Phumedthang Lhakhang

Description

Phumedthang (Phu med thang, plain without hill) lhakhang is a government owned temple located on a flat hill in Nimshong village, Shingkhar gewog in Zhemgang district. The temple is about 2km away from Nimshong village and it is connected to Shingkhar gewog centre by a farm road. It is approximately 73 kilometers away from Zhemgang town towards the southeast direction. As the temple is located on top of a hill, it resembles the offering of a mandala. There is a big avocado tree and people say that its branches had separated into five parts before the construction of the temple. Therefore, people believe that there are some important relics (ter) inside the tree, which are yet to be discovered. Local people worship the tree as the abode of Tshering Chenga (the 5 Sisters of Longevity).

History

Phumedthang temple is considered as one of the sacred temples under Zhemgang district and the temple is said to have been constructed under the Royal Command of the first king Ugyen Wangchuck.  Lama Yeshey initiated the construction of the temple in the late 19th century and it was completed by early 20th century.

Lama Yeshey is considered as the founder of Nimshong village. Earlier Nimshong village was located in Kharibi (just below the present village) with about three households. According to Meymey Tsipa, Lama Yeshey was meditating at the bottom of the village in a place called Phetang Om, and there he extracted Bamen Drupchu, holy water of a mithun (Bos indicus). Thus, the Nimshong village is believed to have come into existence.

Lama Yeshey built the one-storey temple with the help of the people of Kheng region, and also the temple was mainly built to overcome fear from tigers inhabiting around Nimshong village. The main relics or the sacred objects inside the temple are statues of Palden Lhamo (Maha Kali/Shri Devi) on the left side, Chenrezig (Avalokiteshvara) in the centre, and Pel Yeshi Goenpo (Maha Kala) on the right side.

In 1988, a Rigney Lobdra was established with thirty students and Lam Rinchen (the ex-head abbot of Zhemgang dzong) was the Principal. The school was built under the command of the late Lyonpo Tamzhing Jagar, the then minister of Home and Culture Affairs. Around 1991, the school was upgraded to a Gomdey Shedra (school for Lay-practitioners), and in 1995, lama Rinchen renovated the temple and made it into a two-storey temple. The renovation was supported by the government.

In 2001, the temple was further upgraded to a Goenzin Dratshang (full monastic school) as per the command of HM the Fourth King and HH the Je Khenpo, and in the same year a golden statue of Palden Lhamo was installed.

In 2013, HH the Je Khenpo consecrated the temple and he is believed to have said that the location of the temple is the main residential palace of Palden Lhamo.

Today, the temple functions both as a shedra (monastic school) and a dratshang (monk body) with 75 monks sponsored by the government. To accommodate all the monks, a new temple was built just below the main temple in 2002 and completed in 2009.

Attached to the entrance, there is a residence of the lam called Lamai Zimchung. Currently, Lama Rinchen resides there.

Architectural and Artwork

Phumethang lhakhang is a two-storey temple built in traditional Bhutanese design and painted with beautiful traditional paintings. The renovation work was started in 1995 and was completed in 1999, and even the paintings were redone during the renovation.

The first floor of the temple houses the main shrine while the ground floor is used as a storeroom for food items and other things when the communities come for rituals. The statues in the main altar are the three Bodies of the Buddha, the Choelongtrul sum: Choeku Oepamey (Amitabha), Longku Chenrezig (Avaloketeshvara), Trulku Guru Padmasambhava.

The painting of Zhabdrung Phunsum Tshopa (the Zhabdrung and his lineage) is on the left hand side of the main altar, and to the right is Dzogchen Lhagyu (lineage of the Dzogchen masters) with Kunkhyen Longchen Rabjam (1308–1364) in the centre. To the west, the paintings represent the Hundred Peaceful and Wrathful Deities (58 wrathful deities and 42 peaceful deities). To the east, there is a wall painting of Guru Tshengay (eight manifestations of Guru Rinpoche) and the Tenpai Dzepa Chuni (Twelve Deeds of Lord Buddha).

In addition, the goenkhang, the inner temple of Yeshi Gonpo (Maha Kala) was built and a gold plated statue of Palden Lhamo (Maha Kali) was also installed in 2001. The inner temple houses the protectors Gemchamdrel sum (Yeshey Gonpo, Palden Lhamo, and Leygon Jarokdong Chen). To the east, there is a wall painting of the 21 entourage of Palden Lhamo and and the protectors Mazadamsum (ma, Ekadzati; za, Rahula; dam, Damchen Dorje Legpa). In the west, there are wall paintings of the protective deities of Bhutan.

Social and Cultural Functions

The monks perform the prayers for the welfare of the country and its people. It also benefits the nearby communities as they can perform the funeral rites at any given time. The community and the monks perform the following ceremonies:

  • Every 10th day of every month in the Bhutanese calendar, there is a Yarngo Tshechu (Guru Tshechu) and every 25th day of each month there is a Marngo Tshechu (Khandu Tshechu).
  • Dechog Bumdhey or the Kalachakra ritual is performed on the 10th day of the 1st month of the Bhutanese calendar.
  • Neten Chudru Bumdhey, the ritual for the 16 Arhats is performed from the 13th – 15th day of the 1st
  • Zhabdrung Kuchoe, the death anniversary of the Zhabdrung is conducted on the10th day of the 3rd Bhutanese month.
  • Kanjur is recited from the 10th -15th day of the 4th month of the Bhutanese calendar.
  • Trelda Tshechu, which is held to commemorate the birth anniversary of Guru Rinpoche is usually performed on the 10th day of the 5th Bhutanese month. The Trelda Tshechu takes place on the 10th day of monkey month; however, the monkey month varies depending on which calendar is followed
  • Soeldeb Bumdhey, a100,000 Refuge prayer recitation of Guru Rinpoche is conducted from the 8th – 10th day of the 6th month of the Bhutanese calendar.
  • Tshepamey Bumdhey, the ritual for Tshepamay/Amitayus is organized on the15th day of the seventh month.
  • Guru Rinpoche Tshechu, the main Tshechu of the sacred one is performed on the 10th day of the 8th
  • From the13th – 15th day of the 10th month, a tshechu is performed by monks and lay practitioners (gomchen). According to Meymey Tsipa, this tshechu used to be performed at Mongling Lhakhang, but later it was moved to Phumedthang temple where it has become more established and popular. On the 16th day of the 10th month after the tshechu, there is the display of a giant Thongdrel (tapestry/ applique) of Guru Tshengay (the eight manifestations of Guru Rinpoche).
  • Goenpo Torjab, ritual to Mahakala to cleanse the impurities is performed on the 29th day of the 11th month,

Informants

Lam Rinchen, 62, Phumedthang

Kudrung Jigme Lhendrup, 33 years

Meymey Tsipa or Jamyang Tenzin, 84 years

Researcher

Sangay Phuntsho (N), Lecturer, College of Language and Culture Studies, Taktse, Trongsa, Royal University of Bhutan, 2017.

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