Kurjey Lhakhang

Monastery of the Bodyprint

Useful Information

Location: Bumthang valley, Bumthang district
Classification: SubterraneaCave Temple
Light: n/a
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746 body print left by Guru Rinpoche.
1652 first temple built.
1900 second temple built.
1984 thiord temple built.


Kurjey Lhakhang means temple of the body print: kur (body), jey (print), lha (God), khang (house). The Tibetan and Bhutan lhakhangs are temples or crypts, often they are subterranean temples. This lhakhang is a small cave with the body print of Guru Rinpoche. Actually there are three lhakhangs in the complex. The oldest is Guru Lhakhang, built in 1652 around the cave with the body print by Mingyur Tenpa. Sampa Lhakhang built in 1900 by Ugyen Wangchuck the first king of Bhutan. The third lhakhang was built by Queen mother Ashi Kesang Wangchuck in 1984 together with 108 chortens or stupas to enclose the complex.

Ihe Indian Sendha Gyab conquered Bumthang, became the king of Bumthang, and was called Sindhu Raja. Once he was in war with a neighbouring king, Naochhe (Big Nose), in the south of Bhutan. When Naochhe killed Sindhu Raja's son and 16 of his attendands he became very angry, and in his fury he desecrated the abode of the highest diety of Bumthang, Shelging Kharpo. Now Shelging Kharpo became angry and stole the life force of the King. The skies became dark and the king was very close to death.

One of the secretaries of the king went to India and asked Padmasambhava to come to Bumthang and save Sindhu Raja. He agreed and in the year 746 he made his first visit to Bhutan. When he arrived at Bumthang, he found a cave where he meditated. This meditation left an imprint of his body, so the place was later named Kurjey.

The Princess Tashi Khuedon was the daughter of King Sindhu Raja. She was offered Padmasambhava as his wife for his help. But he sent her with a golden ewer to get water. Then he transformed into all eight of his manifestations at the same time and the eight started to dance in the field. Every local diety appeared to watch this spectacle, but not Shelging Kharpo. When the princess reappeared Padmasambhava transformed her into five identical princesses, each one withe a golden ewer. The reflections of the sunlight in the golden ewer finally attracted the attention of Shelging Kharpo. He appeared in the form of a white snow lion.

Padmasambhava transformed into a garuda and fought with Shelging Kharpo. When he won, he returned Sindhu Raja life force, wo immediately recovered. He convinced Shelging Kharpo to become a protective buddhist diety, and sealed this agreement by sticking his staff into the ground. The staff started to grom an became a cypress, and until today cypress trees grow at this place.

Finally he converted both rival kings to Buddhism, and convinced them to make peace. They sealed the peace treaty at Nabji in the Black Mountains. The place is today marked by a stone pillar.

Old legend.

Padmasambhava is probably the most famous saint of Buddhism, but under his other name, Guru Rinpoche. He lived during the 8th century. The place where he left his imprint in the rock became a famous place of worship. This place is also the final resting place of the remains of the first three kings of Bhutan.