Ogyen Choling palace and Museum

Category: Museum Address Bumthang

Ogyen Choling was never so much a seat of political power as a center for religion. Throughout its history it was referred to by terms which alluded to its religious nature as being a monastery or hermitage, gompa.

In fact the history of Ogyen Choling begins with the visit of the great Tibetan master of Buddhism, Longchen Rabjam (1308-63). He is the most celebrated writer and philosopher of the Nyingmapa School (Ancients) of Tibetan Buddhism and is regarded as the synthesizer of the doctrine and methods of Dzogchen, 'School of Great Perfection'. Oral tradition explains why the great master chose the location for his centre. Looking up from the valley towards Ogyen Choling with the Kanyai mountain to the east, the panoramic view is that of the shape of an elephant's head. The elephant in Buddhist iconography is auspicious and it has many meanings; it is the vehicle of some Vajarayana Buddhist deities and because an elephant can live up to a hundred years it also symbolizes posterity. A few hundred meters above the village, climbing towards the crown of the elephant's head is a cave which is to this day revered as the meditation cave of Longchen Rabjam.

This place with its special physical features and blessed by the presence of Longchen Rabjam, later became a center of the Tibetan saint Dorji Lingpa (1346-1405). Dorji Lingpa is one of the great tertons (Religious treasure discoverer) of the Nyingmapa school and also a master of the Dzogchen teaching in the Bon tradition. Ogyen Choling is regarded as Dorji Lingpa's center and the descendants of the saint have not only borne the responsibility of upholding the religious tradition, choeju, but also the genealogical lineage, dungju, of Dorji Lingpa. The families of Ogyen Choling had the status of Lama choeju or "religious nobility". The best known historical personality of this lineage is undoubtedly Tsokye Dorji who was the fifteenth generation descendant of Dorji Lingpa. He was the Trongsa Penlop or "governor of Trongsa". In 1853 he handed over the post of governorship to Jigme Namgyal (1825-1881) the father of Ugyen Wangchuck (1862-1926), who in 1907 became the first hereditary monarch of Bhutan.

Because of its association with the great Tibetan masters; Longchen Rabjam and Dorji Lingpa the Ogyen Choling estate is of considerable importance for Bhutan as well as for the Tibetan Buddhist world.

The estate provides an excellent insight into the lifestyles and living conditions of a typical landed family over the last century. The heirs of Ogyen Choling decided to convert parts of their ancestral home to a museum. This decision was made with the hope of sharing this heritage with as many people as possible and at the same time to preserve and maintain Ogyen Choling as a religious and cultural center. The museum was formally opened in May 2001. A trust fund was established in the same year with the objectives:

To ensure the long term maintenance of the buildings, the temples and the museum
To sustain the traditional religious observances and rituals
To provide a place for religious studies, research and solitude
To revive and enhance traditional skills and provide an outlet/market for local handicrafts
To provide financial support to deserving but economically deprived students in Tang valley
Traditional living quarters, store rooms, granaries and other rooms have been recreated to capture the ‘near realistic’ ambience of the lifestyles and living conditions of households of the religious nobility during the 19th and 20th century.

Utilitarian everyday utensils, tools and implements as well as examples of artistic expressions through artworks and crafts form part of the exhibition. Wherever appropriate, narratives are provided to give some background information on specific topics and artifacts.

Conscious efforts were made to maintain the original content and form of the rooms. After many years of disuse the floors had to be cleaned and some of the walls had to be repaired and repainted keeping it as close as possible to the original paintings. The grain stores have been kept in the way they were used in the past. Some of them are still in use today. Glass window panes were added in most of the rooms so that the wooden window shutters could be opened. The glass windows brought in light and at the same time reduced dust and stopped the birds from entering the rooms. Artificial lighting is provided in the inner rooms only. In some of the rooms natural light is adequate for viewing the displays. But the visitors should be advised that the best viewing time with natural light is from 9 am to about 2 pm.

Source: www.oling.bt

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