ZHEMGANG DZONG

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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.

Language

The dominant language in Zhemgang is Khengkha, language of the former kingdom of Kheng. Historically, Khengkha and its speakers have had close contact with speakers of Kurtöpkha, Nupbikha, and Bumthangkha to the north, to the extent that they may be considered part of a wider collection of “Bumthang languages. The term Ngalop may subsume several related linguistic and cultural groups, such as the Kheng people and speakers of Bumthang language.

Security issues

Starting in the 1990s, the United Liberation Front of Asom maintained guerrilla bases in the forests of southern Zhemgang from which they would launch attacks on targets in India and then return across the border. In late 2003 the King of Bhutan,Jigme Singye Wangchuck led a military operation which largely swept the guerrillas out of the region. Because of the risk of attack, foreign tourists are not yet allowed to visit Zhemgang.

Geography

Zhemgang comprises eight gewogs:

  • Bardho Gewog
  • Bjoka Gewog
  • Goshing Gewog
  • Nangkor Gewog
  • Ngangla Gewog
  • Phangkhar Gewog
  • Shingkhar Gewog
  • Trong Gewog

Environment

Most of Zhemgang is part of the protected areas of Bhutan. Zhemgang’s environmentally protected areas include Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park (Trong Gewog) and Royal Manas National Park (Ngangla, Pangkhar, Trong Gewogs), which occupy much of the west. These parks connect to Thrumshingla National Park in the north (Nangkor, Shingkhar Gewogs) via a biological corridor that bisects Zhemgang