Darkar Trashi Yangtse Dzong (Dagana)

Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal deputed his Dronyer Druk Namgyel to Darkala in 1648 to bring under control the area and the people and also commanded him to build a Dzong to defend the country from the invading armies from south and the people of the Duar areas.

Thus in 1648 Druk Namgyel at the command of Zhabdrung set off and brought under his control the three areas of Darkala. Soon after, he laid the foundations for the Dzong on a ridge that overlooked the valley. The people of Darkala contributed labour in its construction. Two years later in 1651 the Dzong was completed and was formally named as Darkar Trashiyangtse Dzong by Zhabdrung. Tenpa Thinley was appointed as the first Penlop (Governor).

A striking feature of Darkar Trashiyangtse Dzong is the Utse that is exceptionally tall and towers over the other structure of the Dzong. The reason for the exceptional height of the Utse was for defensive purposes as no separate Ta Dzong (watch tower) was built. The Bhutanese forces could take advantage of the tall Utse and fight back any invading armies.

The Dzong today houses the monk body and has eight temples. The main statue is that of Jowo Shakyamuni surrounded by the sixteen arhats.

The Dzong has played a central role in defending the country from the southern enemies and today plays a crucial role in administering the people of Darkala. Over the years the Dzong has been affected by earthquakes and storms of which the most severe occurred during the time of the sixth Penlop Pekar Jungney. The entire roof of the Dzong was blown off and major damages were done on the Dzong structure. Renovation works were immediately taken up and the completed work was consecrated by the tenth Abbot Je Tenzin Chhogyal. The Je Khenpo also established the first monk body in the Dzong formally appointing Geshey Rabgyal as the first Lam Neten.

The second major damage occurred in 1897 where the entire structure was affected as a result of the strong earthquake. Not only were the renovation works carried out but additional temples were also built and many statues installed.

Druk Minjur Chhoekhor Rabtentse Dzong (Trongsa)

Overlooking the Mangdechhu River, the Trongsa Dzong is a testimony of Bhutan’s architectural heritage, political history, rich traditions and culture. This magnificent structure, witness to various significant events which have shaped Bhutanese history, has a rich legacy, echoes of religious and political leaders from the 16th century onwards.

Druk Minjur Choekhor Rabten Tse later became the Dzong’s name at the order of Chhoje Minjur Tenpa, which translated literally means “the Dzong built on the tip of a Dungkhar (conch), of the never-changing country of Druk where the dharma is everlasting”.

The origins of the Trongsa Dzong date back to the time of Yongzin Ngagi Wangchuk, a descendant of Ngawang Chhogyal and a revered follower of Kuenkhen Pema Karpo; who meditated at the village of Yueli, in Trongsa in 1541 (1543), a few kilometers above the present Dzong. One night during his meditation, Yongzin Ngagi Wangchuk caught glimpse of a butter lamp light up below the ridge of the present Goenkhangs, housing Bhutan’s guardian deities: Palden Lhamo (Mahakali), Yeshey Gembo, and Leki Goenpo. A visit to the site revealed the footprints of a steed and the Lhatsho (sacred pond) of the guardian deity, Palden Lhamo. Considering the place to be a Nye (sacred site) he built a meditation quarter (tshamkhang).

While meditating in his new dwelling a vision of the deity Pelden Lhamo appeared and she prophesied that in the future this place would play an integral role in spreading the teachings of Buddha. This led him to construct a small temple which he named Mondruple. Over the years Yongzin Ngagi Wangchuk’s disciples built smaller meditation centers near the Mondruple Lhakhang which soon began to resemble a small village. The people of Yueli named this new settlement ‘Trong-sar’ (new town).

In 1647, Chhoje Minjur Tenpa was appointed by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal as the first Trongsa Penlop and Zhabdrung’s representative in Trongsa. During his tenure Chhoje Minjur Tenpa constructed a Dzong which resembled a fort. A watch tower was also built.

