The Vanguard of the Warriors – TrongsaDzongkhag is located near the centre of Bhutan and was considered crucial in controlling the kingdom in earlier years due to its strategic position.
This town is situated on a steep ridge and offers spectacular views of the deep valleys surrounding it. The various hotels, guesthouses and restaurants all offer stunning views from their balconies. TrongsaDzong is easily visible from anywhere in town and is always an impressive sight as it is situated atop a steep ridge that drops off into the clouds on its south side.
The TrongsaDzong, which was built in 1644, used to be the seat of power of the Wangchuck dynasty before they became rulers of Bhutan in 1907. Traditionally, the King of Bhutan first becomes the TrongsaPenlop (governor) before being named the Crown Prince and eventually the King. Built on a mountain spur high above the gorges of the MangdeChhu, the dzong controlled east-west trade for centuries. Trongsa also boasts an impressive museum. The watchtower of Trongsa has been converted into a museum dedicated to the Wangchuck dynasty and is a good place to learn about the history of the kingdom.
A five-day festival known as the Trongsatsechu is held in the northern courtyard during December or January. Every monastery in Bhutan observes this festival, which celebrates the arrival of Guru Rimpoche to Bhutan in the 8th century, a mark of triumph of Buddhism over evil. It is held in spring and autumn seasons according to the Bhutanese calendar.
PLACES OF ATTRACTION
1. TRONGSA DZONG OR CHOEKHOR RABDENTSE
TrongsaChoekhorRabdentse is the largest and most impressively situated dzong in Bhutan, perched high on a cliff above the deep Mangde Chu river gorge. It was built in 1648 on the site of temple which was built in 1543. The huge many-level fortress with its intricate wood carvings has a maze of courtyards and covered passages that follow the contour of the ridge. First and second King ruled the country from this fort and all successive Kings have held the post of TrongsaPenlop, (honorary governor) prior to being crowned as the King.
2. TAA DZONG or WATCH TOWER
The tower of Trongsa or TaaDzong above the town is great place to visit. It houses the Musuem as well as two temples. The museum showcases the historic and religious significance of TrongsaDzong and one of the galleries is dedicated to the history of the kings of the Wangchuk dynasty who have ruled the kingdom since 1907. Many important royal possessions including clothing, ritual and every day objects serve to illustrate the lives of the royal family that has so uniquely shaped Bhutan. One of the shrine is dedicated to Gesar, the legendary epic warrior king and other is the shrine of Jowo or Maitreya Buddha.
The early tower of Trongsa or TaaDzong was built in 1652 by ChoegyelMingyurTenpa, who was also entrusted by ShabdrungNgawangNamgyel with enlargement of TrongsaDzong. In the years following, the structures were added on. The towers are prominently situated on a steep hill above the main Dzong. The structures consist of a massive circular five-storey tower or utse, flanked by two lower towers. These South and North towers connect to the utse by multi•storey wings. Two smaller free free standing simi-circular towers are located further down the hill. The tower complex was intended to ward off attacks on the Dzong. Once the peace came to Bhutan, the tower lost its military function and it become home to two hermits, who continue to live here in the southern wing. TaaDzong houses two temples. One is dedicated to the legendary King Gesar of Ling. The other is the shrine dedicated to Jowo Jamba, or Maitreya Buddha. In the recent years, TaaDzong also became a museum and more recently new galleries have been established. TaaDzong is both a place of worship for Bhutanese Buddhists and a museum presenting the rich historical and religious heritage of TrongsaDzong. A narrative thread takes the visitor through eleven galleries which showcases the historic and religious significance of TrongsaDzong. One of the galleries is dedicated to the history of the kings of the Wangchuk dynasty who have ruled the kingdom since 1907. Many important royal possessions including clothing, ritual and every day objects serve to illustrate the lives of the royal family that has so uniquely shaped Bhutan. The Museum is open from 9am till 5pm from April 01 – Oct. 31 and from 10am till 4pm during other periods.
3. THRUEPANG PALACE
This two storied simple palace situated just above the highway in town is the birth place of our Late King JigmeDorjiWangchuck. It was here that on 2nd May 1928, His Majesty was born to King JigmeWangchuck and AshiPuntshoChoden. He spent most of his early childhood days here in this Thurepang Palace. The other palace of interest is the EunduCholing Palace which was the winter residence of the 1st King UgyenWangchuck.
