Trashi Yangtse Dzongkhag
One of the newest dzongkhags in the country, Trashiyangtse was established as a distinct district in 1992 and spans 1,437 sq. km of subtropical and alpine forests. With its wealth of natural, historical and cultural resources Trashiyangtse is a destination that visitors to Bhutan will never forget.
At an elevation of 1750-1880 m, Trashiyangtse is an ethnically and culturally diverse district and the inhabitants include Yangtseps, the regions indigenous dwellers, Tshanglas, Bramis from Tawang, Khengpas from Zhemgang and Kurtoeps from Lhuentse. This rich cultural tapestry has resulted in an interesting mix of languages and cultural practices in the region. Three major languages are spoken in Trashiyangtse. In the north, including Bumdeling and ToetshoGewogs, inhabitants speak Dzala. In the south, Tshangla (Sharchopkha), the lingua franca of eastern Bhutan, is spoken in Jamkhar, Khamdang, and RamjarGewogs. In TomzhangtshenGewog, residents speak Chocangacakha.
The people of the region have developed incredible skill at woodworking and paper making. The items they produce such as traditional wooden bowls are prized throughout the country. It contains a major art school, the School of Traditional Arts, which is a sister school of the School of Traditional Arts in Thimphu and teaches six forms of art; painting, pottery, wood sculpture, wood-turning, lacquer-work and embroidery.
Trashiyangtse district is home to some of the country’s important protected areas. It contains the KulongChhu Wildlife Sanctuary, established in 1993, which itself is part of the larger Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary. Bumdeling Sanctuary currently covers the northern half of Trashiyangtse (the gewogs of Bumdeling and Yangste), as well as substantial portions of neighbouring districts.
PLACES OF ATTRACTIONS
1. DONGDI DZONG OR OLD TRASHI YANGTSE DZONG
DongdiDzong is one of the oldest Dzongs in Bhutan. Its history dates to the 19th century. GongkharGyal, grandson of LhaseyTshangma, who had established himself in Tshenkharla, was invited by the people of the region in Trashiyangtse, known as Donglum, to their leader. He accepted the offer and, choosing a strategic location, built a small khar (castle). The khar was named DongdiDzong, as its base was the Dongdi Chu. At a later unknown date it was attacked by the Tibetans. The people of Donglum region fled and the Dzong fell into ruins.
In the 15th century TertonPemaLingpa, on his visit to Trashiyangtse, came across the ruins of the old castle. He rebuilt the Dzong and renamed it TrashiyangtseDzong, the fortress of auspicious fortune. In the 17th century, when the TrongsaPenlopChogyalMinjurTempa launched an eastern military campaign to bring the six eastern regions under Drukpa rule, the ruler of Trashiyangtse, King Jigdra, submitted to the Penlop’s forces without a challenge. In 1648 MinjurTempa further renovated as well as extended the Dzong.
2. CHORTEN KORA
A 2-hour drive from Trashigang is ChortenKora, modeled after Boudhanathstupa in Nepal, where local people and Dakpa people from Arunachal Pradesh (India) gather in February/March for a festival to circumambulate the chorten.
A similar festival in GomKora takes place 10 days later. Bumdeling to the north is home to wintering black-necked cranes and to Ludlow’s Bhutan Glory, the national butterfly of Bhutan. Important religious sites are found all over the Dzongkhag including Pemaling in the alpine area; RigsumGonpa, Dechenphodrangney and Ombaney (the Taktshang of East Bhutan) between 2000 and 3000m, and Gongzaney and GomKora along the DrangmeChhu (800-900m).
3. GOM KORA OR GOMPHUG KORA
Around 13kms beyond Chazam (22km from Trashigang) on the road to Yangtse is an extraordinarily picturesque temple, just beneath the road, surrounded by terraced rice fields, called GomKora or actually GomphuKora (Gomphu meaning Mediation Place and Kora means Circumambulation). Guru Rinpoche meditated here and left a body impression on the rock. It is believed that Guru Rimpoche subdued an evil dragon here crushing it into the rock leaving impressions of the dragon’s body and his hat. Guru Rimpoche also hide a Tshebum or vase containing the water of immortality inside the rock. Pilgrims may be fortunate to have opportunity to taste the water if it trickles out of the rock when they visit. The temple was built here in 17th century by MinjurTempa, above the large rock with meditation cave underneath. There are many relics inside this two-storey temple and the murals are said to date from its original construction period. The pilgrims revere it as a sacred power place and circumambulate the meditation cave. The pathway around the cave includes a narrow, twisting passageway through which pilgrims crawl and wiggle to test their negative past actions. In March/April, a three-day festival is held here, which is quite unique from other Tsechu around Bhutan. Pilgrims circumambulate the Goembaaruond the large rock throughout the night during the festival. Many nomadic tribes from Merak and Sakten also come here during this period and for many of whom, the evening event results in marriages.
4. ZORIG CHUSUM OR THIRTEEN ARTS AND CRAFTS.
Institute for ZorigChusum or the institute of 13 arts and crafts was opened in June 1997, and it reflects Bhutan’s effort to provide opportunities for vocational training and especially for this region, which has always been popular with bamboo and wood crafts.
5. BUMDELING WILD LIFE CENTURY.
BumdelingGewog in the north of TrashiyangtseDzongkhag in eastern Bhutan is bounded in the north by the Tibet Autonomous Region of China and to the south by YangtseGewog with the area 850 sq.km.