Drukgyal Dzong

The Dzong is located in Drukgyal in Paro. Druk Gyal Dzong was built as one of the four principal Dra Dzongs (defence fortress). Accounts differ on the founder of Druk Gyal Dzong. Most writers feel that it was Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal who built it to commemorate his victory over the Tibetan army in 1649. Others believe that it was Tenzin Drugda the second Desi and the Paro Penlop who built it at the behest of Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyal. Despite differences of opinion on the founder of the Dzong, people agree on the fact that it was built to commemorate the victory of the Bhutanese over the allied Tibet-Mongol forces. Hence it derived the name Druk Gyal “the fortress of victory”.

The Dzong was used as a summer residence by the Ringpung Rabdey till 1951 when on the last day of the three-day annual prayers in the 10th month the butter lamp in the central tower was toppled and the Dzong engulfed in fire. All that remains of the Dzong are tokens of a haunted house, still robust walls and charred remains of gigantic wooden posts and beams.

Druk Gyal Dzong has its share of interesting episodes in the general drama of its trials and victories. In one instance as the invading Tibetans surveyed the Dzong from Sagala, it appeared to be attached to the spur of Jana, a hilltop towards Druk Gyal Dzong. As they marched onwards, the Dzong seemed to shift to a distance as if in an illusion. The Tibetans called this mid-space Judae, meaning deceptive.

In another instance the attacking Tibetans were welcomed and treated as guests of honour. They were invited to a feast, but no sooner had the Tibetans began to relax and indulge themselves when their faces started swelling, slowly covering their whole bodies. A particular tree was used for decorating the tents where the Tibetans were enjoying the feast. The Tibetans were left at the mercy of the Bhutanese.

As a defense fortress, Druk Gyal Dzong is said to have housed the finest armory in the country which was located in a room overlooking the southern valley. While most were burnt in the fire some that were saved from the fire are now kept in Rinpung Dzong.

Haa Wangchuk Lo Dzong

After the appointment of the first Drung or Drungpa (sub-divisional administrator), it became a pressing need to have a large and fitting centre to address the affairs of the people. And perhaps more importantly, because of its location, being near to the border of Tibet, due to which there were possibilities of the Tibetans invading Bhutan and thereby threatening the integrity and sovereignty of the nation.

Thus, in 1895 the people of Haed valley contributed in the construction of a well structured and a multipurpose building. The Dzong as any other in the country also had a Ta Dzong (watch tower) for the purpose of detecting any enemy approaches from afar. This Dzong was built in a place called Dumchog and it was also called Haed Dumchog Dzong. The attendants who served in the Dzong settled nearby the Dzong and the place where they lived came to be known as Dzong Zhip (literally meaning workers in the Dzong). In addition to its military and secular purposes, the Dzong also became a reservoir of grains, which could be distributed to the people should there be any kind of natural disaster in the region causing famine.

Another oral tradition has it that another reason why the Dzong was built in this place was to hold back the evil influences of the serpent deities upon the lives of the people and their livestock. This place, where the Dzong was built, was a place well known for the abundance of serpent deities. People say that there were about a hundred and eight such serpent deities in and around that place. Even after all these years, some of the stupas which were built in order to appease these deities can still be found.

Unfortunately, in 1913, during the tenure of Haa Drung Kazi Ugyen Dorjee, the Dzong caught fire and was left as a pile of ashes. The devastation was so huge that the Drung, who otherwise had the authority to summon people for the reconstruction decided it was easier to build a new one than to revamp the burned Dzong. Thus, Dumchog Dzong met with its end in a futile fire incident. It was finally abandoned and a new Dzong erected.

Today all that is left of the Dzong is ruined walls worn out by weather and time, and some scattered boulders. Sadly a marvelous and significant artifact was once and for all lost to the power of nature.

In the same year that Dumchog Dzong was reduced to rubble by fire, Gongzim Ugyen Dorjee took charge to build the new Dzong. The people of the four Geogs were summoned to contribute their labour tax during the entire renovation period. The new Dzong which was to assume the functions of the ruined Dumchog Dzong was built about a kilometer away from the debris of the Dzong. A prefix, Dzongsar meaning the new Dzong, was added to the new name of the Dzong. Hence, the Dzong was called Dzongsar Wangchuk Lo Dzong.