KuengaRabten Palace: The 23 km. drive from Trongsa to KuengaRabten takes about an hour and passes through open countryside high above a river gorge. The land slopes quite gently in this region, and farming is well developed, so there is much of interest to observe in the fields and in the villages as one speed along. As one approaches KuengaRabten, the Palace is clearly visible just below the road on the right. It was the winter palace of the second king and is now looked after by the National Commission for Cultural Affairs. This pleasant afternoon excursion from Trongsa offers further insights into the early days of Bhutan’s monarchy.
4. CHENDEEP JEE CHORTEN
En route to Trongsa is ChendebjiChorten, patterned on Kathmandu’s SwayambhunathStupa, with eyes painted at the four cardinal points.
It was built in the 18th century by Lama Zhida, to cover the remains of an evil spirit that was subdued at this spot. Legend says that the evil spirit manifested as a gigantic snake.
5. KINGA RABTEN
It is about 1 abd half hou drive from trongsa main town. During the first half of the 20th century, the palace served as winter residence for the second King, JigmeWangchuck and his senior Queen, AshiPhuntshoChoden. Due to this heritage, the KuengaRabten Palace is surrounded by stone walls that have spy-holes, which were used by the royal guards. A gallery runs around the courtyard on three sides, and the tall main building is located on the fourth side as two protruding aisles.
The ground and first floors were used as a granary and a military garrison, respectively, when His Majesty and the Queen were staying at the palace. However, the ground floor is now empty and the first floor has classrooms for the monks. On the second floor, there are three adjacent rooms. The main entrance leads into the central room, known as the SangyeLhakhang, which is the main temple.
Next to the chapel was the private residence of King JigmeWangchuck and AshiPhuntshoChoden. At present, the King’s room is well preserved, with everything remaining as though the second King were still resident there. During the second King’s time in KuengaRabten, other rooms on the floor were used as guestrooms and to grant audiences.
When Bhutan was governed by Penlops and Desis (temporal rulers) in the 19th century, conflict arose between the TrongsaPenlopDungkarGyeltshen and the JakarPenlopPema Tenzin. They were two cousins vying for the post of TrongsaPenlop. After more than three years of conflict between the two cousins, DungkarGyeltshen lost the conflict to Pema Tenzin, who became TrongsaPenlop. Pema Tenzin designated a small place called Tek-ka-Shong as the summer residence below the Jakardzong in Bumthang, and Te-Khar as the winter residence in Trongsa, below what would become KuengaRabten.
Later, the second King JigmeWangchuck had the KuengaRabten Palace built in 1929, when he was 24 years old. The KuengaRabten Palace then served as the winter residence to the second King and his senior Queen AshiPhuntshoChoden. The Palace was built under the guidance of DashoJamyang, the lord of Chume valley in Bumthang and AshiPhuntshoChoden’s father.
At present, the palace is looked after by monks from the central monastic body in Trongsa. Around fifty monks are living at the palace, including two teachers. The room where the Queen used to stay has been altered to be the office of the monk body. Some rooms have also been made into a storeroom for the National Library of Bhutan.
Architectural Style/School and Related Art Work
The KuengaRabten Palace was built as a three-storey building in the Bhutanese palatial style with woodwork and stones. The aura of the past and the contemplative elegance of the building’s structure are striking. The paintings inside the palace are very delicate and have religious motifs. Worth noting are the paintings of the 35 Buddhas of Compassion and a Zangdopelri, Guru Rinpoche’s paradise.
In the Sangyelhakhang there are images of Shakyamuni Buddha and the Twenty-one Aspects of Tara, and silver as well as a gold plated chorten (mchodrten), or stupas, which were gifts from the Nepalese King as gift to King JigmeWangchuck during his visit to Nepal.
Social Cultural Functions
The palace fulfills a public role for the community both with regards to religious and social daily life. The religious function for the community is due to the presence of monks from the TrongsaDzong, who live and study at the site. The monks perform daily prayers and rituals for the community. In terms of social usage, the palace grounds have a good field for archery matches, which often take place.
The site also stores books for the National Library of Bhutan, though the books are not accessible for the public.