Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten

Landmark in Bhutan

Standing regally on the hill above the Punakha valley, Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten is a classic example of gorgeous traditions and architecture of Asian country. This chorten, however, is unique. It is not designed for community worship or for monastic retreat or education like other Buddhist Institute and Colleges. It is designed as a magical tool. It was built by the Queen Mother for heading off the negative forces and transportation peace and harmony for all the living beings. The thing that sets this Chorten apart is that it was designed on the principals delineate within the Holy Scriptures instead of trendy engineering manuals. The golden spire and labyrinthine wall patterns square measure fine example of art and traditions of Asian country.

First, tourists have to park the bus on the west bank of the river, and walk across a suspension bridge. The iron bed and steel cable look new, but the towers look old. No one knows exactly how old. The first iron suspension bridges in Bhutan were built over 500 years ago, around circa 1440 and 5 of those are known to be still in use!

Despite the spiffed-up bridge, there’s nothing on the other side, but a narrow track along a little creek and through the rice paddies. It is very scenic in nature. The way the terraces are built and the irrigation water channeled from the creek is pretty much the same in South Asia region.

At the foot of the hill the paddies end and the real trail begins. Here there’s a big prayer wheel in its little shelter. Where an older person comes to turn the wheel and chants.  Then climbing up the hill is refreshing as trail surrounds pine trees, nice views up and down the valley, but however, weather is clear and hot.

At the top tourists can see a lovely Bodhi tree, well-tended gardens, two large prayer wheels in their special shelter, and the gorgeous little temple. Where caretaker greets guest and offers refreshment.

Most Buddhist temples, you walk in the front, there’s open space where people sit to pray or meditate or study, and a big shrine in the back with a serene Sakyamuni Buddha. Here, walking in the north door, you are immediately face-to-multiple-faces with the multiplex wrath of Vajrakilaya, the most wrathful of protective deities. This is a huge sculpture, 15 or 20 feet high, filling the whole room and encased in glass. It’s too big to grasp as one being; even the main heads are hard to see, being close to the ceiling and obscured by the dizzying detail of the various other manifestations. There are 103 complete 3-D sculptures, each an aspect of the deity and emerging bodily from his main mass, all in brilliant colors. It’s inconceivable that something so complex and garish should be aesthetically balanced and coherent, but it is absolutely all that. And overwhelming in its presence.

There is another shrine room, and another wrathful deity statue, not as overwhelming in size and complexity, but still ferociously powerful. Here, however, there is room to sit and meditate. And there are higher mysteries, indeed. In another stair to the third level finds third wrathful deity, perhaps even more ferocious and energetic. His consort clasps his waist, totally subsumed in energy. She transforms his wrath into acceptance as fully as she can, but there is plenty more beyond her reach, so his potency reaches everywhere.

In each of these temples, the walls are also covered with a series of responding deities. There are of more Yab-Yum figures, peaceful deities of all colors, each locked in embrace with their consorts. The sexually-charged energy that starts with the wrath at the center has now become available for peaceful enjoyment at the periphery.

Finally, at the third stairway, and emerge on the temple’s roof! The view is fantastic. And here, at last, is a modestly-sized, classically-posed, golden Sakyamuni Buddha, facing southward toward the sun, peaceful and welcoming. Having survived all the transformational challenges of the wrathful deities, one can truly feel the peace. The outside world should see only this peace: the work of the guardians within can remain hidden.



Pictures of Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten

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