Jakar Dzong (Jakar Yugyel Dzong)

The Jakar Yugyel Dzong, commonly known as the Jakar Dzong, is located in the Chamkhar valley of Bumthang, situated on a ledge above Bjakar village.

It was during this time that the younger brother of the 16th abbot of Ralung, Lam Ngagi Wangchuk (1517-1554), came to Bhutan to spread the teachings of the Drukpa Kagyupa order. His intentions were to construct a monastery on a rocky shelf, bordering the valley of Chamkhar.

It is said that, while the construction was in progress, a white bird emerged from the building site and perched where the Jakar Dzong is now situated. This was considered a good omen, and in 1549 Lam Ngagi Wangchuk built a small temple in the shape of a Dzong and established a monastic centre there. This small Dzong was named ‘Byakar Dzong’ which means the Dzong of the White Bird.

According to oral legend in Jakar village, however, originally a small fort was built at the eastern end of the Bumthang Valley, but as its position was not satisfactory from a strategic point of view, a group of Lamas, knights and astrologers assembled for the purpose of finding a more appropriate location. As they were sitting, a white bird, presumed to be the king of Geese, rose into the air and rested on a spur, which is now the present location of Jakar Dzong.

Jakar Dzong was the foremost seat of Yongzin Ngagi Wangchuk. There was only a small temple in the shape of a Dzong during his time but it was renovated and expanded later by different personalities. In the past Jakar Dzong was the centre of the Bumthang region. It played an important role as the fortress of defense of the whole eastern Dzongkhags. It was also became the seat of the first king of Bhutan.

A special feature of the Bjakar Dzong is the approximately fifty meter high Utse, which is distinct from most other Dzongs in Bhutan. This Dzong has no provision for personally viewing the base perimeter of the Utse, other than walking around the outer walls of the entire Dzong. This may be in part due to the earthquake of 1897. The rebuilt structure is said to be smaller than the original. Another unique feature of the Jakar Dzong is a sheltered passage, with two parallel walls, interconnected by fortified towers, which gave the population of the fortress access to water in the case of a siege. The protected water supply is still intact to this day.

Paro Rinpung Dzong

The construction of the Paro Dzong was started in 1644 by the order of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the unifier of modern day Bhutan. Unlike most of the other Dzongs in Bhutan, it survived the massive 1897 earthquake mostly intact, though it was damaged by fire in 1907.

Paro Dzong’s full name is Ringpung Dzong, which means ‘the fortress of the heap of jewels’. In the 15th century, two brothers (descendants of Phajo Drugom Zippo, the founder of the Drukpa Kagyupa School in Bhutan) named Gyelchok and Gyelzom lived in the Paro valley. Gyelzom established himself at Gantakha Monastery; his brother Gyelchok travelled to Tibet to study theology. When Gyelchok came back to Paro, he was not respected in the community due to the many years he had spent studying without any money. His brother Gyelzom, renounced his existence, in his eyes a “beggar” could not be part of the family.

Gyelchok moved to Humrelkha, a place which took its name from the guardian deity of Paro, Humrel Goemba. He then built a small structure that would later become the Paro Dzong. Gyelchok’s descendants, who controlled a large portion of the valley, are well known through Bhutanese history as the ‘Lords of Humrel’.

In 1645, the “Lords of Humrel” relinquished their small fort to Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, thus recognizing his religious and political prowess. Immediately, the Zhabdrung began construction of a much superior fortress and in 1646, the Dzong was consecrated.

Approached by a gently sloping flagstone road and an attractive wooden bridge roofed with shingles and abutted by two guard houses; the Dzong is the administrative seat of the district of Paro, and also contains a state monastic community of about 200 members.

Administrative offices line the first courtyard of the Dzong. The entrance is guarded by two traditional effigies standing on either side of the gate: a Mongol holding a tiger on a leash and a man holding a black yak. The Utse of the Dzong is one of the most beautiful in Bhutan with its outstanding woodwork.

Punakha Dzong (Punthang Dechen Phodrang Dzong)

Situated on a stretch of land where two rivers – the Phochhu and the Mochhu – converge, Punakha Dzong was the second Dzong to be built in Bhutan. The Dzong appears as a great anchored ship. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel built it in 1631. It was named Punthang Dechen Phodrang Dzong or ‘the Palace of Great Bliss’.

