In the atmospheric darkness of Jampa Lhakhang’s inner kora, the golden outlines of a thousand finely painted Buddhas glimmer in the light of yak butter lamps. The kora’s wooden floorboards have been worn smooth by generations of devotees treading their way around the lhakhang’s ancient heart. Inside the central chapel, Jampa, the gentle-faced future Buddha, sits flanked by eight bodhisattvas, his feet resting upon an elephant as dragons swirl about him. This single thick-walled room – filled with a wealth of gorgeous statuary, its door bound with divinely forged chainmail – is the oldest part of the oldest lhakhang in Bhutan.
From the gently creaking prayer wheels outside, through peaceful courtyards filled with cooing pigeons to the candlelit statues of the central chapel, an air of calm and antiquity pervades Jampa Lhakhang. The temple is believed to be one of 108 built on a single day by the seventh-century Tibetan king, Songtsen Gampo, to pin down a demoness who was obstructing the spread of Buddhism in Tibet.
While crowds flock to here for the annual Jampa Lhakhang Drup festival, visit at any other time of year and you will discover the low-lying complex manned by a handful of monks and a group of elderly devotees who keep Jampa’s huge prayer wheels in constant motion.