Formally called the Tamshing Lhendup Chholing, or the “Temple of the Good Message”, Tamshing Lhakhang is a small one-storey temple cum monastery that sits in the Choe Khor Valley of Bumthang District in Bhutan. The shrine was built in the early 16th century AD by Pema Lingpa, a prolific treasure revealer and a highly revered saint in the Buddhist history of the great Himalayan Kingdom. One of the most historically, spiritually and culturally significant sites, it still maintains the long-lived traditions of Vajrayana Buddhism and lures countless patrons from across the country. Additionally, Tamshing is also a great centre of Bhutanese sacred masked dances, many of which were introduced by Pema Lingpa himself and continue to be part of the monastic dance repertory till date.
As far as the architecture is concerned, the entrance to the lhakhang is via a long pathway which goes through a courtyard fringed with monks’ quarters on the right and a small Mani Dungkhor Lhakhang housing a huge prayer wheel on the left. Arriving at the temple, one would find the main altar built as a separate structure, casing three seats or thrones depicting three incarnations (mind, body and speech) of Pema Lingpa. The residing statue in the inner sanctuary is of Guru Rinpoche flanked by statues of Maitreya (the future Buddha) and Shakyamuni (the present Buddha). The statue of Rinpoche is of prime importance, owing to its belief of having been sculpted by khandromas or dakinis, the sacred female spirits of Vajrayana Buddhism. Another astounding fact that makes this statue unique is its eyes that are said to be looking upwards watching the dakinis ascend into the sky.
On the inner walls, there are eight manifestations of Guru Rinpoche and some old religious paintings that are believed to have been painted by Pema Lingpa himself. These paintings are still in their original state and are of great interest to historians and culture aficionados. The lhakhang further extends to the first floor which treasures around 100,000 old paintings of Shakyamuni Buddha. A large collection of masks carved by Pema Lingpa is also said to be present on this floor; though off – limit to the visitors, they are used by lamas during the annual festival of Phala Choedpa held in the temple courtyards in the month of October.