Since than Punakha became the capital of Bhutan where the successive Desids administered the country through the Dual system of government. It served as the seat of government until the reign of the second king Jigme Wangchuck. The negotiations with the British envoys all took place in this Dzong. It was also the place where Ugyen Wangchuk, Bhutan’s first hereditary king, was crowned in 1907. The first session of the National Assembly of Bhutan was also held here under King Jigme Dorjee Wangchuk in 1952.

Having been ravaged by fire, earthquakes and floods many times, Punakha Dzong has had to be rebuilt several times and always to the original specifications. It was damaged by fires in 1780, 1789, 1802, 1831, 1849, and in 1986. There was a massive earthquake in 1897 and a devastating flash flood in 1994 when the Dzongchhung, which houses the images of the Lord Buddha and Dupthob Ngagi Rinchhen was nearly washed away. According to a common folklore, the then Zhabdrung had taken a disliking to Punakha; therefore in 1835 he summoned a flood upon the area, damaging the Dzong. The Desi repaired the Dzong in 1849. Another fire in 1986 caused considerable damage to the south-West corner of the Dzong, which was the home of the Je Khenpo.

Through a desire to recover the relic of Ranjung Kharsapani the Tibetans invaded Punakha in 1639, but were defeated. In honour of the protective deities that are deemed to have played a key role in the victory over the Tibetans, Zhabdrung had an additional chapel built in the Punakha Dzong. The Punakha Damchoe is held to commemorate this famous victory every year.

Simtokha Dzong (Sanga Zabdoen Phodrang)

Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal was one of the greatest builders of Dzongs in Bhutan and to consolidate his newly acquired domain in western Bhutan and to defend himself from both the internal foes and external enemies he started the constructions of six Dzongs.

The first Dzong that he undertook to construct was the Simtokha Dzong. The location has a great historical significance. The present place where the Dzong stands was the crossroads of the three prominent western regions of Sha (Wangduephodrang), Wang (Thimphu) and Pa (Paro). The intersection was marked by three stones that belonged to the people of Punakha, Thimphu and Paro. In the middle of these three stones was a piece of land known as Sem – to kha or Sem – Dokha with a temple built on it.

This temple was later gifted to Zhabdrung by Lam Pangka Shong. History says that a prophecy was made by one Tibetan Lama known as Lama Zhang that Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel after his arrival to Bhutan would build a Dzong at the junction of three western lands. As a gesture of fulfilling the prophecy and soliciting the offer of Lama Pangka Shong, Zhabdrung decided to build the Dzong.

The area was inhabited by many demons and legend has it that the particular place where Zhabdrung decided to build the Dzong was occupied by a demon harming the travelers who often stayed during the night. Zhabdrung visited the place and subdued the demon, banishing her into the rock on the hill where the present Dzong is located. The Dzong was constructed enclosing the rock ensuring the imprisonment of the demon. Hence the Dzong derived its name as Simtokha from the word sinmo (demon), Do (stomach), Kha (on) – the Dzong on top of the demon’s stomach.

At the age of 36, in 1629 corresponding to the 11th Rabjung and Earth Snake Year of the Bhutanese calendar, he laid the foundation of the Dzong. The construction of the Dzong was undertaken by Tango Chhoje Mipham Tshewang Tenzin with assistance from Zhabdrung’s devotees and disciples.

Ta Dzong (Paro)

The Dzong is located about five and a half kilometers away from Tshongdu town (the main town of Paro) and 500 feet from the Ringpung Dzong.

After the Ringpung Dzong was successfully completed, La Ngonpa Tenzin Drugda who was to later become the 2nd Desi ascended as the 1st Penlop of Paro. During his tenure the country was threatened by unceasing assaults from Tibet and India. Therefore, to protect the country from invaders and especially to protect the Paro Rinpung Dzong, La Ngonpa Tenzin Drugda accompanied by Chogyal Minjur Tenpa built the Ta Dzong (Ta=watch, Dzong=fortress) in the mid seventeenth century.

