Gasa is the district in the northwest of the Bhutan. Its main village / town is located near GasaDzong. From Punakha, drive 2-3 hours to GoenDamji village, which is connected by new road. From Damji, the construction of road is under process and currently it takes around 4-6hrs by walk to reach Gasa. The altitude of the district ranges from 1,500m to 4,500m but Gasa town or rather village is located at 2770m. It has around a dozen small shops, a school, small police post, a clinic, a forest office and the district administration office located in GasaDzong (also called TrashiThongmoenDzong). GasaDzong was built by Zhabdrung in 1646 to commemorate the victories over the Tibetans and it later defended the country against several invasions in 17 and 18 century. Gasa is also famous for its healing hot springs, located around 2hrs walk at the bottom of the ridge. The hot spring is visited by Bhutanese from all over the country during the winters. Gasa is the district headquarters for Laya village Gewog and Lunanagewog located to the north, along the borders with Tibet, China. The Khamegewog is located to the south bordering and Punakha district, under which Damji is the main village. Khatoe is the area around Gasa and where the hot spring is also located.
PLACES OF ATTRACTIONS
1. GASA TRASHI THONGMOEN DZONG
GasaDzong is the administrative headquarter of the GasaDzongkhag, which consists of GoenKhartoed in the upper region and GoenKharmed in the lower region. Legend has it, that when ZhabdrungNawangNamgyal, following the footsteps of his forefathers was making his way to Bhutan in 1616, the deity of Gasatraveled to TsariKibuthang in Tibet to welcome him. The Zhabdrung blessed the deity and gave him a new name “TrashiThongmon”. Thus, the Dzong was named as such. It is not clear when the Dzong was built but most historians agree that it was built by ZhabdrungNawangNamgyal as a defence fortress and that the construction took place sometime around 1640’s.
Unlike other Dzongs in Bhutan, GasaDzong is circular with three Ta Dzongs (watch towers) placed on strategic points. The Utse (central tower) is built directly above the cave where DupthobTerkhungpa, a Tibetan saint supposedly meditated in the 13th century. The Utse is a three storied building.
Monks from Punakha or Thimphu led by the DrapaiLopoen comes to Gasa for the annual offerings to the deities, in the last week of the 10th month every year. In honour of Mahakala, gun salutations are performed on the 29th day. A common belief is that during the time of Terkhungpa in the 13th century, there lived a famous Bon master. During a competition of spiritual attainment, the Bon master also proved that he could walk up the cliff with ease. Terkhungap perhaps expressed his appreciation to this high achievement. Today, as a token of appreciation to the Bon master, a Bon priest also participates in the ceremonial procession wearing his full ritual attire while making offerings to Mahakala. GasaTshechu is annually held at the same time as ThimphuTshechu; however the first day of the Tshechu is held in PhuLhakhang, the original place of the festival.
2. LAYA VILLAGE IN GASA DISTRICT, BHUTAN
Laya village is under Gasa district or Dzongkhag. The people of Laya have their own dialect, customs and distinct dress. The women keep their hair long (unlike other parts of country) and wear peculiar conical bamboo hats with a bamboo spike at the top. These hats are held on by a beaded band that reaches to the back of the head. They dress in a black woolen jacket and a long woolen skirt with a few stripes. They wear lots of silver jewelry on their backs and some of these display include an array of silver teaspoons.
The Layaps call their land home BAYU or bey-yul (hidden land). Laya is one of the highest villages in the country, at 3700m. The peak of the daunting Tsenda Gang (7100m) towers over the village, which is spread out over a hillside near the Tibetan border. The cluster village is completely hidden by ridges and there are around 140 households spread into small villages in the gewog (sub-district).Villagers grow turnips and mustard and produce one crop of wheat or barley a year, before the region is snowed in for the winter. Its primary source of food and income is the Yaks. During the summer, most people move to the high pastures and live in black yak hair tents. During the evening at your campsite, the village women are easily encouraged to stage an evening ‘cultural show’, which consists of Bhutanese circle dancing accompanied by traditional Bhutanese and Layap songs. The existing infrastructures include one Community School, BHU (basic health unit), Forest Guard Post, two Wireless stations.
3. GASA HOT SPRING
In Bhutan, hot springs are known as Tshachus and are found all over the Kingdom. The medicinal properties of these hot springs have been used by the Bhutanese people for centuries to cure various ailments ranging from arthritis to body aches and even sinuses. It is a popular tradition among Bhutanese to visit hot springs during the winter months.