Kurje is one of the most sacred sites in Bhutan as Guru Rinpoche meditated here and left the imprint (je) of his body (ku) on a rock. In the 8th century, Bumthang was under the rule of a king named Sendhaka (alias Sintu Raja) whose home was the ‘iron castle’, Chakhar. This king was at war with his southern neighbour, King Na’oche. The latter killed the son of King Sendhaka, who became so distraught that he forgot to worship his personal deity, Shelging Karpo. The angry god withdrew the king’s vital principle and as a result he fell gravely ill. As a last resort, his ministers decided to call Guru Rinpoche, whose supernatural powers were well-known throughout the Himalayas. When Guru Rinpoche arrived in Bumthang, he went to a place a short distance north of Chakhar where there was a large rock resembling a diamond-thunderbolt on the summit. Here lived the deity Shelging Karpo. Guru Rinpoche meditated there for a while, leaving the imprint of his body on the rock. Then he asked the King’s daughter, whom he had taken as his consort, to go and fetch some water in a golden ewer. While she was away, he changed into his Eight Manifestations and began to dance in the meadow. So amazing was this spectacle that all the local divinities, except Shelging Karpo, came to watch. When the king’s daughter came back, Guru Rinpoche transformed her into five princesses, each holding a golden ewer in her hand. The ewers reflected the sun’s rays directly at Shelging Karpo’s rock. Curious about this unusual flashing, Shelging Karpo decided to take the form of a white lion and come out to see what was going on. This was the moment Guru Rinpoche had been waiting for. Turning himself into a holy griffon, (garuda/jachung), he swooped down, seized Shelging Karpo and forced him to give back the King’s vital principle. At the same time he made him promise not to cause any trouble for Buddhism and to become a protective deity. Guru Rinpoche planted his pilgrim staff in the ground where it grew into a cypress tree which has a descendant said to stand to this day in front of Kurje Lhakhang. As for Shelging Karpo, he is still the deity of Kurje. King Sendhaka recovered his health and converted to Buddhism. Guru Rinpoche compelled the two kings to meet each other and make peace at a place in the Black Mountains called Nabji, where a stone pillar commemorates this meeting. This episode constitutes the first conversion to Buddhism of Bumthang.

The actual Kurje complex is made up of three buildings facing south.

The first building on the right (east) is the oldest and was built on the rock where Guru Rinpoche meditated by King Sendha of Bumthang after his conversion to Buddhism. Its structure was rebuilt by Minjur Tenpa in 1652 while he was Trongsa Penlop and before he became the 3rd Desi of Bhutan.

The second building called the Sampa lhundrup temple was built in 1900 by Ugyen Wangchuck, the First King, while he was still the Penlop of Trongsa. The temple was built to house a monumental statue of Guru Rinpoche which was modelled after the advice of the great Nyingmapa lama, the Bakha Trulku, Rigzin Khamsum Yondrol.

A third building, the Ka Gon Phur sum lhakhang, was consecrated in June 1990 by the great master Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (d.1991). The construction of the new Lhakhang at Kurje was undertaken by Mayum Chonying Wangmo Dorji and the then Queen Mother, now the Royal Grand-mother Ashi Kesang Choeden Wangchuck in keeping with the 4th King’s wishes to build a sacred image of the deity Palchen Heruka while her mother Mayum Chonying Wangmo Dorji had also wished to construct a similar big image of Dorji Phurpa (Vajrakila) at this holy spot. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche then advised the then Queen Mother, now the Royal Grand-mother to build a temple of Ka-Gong-Phur-Sum (three esoteric teachings of Kagye, Gongdue and Phurpa) on this sacred place. Thus the construction started in1984 in dedication to all the past Kings of Bhutan, and to Gongzim Ugyen Dorji, Gongzim Sonam Tobgye Dorji and Lyonchen Jigme Palden Dorji, and with deepest prayers for the long life and successful reign of the 4th Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck, and for the eternal happiness and well-being of the Kingdom of Bhutan in particular and all sentient beings in general. It is the biggest and most elaborate Ka-Gong-Phur-Sum Temple of the Terma Nyingma tradition. Ka-Gong-Phur-Sum literally means Three Mystic Revelations of The Eight Pronouncements (Kagye), Abhipraya Samaja (Gongdue) and Vajra Kilaya (Phurpa).

The Royal Grandmother, Ashi Kesang Choeden Wangchuck, also commissioned 108 chortens carved out of stones and placed at regular intervals on the top of the enclosure. These Chortens are known as Duduel or Jangchub Chortens and represent the Mind of all the Buddhas, and the steps towards spiritual enlightenment. They are symbols that commemorate Buddha’s victory over evil forces and the absolute purity of his enlightenment. They enclose the Kurje complex, transforming it into a three-dimensional mandala along a pattern set by the Samye Monastery in Tibet.

In front of the buildings there are three large chortens, one of them made up of a heap of stones which are dedicated to the three Kings of Bhutan. A little away from the main complex but facing it and on the footpath to Jampa Lhakhang, the Royal Grandmother Ashi Kesang Choeden Wangchuck, commissioned yet another beautiful temple which was consecrated in the Summer 2008. The temple was inspired and designed in 1988 by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche according to the Zangdopelri, Guru Rinpoche’s paradise, and Mayum Choying Wangmo Dorji (d.1994) had offered to be the patron. Unfortunately both passed away and Ashi Kesang Choeden Wangchuck decided to take over the merituous task. The temple was built in memory of Ashi Kesang Choeden Wangchuck’s Grandfather, Gongzim Ugyen Dorji, of her grand aunt Ani Thukten Wangmo and her parents, Gongzim Sonam Tobgye Dorji and Mayum Choying Wangmo Dorji (d.1994). The construction was carried out under the supervision of Geylong Nyabji Thinley Gyeltshen.

This monstrous evil building was seen on Flickr by user jigsnima . Original date: 2018-07-27 10:56:26