The fourth floor of the Dzong was used as a jail in the past where the captives were confined. An underground passage is believed to have connected Ta Dzong to the Pachu (river). The passage was built to convey water during times of war and supply the Dzong when water was scarce. Today the passage is no more to be seen.

With its history spanning more than 350 years it remained uninhabited for a long time. The children in the nearby area used it as a playground. This caused some damage to the Dzong and over time it almost collapsed. It is one of the few Dzongs not subjected to damage either due to natural disasters or invading forces. In 1714, during the mighty earthquake which lasted for 15 days and again another one in 1896 the Dzong remained unscathed, whereas many in the country were severely damaged or destroyed.

At the command of Late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck the Dzong was renovated, funded by the Bhutan Development Finance Corporation of Bhutan. A new road was also paved to Ta Dzong making it more accessible to the visitors.

The Ta Dzong was built in a circular shape. The seven-storied building within resembles the gemstone of wealth and the outer globular wall stands as the fencing wall.

Trashi Yangtse Dzong

Accessible by road and only 4km away from the main town stands the Dzong of Trashi Yangtse. The Dzong has two names, Dongdi Dzong and Trashiyangtse Dzong; it also has a pseudonym, namely Dzong Manma (old Dzong). The Dzong used to be called Dongdi Dzong because Dongdi Chu flows to its right from the Dongla direction.

Later the Dzong came to be known as Trashi Yangtse Dzong, which is popularly its present name. Some believe that it was Gongkar Gyalpo, son of Lhasey Tshangma who built the Dzong but the Tibetan invasion made the people of Donglum flee and the Dzong fell into ruins. It was Tertoen Pema Lingpa who built the Dzong in the 14th century and named it as Trashi Yangtse Dzong. (Trashi was so named as Trashigang was its nearest neighboring place. Yang: sufficient space, tse: top).

It is also believed that Yangtse was one of the six Dzongs constructed by the 3rd Desi, Chhogyal Minjur Tmnpa.

The Dzong has 3 stories: ground floor, middle floor and top floor. More than half of the top floor is Chuchizhey Lhakhang. The ground floors were used as stores, then offices and at the present monks reside there. During the Dungkhag administration the first floor was used as offices and now monks and teachers reside there. On the second floor, there is Chuchizhey Lhakhang, Goenkhang and Torzheng room, where the monks make Torma during rituals and ceremonies.

Trashiyangtse Dzong was renovated, sanctified with the sacred rabney (consecration) ceremony on 23 and 24 March 2005. Besides renovating the Dzong a new Kunrey, (the main hall for religious activities) adorned with Kuten and Sungten (sacred images and scriptures), a Neypoi phodrang (shrine for local deity), two shabkors (monks living quarters) with 12 rooms each, a courtyard, pavement, drainage system and approach road were constructed at the cost of about Nu. 10 million, funded by the Government. The construction work began in 2001.

Trashicho Dzong

Known as “The Fortress of the Glorious Religion”, Trashicho Dzong is the most impressive building situated on the banks of the Wangchu (Thimphu River).

Tashicho Dzong was built in 1641 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and reconstructed in 1962, by the Late King, His Majesty, King Jigme Dorje Wangchuck. The Traschichho Dzong was built in the late 1700’s and also serves as the home of the Central Monastic Body.

In 1216, Lama Gyalwa Lhanangpa built the Dho-Ngen (blue stone) Dzong on a hill above Thimphu where Dechenphodrang now stands. When Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal came to Bhutan in the 17th century, the lhapas were completely crushed and the Dho-Ngen Dzong fell into the hands of Zhabdrung. In 1641 Zhabdrung the Dho Ngon Dzong was rebuilt and named as Tashicho Dzong (Fortress of the Glorious Religion). In 1694 it was enlarged by the 4th Desi Tenzin Rabgye. During the reign of the 5th Desi Gedun Chophel in 1698 the Dzong caught fire and was restored. The 10th Desi Mipham Wangpo built the Kagyu lhakhang inside the Tashichodzong. In 1747 the Dzong was enlarged at the initiative of the 13th Desi Chogyal Sherab Wangchuk.

