TRASHIGANG DZONG

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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”.

District

Trashigang is the largest district in Bhutan. it has two sub-districts and fifteen gewogs. Sherubtse College was the first accredited college in Bhutan, founded in 1966 by a group of Jesuits under the leadership of William Mackey. As of 2003 it became part of the newly created Royal University of Bhutan system that comprises all public post-secondary schools in Bhutan.

Culture

The inhabitants of Trashigang district are mainly Tshangla (Sharchop)s, which means “easterner” in Dzongkha, the national language. The Sharchops appear to mix Proto Tibeto-Burman and Tibetan blood whereas the Ngalops of central and western Bhutan appear to be mainly Tibetan.

Languages

The dominant language of Trashigang is Tshangla (Sharchopkha), the lingua franca of eastern Bhutan. Two significant minority languages are spoken in the far eastern region of the district: the East Bodish Dakpa language and the Southern Bodish Brokpa language. Dakpa is spoken by descendants of yakherding communities, and may in fact be a divergent dialect of Brokpake, heavily influenced by Dzalakha.

Economy and education

While it has no major urban area, Trashigang dzongkhag has the densest population in Bhutan. It used to be part of an important trade route connecting Assam to Tibet, and still is a primary route for Bhutanese trade with India. Towns include Trashigang (the district capital), Radi, Rangjung, and Phongmey. The district produces a lot of rice and lavender.

There are several tourist packages to Bhutan that include trips from Thimphu to Trashigang, despite the 17-hour journey from the capital over the rough and dangerous Lateral Road.

Trashigang dzongkhag is also the site of Sherubtse College, the original college within the Royal University of Bhutan system.

Landmarks

Trashigang Dzong, or fortress, was built in 1659 by the third Druk Desi Chögyal Mingyur Tenpa to defend against Tibetan invaders. Because of its altitude invading armies remarked that “it is not a dzong on the ground, it is in the sky”.

An ancient lhakhang or temple in the district, known for its rock garden, contains a sacred footprint said to be either that of Guru Rimpoche or that of a khandroma (angel).

Rangjung, 16 km east of the district capital, is the site of Rangjung Ösel Chöling Monastery, established by Dungse Garab Dorje Rinpoche in 1989. The temple contains particularly fine images of Padmasambhava, Shantarak shita and Chögyal Trisong Detsen (Khen-Lop-Chö sum).

Protected area

The Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary, one of ten protected areas of Bhutan, was created in part to protect the migoi, a type of yeti, in whose existence most Bhutanese believe. The sanctuary covers the eastern third of the district (Merag, SaktengGewogs), and is connected via biological corridor to Khaling Wildlife Sanctuary in Samdrup Jongkhar District to the south.

Geography

Trashigang is divided into fifteen gewogs:

  • BartshamGewog
  • BidungGewog
  • KanglungGewog
  • KangparaGewog
  • KhalingGewog
  • LumangGewog
  • MerakGewog
  • PhongmeyGewog
  • RadhiGewog
  • SaktenGewog
  • SamkharGewog
  • ShongphuGewog
  • ThrimshingGewog
  • UzorongGewog
  • YangneerGewog