Eastern Bhutan – As good as Unexplored
Eastern Bhutan, which consists of districts like Mongar, Trashigang, Trashi Yangtse, Samdrup Jongkhar, Pema Gatshel and Lhuentse, is a region surprisingly displaying rapid variations of vegetation and landscapes. It’s a region hugely populated by Sharchhokpas – the Easterners and the popular dialect is called Sharchop. Other dialects like Kurtoep, Chocha ngacha, Chalip, Khengkha, and Brokpa. It’s a region less trodden by tourists, thus retains the antique atmosphere and surrounding of the past.
If you are an explorer, a discoverer, an adventurer, a soul dying to be first one to try untried places, Eastern Bhutan offers you a fresh platform. A kaleidoscopic road experience is eagerly waiting for you if you are planning your time here: a road diving through pastures, cutting through steep cliffs, speeding against eye-catching scenes and constructs, reaching you to highest of passes and meandering stealthily through thick jungles. When you start from the capital, it lavishes you with its smooth interactions, but if you fall asleep as you move into Eastern Bhutan, it can jolt and wake you as many times as you would want.
You wouldn’t prefer dozing off; it’s not recommended when Eastern Bhutan has lots to offer you besides the natural environment.
It is a district widely known Aja Ney, ruins of Zhongar Fort, Drametse Lhakhang, and bamboo and textile products. Aja Ney is a holy site blessed by Guru Padmasambhava and name roughly translates to Hundred Aa (ཨཱ) syllable. It can be approached even from Lhuentse. This site consists of two main pilgrim sites: Aja and Phunying and takes around a week to complete them. The passage to it at Mongar is from Sherimuhung gewog/sub-block. The pilgrimage is open for visit only during winters for in summers, the rain feeds the vegetation and also the routes become risky and inaccessible.
Zhongar Fortress is now in ruins where once a tyrant ruler ruled. It is located on a hill and visible when nearing Lingmethang. Legend has that Lingmethang has a little plain land due to the rulers order to level down the mountain see the first sunrise. He however fell to strategic plan of a kind shrewd lady. The present Mongar Dzong is the relocation of this Zhongar Dzong.
Drametse Lhakhang was established during 16th century by Ani Cheten Zangmo, daughter of Terton (treasure discover) Pema Lingpa. It’s a permanent seat of Sungtrul Rinpochhe, the Speech Reincarnation of Pema Lingpa. The Lhakhang preserves and promotes the artistic and architectural brilliance of our country.
From Kheng, the remote part of Mongar, bamboo products like bangchung (cane plate), tsezem (cane box), hats, palang (bamboo made alcohol container), quill are woven and sold.
The District has its Trashigang (Auspicious Hill) Dzong built in 1659 such that it stands most of its parts on a cliff overlooking the river Drangmechhu below. It was built to fight back the Tibetan Invasion. There, due to its strategic location, it owned a famous Tibetan comment, “It is not a ground fortress but a sky fortress”. Below the Dzong, against the cliff is little house as a Castle for deity Garab Wangchhen that was received from a place called Drubkhang, a village under its jurisdiction.
The Trashigang town serves as a principal market place for the people of Merak and Sakteng, the semi-nomadic people. They are referred to as Brokpa by others, usually Sharchops. Their unique dressings woven out of yak’s hair aided by ornaments (for girls), outdoes our gho and kira.
It is a small and beautiful district, a district which was established as a distinct district in 1992. It having Zorig Chusum Institute for 13 Arts and Crafts, Chorten Kora, Gom Kora and Risum Goenpa has gained popularity in the country. The Trashi Yangtse Dzong is situated on a small hill which has dominance over the small town below it. Inhabitants include the native Yangtseps, Tshanglas or sharchops, Bramis from Tawang, Khenpas from Zhemgang district and Kurtoeps from Lhuentse district, thus making the district ethnically and culturally opulent.
It has scenic natural resources and has Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary which homes for Black Necked cranes. Risum Goenpa is a highly sacred Lhakhang situated at around 5 hours walk from Bumdeling. The route to it is not that testing but refreshing. The district has earned fame due to production of wooden bowls, desho (indigenous paper) and desho-made things.
The Chorten Kora is an impressive stupa built by Lam Ngawang Lodro in 1740 resembling the Boudhanath Stupa at Nepal. Its story even traces into the land of Tawang/Arunachal Pradesh. It gathers huge people even from Tawang during the annual festivals. Even Gom Kora, which is erected amidst the paddy field on a plain land, collects similar people during the festivals.
It is the bordering district of the Kingdom with the neighbouring country India. In the past, it served as the main trading center for our country. Today, the Samdrup Jongkhar town is an entry and exit point from and to the Eastern Bhutan.
The Dzong is one of the newest Dzongs in the country. The district has the historical place called Dewangiri, which is now known by the name Dewathang. In 1884, Jigme Namgyal, father of the First King of Bhutan, led his troops against the British from this place and came out victorious.
A magnificent Zangdhogpelri (Bhutanese replica of Guru Padmasambhava’s Fortress of Copper) is composition of Bhutanese arts, crafts and architecture. With lifelike statues, intricately beautiful frescoes and serene aura around, it’s a place of solace in the busy town.
The name translates to Lotus garden of happiness. It also celebrates annual tshechu for three days. The district boasts of artisan, weavers and production of sweet: it produces Dhung (long ritual trumpets) and Jaling (oboe-like instruments) – the religious instruments; bura (silken) textiles kira (traditional women’s dress) particularly Lungserma and Aaikapuur; and from a place called Tshatshi, a cone shaped brown sugarcane sweet called Tshatshi buram is being produced. The sweet is connoted with medicinal value.
Yongla Goemba, an old and holiest temple, is a highly respected one which had been the station from which Jigme Namgyal, father of the First King Sir Ugyen Wangchuk, raided the British troops.
It is the district connected by the highway from Mongar, and even popularly referred by the name ‘Kurtoe’. The Lhuntse Dzong, the name in full being Lhundrup Rinchhentse Dzong, was built by then Trongsa Poenlop Choegyal Minjur Tenpa with ultimate aim to unify the nation. Kurichhu River runs down the foot of mountain that carries the Dzong.
The district is of an unparalleled historical reference attributing to rise of our hereditary Kings, the particular place being Dungkar – the village where Dunkar Choeje was established and Dungkar Nagtshang was home to it. Jigme Namgyal travelling to the west from this place promised a future we are enjoying now.
Singye Dzong, Kilung Lhakhang and Jangchubling monastery are the most known pilgrim sites. Singye Dzong is where Guru Padmasambhava once meditated, Kilung Lhakhang preserves the sacred chain mall that was once used to recapture a statue that flew away from Lhuntse Dzong, and Jangchubling monastery was built by Pekar Gyatsho in 18th century and even Ashi Wangmo, daughter of First King, lived there as nun.