dratshang (Central Monastic Body).
Photo: Facebook/The Royal Family of Bhutan
The locals - Paro Rabdey and Dzongkhag offered Buelwa and Ku-Sung-Thuk Mendrel to Her Majesty the Royal Grandmother as well.
During the ceremony, Her Majesty the Royal Grandmother conferred the Lhakhang back to the 15 households from Jangsa village in the Paro valley, who are custodians of the national treasure.
The royal project was a collaborative effort which involved the local community, local government, Department of Culture, BACCC and Japanese experts from Aichiken Co. Ltd, Nagoya.
About the Jangtsa Dumtseg Lhakhang
Dumtseg Lhakhang derived its name from its architectural structure in which the three temples inside are built around a central axle pole which runs right through the middle, from the ground floor to the crest of the temple.
The Lhakhang which is in the form of a chorten (stupa) is the only one of its kind in the country. The historic structure houses some of the most exquisite and sacred thangkas (a Tibetan or Bhutanese Buddhist painting on cotton or silk appliqué, usually depicting a Buddhist deity, scene, or mandala) in the country.
Why was it necessary to renovate and restore the Jangtsa Dumtseg Lhakhang?
“We are very happy to see the Lhakhang renovated. Before the renovation, the area was so congested. Now it’s very wide and comfortable as we come in for circumambulation,” said Gaki, from Jangsa under the Dopshar-ri gewog (village) in Paro.
As the Lhakhang is surrounded by paddy fields on all sides, water seepage has damaged the murals of the walls and the wooden architecture inside.
According to Sonam Tshering, from the Dumtseg Lhakhang Restoration Project, the lower ends of the murals had been damaged by water seepage, and smoke from butter lamps had also dirtied the murals.
Moreover, water leaking from the rooftop had damaged the woodworks and murals around the ceilings. The murals which were damaged had been partially repainted but the major part of the murals remained intact as it is in the interest of conserving them in their original forms.
This prompted Her Majesty the Royal Grandmother to request a team of Japanese and Bhutanese conservationists to renovate the Lhakhang in 2017.
“We haven’t touched much on the architecture inside because it is very sacred. Some of the murals are repainted partially. The main problem we faced was with water in the summer because of rain and drain water which is not an issue anymore now,” said Nidup, the Caretaker of the Dumtseg Lhakhang.
Keeping the Lhakhang’s original architecture intact
The renovation works were carried out in such a way that the Lhakhang’s original architecture was kept intact. The major works done included the restoration of the wall murals to its original form as well as the repair of the woodworks inside the Lhakhang.
Photo: Tourism Council of Bhutan
On top of that, an additional 80 decimals of land from three households in the community were acquired for the construction of boundary walls. As a token of appreciation, Her Majesty handed over land certificates (Lagthram) to these landowners during the ceremony.
“We acquired the paddy fields surrounding the Lhakhang and gave the locals land substitutes. Then we constructed the boundary walls to prevent water seepage. And while renovating, we had experts from Japan where we kept the old architecture intact as per the Royal Grandmother’s wish. While renovating, we dug, built and strengthened the base and made sure there was no water seepage, and restored the base to its former form,” said Dasho Rinzin Gyaltshen, the Chairman of the Dumtseg Lhakhang Restoration Project.
Tribute to the 12 wooden pillars
A village elderly disclosed that the last restoration of the Dumtseg Lhakhang was carried out by the 25th Je Khenpo Sherab Gyeltshen in 1841.
As part of the restoration extended to the chorten back then, a 12 sided temple with sidewalks for circumambulation was built. It was said that the Je Khenpo had asked people of 12 villages to bring pillars as a contribution, upon which the Lhakhang was constructed.
Today the Lhakhang has 12 wooden pillars painted in red with names of the villages which had donated, carved on them.
Conservationists believed that these pillars are part of the original structure, hence they did not touch them while renovating, except for one which was partially renovated.
Legend behind the Dumtseg Lhakhang
Despite not having any recorded history, many elderly in the village shared that the Thangtong Gyalpo built the Lhakhang to prevent a serpent which was taking shelter around the premises from harming the locals and to wipe out leprosy.
“Paro valley was divided into two by this hill behind the Chorten. And then on the joint, the end of the hill, it was said that one deadly serpent was taking shelter and because of the serpentine’s force, the people in the area were affected with leprosy and deadly diseases. To subdue all these ill effects, the Chorten was built on the head of the serpent. This is what we have been hearing,” explained Dasho Rinzin Gyaltshen.
This article first appeared in BBS and has been edited for Daily Bhutan.