Built in the 14th century by Saint Dorji Lingpa, Chamkhar Lhakhang is an ancient shrine located on the edge of a plateau overlooking a river flowing by, in the district of Bumthang. Enveloped by mist covered valleys, it sits on the very site where once stood the palace of King Sindhu Raja, who is known to have invited Guru Padmasambhava from India. The temple was primarily made of iron and thus, got the name ‘Chakhar’ or the ‘Iron Palace’. Originally a colossal building nine storeys high, it today gives an impression of a small house and holds within it several religious treasures and antique relics. Visitors travelling here would be awed with the hypnotic sight of an imposing statue of Guru Rinpoche, the key deity and the dominating structure in the sanctuary. On the left, one would also find the impressive statue of Rinpoche’s consort and Sindhu Raja’s daughter, Tashi. Along the passage to the shrine are few beautiful galleries adorned with murals and paintings dating back to the 15th century. Buddha meditating on a lotus and Padmasambhava seated on a tiger, are two of the most extraordinary and instantly grab the attention of many. Additionally, there are several hats and masks on display which make for a fascinating spectacle.
The Lhakhang is currently maintained by a caretaker, who is said to be the descendant of Dorji Lingpa and bears the name Chakhar Lama. A well-respected figure in the region, he also runs a museum on the ground floor of the Lhakhang and has on the exhibit, traditional costumes, ornaments, items used for rituals, and artefacts made of bamboo and cane. The sacred masks are the prime attraction and are used while performing the masked dances at the annual festivities of Jambay Lhakhang Drup.