PARO RINPUNG DZONG

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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.

Shrines and Chapels

Inside Rinpung Dzong are fourteen shrines and chapels:

  1. Kungarwa
  2. Monks’ assembly hall
  3. SandalwoodStupa
  4. Protector’s shrine
  5. Temple of the Guru’s Eight Manifistations Chapel of the head lama
  6. Chapel ofAmitayus
  7. The Clear Crystal Shrine
  8. Chapel of theEleven-faced Avalokiteśvara
  9. Apartments of the Abbot
  10. Chapel ofAkshobhya
  11. Temple of the Treasure Revealer
  12. Apartments of the King (Gyalpo’i Zimchung)
  13. Temple of the Bursar

Outside the main dzong is the Deyangkha Temple.

On the hill above Rinpung Dzong is a seven-storied the watchtower fortress or Ta Dzong built in 1649. In 1968 this was established as the home of the National Museum of Bhutan.

Just below Rinpung Dzong is a traditional covered cantilever bridge.

Festival

A great annual festival or tshechu is held at Rinpung Dzong from the eleventh to the fifteenth day of the second month of the traditional Bhutanese lunar calendar (usually in March or April of the Gregorian calendar). On this occasion, holy images are taken in a procession. This is followed by a series of traditional mask dances conveying religious stories which are performed by monks for several days.

Before the break of dawn on the morning of the fifteenth day, a great sacred thongdrel banner thangka depicting the Eight Manifestations of Padmasambhava is displayed for the public in the early morning hours, to keep to the tradition of not allowing sunlight to fall on it.