Konchogsum Lhakhang

Buddhist Temple in Chokhor Valley (Bumthang)

Just 400m below Tamshing, this towering, recently constructed and brightly painted building completely envelops the restored remains of the original temple. That much smaller temple, most of which dates from the 15th century, when Pema Lingpa restored it, was almost destroyed by a butter-lamp fire in 2010. Parts of the original building probably date back to a Tibetan design from the 6th or 7th century.

The old lhakhang retains its central statue of Nampal Namse (Vairocana, one of the five Dhyani Buddhas). On Vairocana's right is Chenrisig and Longchem Rabjampa (founder of Tharpaling Goemba). On Vairocana's left are statues of Guru Rinpoche and Pema Lingpa (said to be a reincarnation himself of Longchem Rabjampa). There is a pedestal in the courtyard in front of the old lhakhang that used to be outside, but has now been internalised within the soaring walls of the new lhakhang. Upon this pedestal sat a large and ancient bell. It is said that when this bell was rung it could be heard all the way to Lhasa, Tibet. The story goes that a 17th-century Tibetan army tried to steal the bell, but it was too heavy and they dropped it, cracking the bell. A fragment of the bell has a home in the new Kudung Chorten Lhakhang in the upper level of the new building.

The modern structure is truly magnificent. Massive, brightly painted columns soar to the painted ceiling. A perimeter mezzanine features seated staues of various (mind, body and spirit) reincarnations of Pema Lingpa, and virtually every surface has been decorated with intricate murals and designs. Either side of the lhakhang new monks' quarters are being built, signifying that this place is developing, phoenix-like, into a vibrant centre of Buddhist learning.