During the reign of the 16th Desi Sonam Lhendup and the 13th Je Khenpo Yonten Thaye the Dzong caught fire for the second time. The two proposed to then build the Dzong at the site of its current location. In 1777 during the time of the 18th Desi Jigme Singye the Kunre of the Dzong was renovated as it was totally dark. It was further renovated by the 25th Desi Pema Cheda. The 32nd Desi Phurgyal installed many new statues.

In 1869 the Dzong caught fire and was afterwards extensively repaired. The late king Jigme Dorje Wangchuck had the Dzong rebuilt from 1962 to 1969 and made the building into the new capital.

Trashigang Dzong

The landscape on which the Dzong stands is not only picturesque but arouses curiosity. The hillock-like Mount Meru is the site of the palace of the Druk Chhoglay Namgyal (victory of Bhutanese Over enemies in all directions). Trashigang Dzong overlooks the Dangme chhu which flows at its base. It is accessible only from the north, through a slender road, paved by blasting the cliff. Due to its location Trashigang Dzong is one of the most strategically placed Dzongs in Bhutan.

The Dzong was founded according to the prophecies of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in order to consolidate indomitable power and unparalleled reign over the whole of the eastern regions.

In Chhogyal Minjur Tempa ordered the Kudung Pekar Chhophel to build the Dzong at Bengkhar due to its strategic location. In 1659 the Dzong was constructed and named Trashigang Dzong-fortress on the auspicious hill. Around the main Dzong, Dzongchungs (mini-Dzongs) were built, in four cardinal directions. The Dzongchungs unfortunately do not exist today.

During the time of the fourth Deb, Tenzin Rabgye, the entire Trashigang Dzong was enlarged and a Goenkhang was added. In 1710, the second Dzongpon, Khamsum Wangdi, commissioned the writing of the Kanjur (108 volumes of the Buddhist teachings).

The present Dzong was enlarged by Dzongpon Dopola, also known as the Trashigangpa, in 1936. He also built an enormous statue of Guru Rinpoche and a Lhakhang dedicated to it.

After its construction Trashigang Dzong withstood various invasions from Tibetan troops. An interesting local saying states that when the Tibetan troops descended from the Muktangkhar mountains on the other side of the Dzong they saw the Dzong below and said “Trashigang Dzong is not a sky Dzong but a ground Dzong”, but when reaching the bank of Dangmechu they looked up and seeing the impenetrable Dzong aloft they agreed that it is really a “sky Dzong”.

Wangdue Phodrang Dzong

Wangdue Phodrang Dzong was founded by the Zhabdrung in 1639. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal was supposedly at Chimmi Lhakhang in Punakha when he met a decrepit old man who described a ridge in present day Wangdue Phodrang as a ‘sleeping elephant’ and told him he would unite the country by building a Dzong on the ‘neck’ of the ridge. The Zhabdrung, surmising the old man to be Yeshey Gonpo (Mahakala), took his suggestion and sent forth a noble to scout the area. As the emissary drew close to the area, he saw four ravens circling above the ridge. Upon reaching the ridge, the birds flew away in four directions, north, south, east and west. When returning to Chimmi Lhakhang, he made his report. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel took this as a good omen and immediately set forth in 1638 to construct a Dzong overlooking the convergence of the Dangchu and Punatshang chu.

The people of Wang and Shar Dar Gyad were involved in its construction along with the people of Rinchen Gang who were skilled masons.

There are three doorways and three courtyards in the Dzong. The first gate is the entrance, the second leads to the inner sanctum of the Dzong and the third contains the deep interiors of this historic structure.

Years later, the Dzong was enlarged by the 4th Desi Tenzin Rabgye. In addition to the four-storied Utse built by Zhabdrung he added another two-storied Utse. The construction was looked after by the Dzongpon Gedun Chophel. The 7th Dzongpon of Wangduephodrang Sonam Lhendup also added new structures to the Dzong. He also installed a statue of Lord Buddha.

