According to legend, Jampa (Jambay) Temple or Temple of Maitreya in Bumthang is said to be one of the 108 temples built by the Tibetan King Songtsen Goenpo in 659 AD on a single day. Like Kyichu Lhakhang, it is said that Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo built a series of temples in a single day throughout the Himalayas to pin down a demoness who was obstructing the spread of Buddhism.
Four temples were built to pin down her shoulders and hips; four more on the elbows and knees; and four to hold down her hands and feet. It is believed that Jambay Lhakhang was built to pin down the left knee of the demoness. Thus, Jambay Lhakhang remains one of the oldest and most sacred temples in Bhutan.
The ancient temple, Jambay Lhakhang sits on a plateau by the Bumthang Chhu River. The temple has been repaired and rebuilt several times over the years. The one-storey temple is also the venue for the popular Jambay Lhakhang Drup festival held annually.
About Jambay Lhakhang Drup
Jambay Lhakhang Drup is a four-day festival held to commemorate the building of the temple and in honour of Guru Rinpoche, the 8th-century Buddhist master who consecrated the temple. The festival features masked dances and other ceremonies.
The two key highlights of Jambay Lhakhang Drup is Mewang or Fire Blessing and Tercham or Naked Dance. During the fire blessing ceremony, the gomchens perform purification rituals while all the guests jump over the flames to get themselves purified from their sins. If one is able to jump over the flame three times, he or she is believed to be protected from misfortunes for that entire year. Some also claim that their fire dance is performed to bless infertile women so that they may bear children.
Tercham or Naked Dance is a popular dance among the spectators. Exactly at midnight, there will be sixteen naked men galloping in the air rhythmically with accompanying drums and cymbals. The dance is one of the most revered dances in Bumthang for the locals. The sacred dancers are completely naked except for their faces which are covered in white cloths and masks. And no, you are not allowed to take photographs of the dancers.
It’s believed that Tercham was introduced by the great treasure revealer, Terton Dorji Lingpa. Legend has it that demons delayed the construction of a monastery by destroying it every night, thus, Terton Dorji Lingpa established this dance to distract the demons. Terton Dorji Lingpa then brought the dance to Jambay Lhakhang during its consecration.
The Jambay Lhakhang Drup festival takes place annually around October or November.