The people speak unique dialect called “Zalakha” to that of its neighbor in Khoma of LhuntseDzongkhag and Brami/Dakpa community of Tawang of Arunachal Pradesh. Bumdeling was once a part of YangtseGewog. In 1990s it got recognized as a separate gewog.
There are five Chewogs with ten major villages as well as minor villages scattered throughout the gewog. There are 380 households and amongst it, 58 households are gungtong. The Gewog is known for its un-spoilt natural vegetation with a vast reserve of floral and faunal heritage. Justifiably, the government has established a nature conservation park under the name of the Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary (BWS) covering the whole of BumdelingGewog, small part of the YangtseGewog, SershongGewog (Mongar), and KhomaGewog of Lhuntse. Its single most attraction is the roosting of globally rare Black Necked Cranes in winter.
The people are mostly farmers growing paddy and finger millet as their staple cereals. They grow potato and chilli (only grown in the gewog and popularly called Urkabangala) for cash income. There is a small proportion of the population who are pastoralist rearing yak in Shingphel closer to the Tibetan border up north. There are also a few households who produce wooden bowls (Dapa) and handmade papers (Desho).
The GewogCenter at Dungzam is connected to the Dzongkhagheadquater by a farm road which is slightly over 8.6 km. It has one Lower Secondary and three Primary Schools, one BHU grade II, two ORCs, Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary’s Park Range office, RNR Extension Center, Gewog office and the IMTRAT and RBA joint check post at Tobrang which is 4 hrs walk towards north from the gewog centre .
6. RIGSUM GOEMBO
RigsumGonpa:Bumdeling. alt. 3000m. It was initially built by Lama TsheringGyamtsho, a disciple of the 9th Je KhenpoShachaRinchhen (1744-1755) and renovated and extended by his nephew Lama JangchhubGyeltshen. His nephew Lama NgawangLoday was appointed the 3rd Abbot of RigsumGonpa by His Holiness YontenThaye, the 13th Je Khenpo (1771 – 1775). He further extended the gonpa and brought the JowoShakya Muni statue (the Buddha as a prince) from PunakhaDzong. The Jowo statue is a replica of the one in Lhasa in Tibet. The fifth abbot reportedly witnessed the statue speak. It is believed that if you can’t go to Tibet for pilgrimage then visiting RigsumGonpa is an alternative giving the same merit. The gonpa was restored/rebuilt in 2004. It has a traditional religious school for about 40 gelongs. 3 hrs walk from Dungzam in Boomdeling, the monastery is located on a ridge with good views of the Boomdeling valley and TrashiYangtseDzong. A road may be constructed to the gonpa in the 11th FYP, which would make a visit to Dechenphodrang monastery on the same day possible (a 4 hr walk).
7. OMBA LHAKHANG
OmbaLhakhang:(Toedtsho, alt. 2200m), the Taktshang of east Bhutan, built on a cliff. It is located within the holy pilgrim site of Omba Ney, where the letter OM can be seen on the rock face. It is one of three unique holy places linked to Guru Rimpoche, the others being Aja and Hungrel where the letters AH and HUM can be seen. It is about 3 hrs walk from NangkharGonpa, comprising a steep descent of 330 m, followed by a more gradual climb of 125 m. Omba can also be reached from Kheni village after a three hour climb. There are temples, caves and various sites of religious importance nearby. A short crawl through a narrow cave passage on the cliff above the lhakhang will cleanse you of your sins, while you can climb even higher up the cliff through a crack in the rock. There is a homestay and some good camping sites in or near the pretty village of Omba.
8. GONGZA NEY
Gongza Ney and Gonpa, Toedtsho. alt. 950 m. These are located at a holy place next to the Gongri (Drangme) Chu and linked to Guru Rimpoche, who was offered tea here when subduing a demon in the area. It is 3 hours walk from the Yalang suspension bridge, 3 hrs downhill from Jangphu village and 1 hour from the Melongkharbridge to where a road is planned. There is a small temple built into an overhanging rock. The gonpa holds a petrified treasure chest, shoe of Guru Rimpoche, devil’s egg and many other relics. Many sacred places are submerged in summer, so pilgrims mainly visit in winter and spring. The area is full of oddly shaped rocks and is hot and humid in summer.
9. PEMALING NEY
Pemaling Ney: Bumdeling. alt. 4500m. A cave in an alpine area surrounded by pristine lakes, where Guru Rimpoche meditated. Many of the lakes, located at around 4500m elevation, are considered sacred (latshos). Monks from SingyeDzong undertake a pilgrimage to Pemaling around August/September to meditate there for 1-2 months. It is a 3 day trek from the end of the road near Tobrang (not yet completed).
10. DECHENPHODRANG NEY
Dechenphodrang Ney, Bumdeling. alt. 2260m. The monastery is hidden in a very idyllic valley amid huge boulders of religious importance near a stream. It has a narrow waterhole in the rock near the monastery believed to be as deep as the huge tsenden (cypress) tree nearby. The main ney is about half an hour above the monastery. It is about 4-5 hrs walk from RigsumGonpa and half an hour from or to the end of the farm road in Womenang valley. For international visitors it might be one of the most beautiful monasteries in Bhutan. There is a campsite along the trail across the Womenangriver.