Much later with the passage of time a powerful local lord known as Kawang Sangye, extended the Dzong towards the present town. Another Wangzop, Acho Boep, ordered further construction, modifying the Dzong to the form which it holds today. In 1837 the Dzong was destroyed by a great fire and later rebuilt. During the time of Lam Neten Pelden Singye the Dzong was also damaged by a severe earthquake and later rebuilt. Dzongpon Domchung also seems to have also restored the Dzong, though at an unknown time. During the reign of the Late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, the Dzong was renovated, supervised by Dronyer Pema Wangdi.

The rabdey was first instituted by Zhabdrung himself after the completion of the Dzong which was later enlarged during the time of 10th He Khenpo Tenzin Chogyal.

Zhemgang Dechen Yangtse Dzong

Zhemgang Dzong is situated atop the peak of a triangular-shaped ridge that rises sharply from the Mangdechhu, facing the village of Trong and the town of Zhemgang.

The founding of the Dzong was credited to Lam Zhang Dorjee Drakpa who lived in the 12th century A.D.

According to oral information, Lam Zhang, from Zhamling in Tibet, was a renowned scholar-sage of the Drukpa Kagyu school of Buddhism. In his mission to spread Buddhism in Bhutan, he traveled as far as the present Zhemgang where he resided around 1163 A.D. at the site where the present Zhemgang Dzong is located. Lam Zhang is considered by many to be the greatest Buddhist saint to have settled in Zhemgang; his importance in Kheng is justified by the fact that he was the founder of the Dzong, the most important religious building in the Kheng area.

Khenrig Namsum is the ancient name of Zhemgang Dzongkhag, literally meaning “the three divisions of Kheng”, Upper (Chikhor), Middle (Nangkor), and lower (Tamachok) Kheng. Later around 1655 A.D. on the site where Lam Zhang had previously built a hermitage, a one-storied Dzong was built, to mark the unification of the Khenrig Namsum and defend the land against invaders, led by Choetse Penlop.

In 1963 when Zhemgang created a separate Dzongkhag, the Dzong was renovated under the command of his late Majesty, King Jigme Dorjee Wangchuck and renamed as Dechen Yangtse or Druk Dechen Yangtse Dzong.

The annual Tshechu of Zhemgang was introduced since the inception of Rabdey in 1966. It is held for five days from the 7th to the 11th of the 2nd Bhutanese month.

Zhongar Dzong

Zhongar Dzong is located in Mongar Dzongkhag. While traveling to Trashigang from Thimphu following the east-west highway, when we come across the valleys of Truelangbi village, we are able to view the Dzong on a hilltop facing the village.

Zhongar Dzong covers a total area of about 8 acres. The prefix Dzong means ‘Zhong’ which actually means the ‘bowl’. Gar and kar are the suffixes adjoined together to form Zhong-gar and Zhong-kar. Today it is in ruins.

One of the oral explanations states that a king named Karpo Dung called on a carpenter from Paro to construct the main centre of a dual system (Chhoe Sid Nye Den). While this man was traveling to Zhongar via Ura he leaves for urination and today it is famously known as Parop sherpa Tangsa (urinating place of a man from paro). This man, Zochen Bala made a visual inspection of the area. He supposedly saw a white stone bowl on a small hill and there he decided to build a new Dzong. He named it Zhongkar (Gzhong Dkar), meaning white bowl (gzhong=bowl, dkar=white).
A name found in buddhist canon also suggests ‘gZhong dkar’ or Zhongkar.

But through the centuries, the place came to be known as Zhongar. Another source claims that when Bala neared Lingmithang, had a vision of a hill manifested by a natural rock similar to a Gzhong (a wooden bowl used as an eating utensil) on the knoll top resembling the stone bowl and this place was occupied by the palace (gar) of king Karpo. Thus named Zhongar, which means “king’s encampment”. According to the history text of Desis, the name was Zhonggar (gZong-bowl, Ga-Comfortable) because this Dzong is located in a relaxing lower valley. There are other versions also.

The locals are very superstitious and an atmosphere of fear looms in the area. Stories of the presence of certain malevolent spirits and a gigantic snake guarding a treasure of gold and silver are only whispered. Beyond a pile of stones and mud, it echoes past life to connect us to the future. Embedded inside is a life frozen in time, a wealth of history that can be still recounted orally by those who also heard it from their grandparents.