During the Tsechu festival Bhutanese people offer obeisance in front of the Thongdrel seeking blessings. A Thongdrel (alt. throngdrel) is a large tapestry unveiled during tsechus (religious festivals) in Bhutan. They are equivalent to Tibetan thangka paintings. Thongdrels typically depict a seated Guru Rinpoche surrounded by holy beings.
A thangka, also known as tangka, thanka or tanka is a painting on silk with embroidery, usually depicting a Buddhist deity, scene, or mandala of some sort. These thangka served as important teaching tools depicting the life of the Buddha, various influential lamas and other deities and bodhisattvas. One subject is The Wheel of Life, which is a visual representation of the Abhidharma teachings (Art of Enlightenment).
Tsechu festival takes place at Kurjey Temple, located at Kurjey in the Chokhor valley in Bumthang district. It is a 15 minute drive from Chamkhar town to arrive at the temple grounds.
The history of the temples at Kurjey is associated with Sindhu Raja and Guru Rimpoche. Sindhu Raja invited Guru Rimpoche from Nepal to Bhutan to subdue some evil spirits that had been plaguing the land. Upon invitation, Guru Rimpoche visited Bumthang and meditated in a cave that resembled a pile of Dorjis (stylized thunderbolt used for Buddhist rituals). After subduing the evil spirits and demons, imprints of the Guru's body remained in the rock face. Thereafter, the name came to be known as Kurjey meaning - "Imprint of the body". The Lhakhang is now a blessed site of great historical significance.
There are three main temples at Kurjey. The oldest temple was constructed on the site where Guru Rimpoche meditated by Minjur Tenpa the first Trongsa Penlop (Governor of Trongsa) in 1652.
The second temple was founded by Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck in 1900 while serving as the 13th Trongsa Penlop. This temple is the most sacred as it was built in the place where Guru Rimpoche left his body imprint.
The third temple was built in the 1990s. It was sponsored by the Queen Mother Ashi Kezang Choden Wangchuck. It houses the images of Guru Rimpoche, King Thrisong Detsen and Pandit Santarakshita.
In front of the temples are Chortens dedicated to the first three kings of Bhutan.
The Kurjey festival is an important occasion not only for the local people of Bumthang but for all Bhutanese. The festival brings together tourists and Bhutanese from all over as it presents the perfect occasion to not only receive blessings by witnessing age-old mask dances but also to enjoy this unique culture whilst basking in the natural beauty of Bhutan's spiritual heartland.
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