United Federation of Travel Agents’ Association, UFTAA Congress Kuala Lumpur 2013. Global Travel & Tourism Conference Re-modelling the Travel & Tourism...
Location: Central Bhutan
Distance from Thimphu: 199 km (7 hrs 30 mins)
Elevation: 2,180m, 7,150ft
Located in the central part on Bhutan, it has a network of roads that lead to different direction. And despite its hold of the East-West highway, most villages in the Dzongkhag are remote and far-flung.
Positioned prominently above the Mangde-chhu, stands the Trongsa Dzong with a high degree of magnificence. Beyond any doubt its size, design and position make it the most impressive Dzong in Bhutan. It is one of the most aesthetic and magnificent works of traditional Bhutanese architecture.
Besides the striking presence of the Dzong, there are palaces of the royal family scattered in the Dzongkhag. These palaces were built mainly to serve as winter residences to overcome the cold in Bumthang, where their summer residences are located.
The imposing Ta Dzong which is located on the hill overlooking the Dzong, is of great significance to the history of conquest over numerous battles fought in the past.
The huge 18th century Chendebji Chorten is located 45 mins from the top of the Pele La pass. It was patterned after Swayambhunath in Katmandu, Nepal. It is a favorite spot to lunch for both tourists and locals.
The Trongsa Dzong was built by Ngagi Wangchuk, the great grandfather of the Shabdrung, in 1543. The intricacy of its maze of buildings on successive levels is clearly visible from the town. Beyond any doubt its size, design and position make it the most impressive Dzong in Bhutan. It is one of the most aesthetic and magnificent works of traditional Bhutanese architecture.
Ta Dzong (Trongsa Museum)
It is the watch tower that overlooks the Dzong. It was built in 1977, as a dedication to King Gesar, the deity and the hero of the great epic. Its architecture with two aisles protruding from the main building is unusual. It gives a glimpse of Bhutan in the last hundred years.
The museum has been recently renovated. It comprises of eleven galleries including the one on top. All these galleries showcase different artifacts of the past.
The first gallery showcases Gyelchhen Zhi (the guardians of the four directions), that protects the entrances to monasteries and temples and ward off evil influences from all four directions.
The second gallery houses a statue of Zhabdrung’s grandfather, Ngagi Wangchuk (1517-1554) who founded the Trongsa Dzong in 1543, his jacket and robe, diamond scepter and bell, statues of the Zhabdrung’s father, Tenpai Nima (1567-1619), Zhabdrung Rinpoche and Choegyel Minjur Tenpa, the first Trongsa Penlop and the third Druk Desi. All these icons are responsible in the history of Bhutan, especially in bringing order to the country’s endless civil wars. The establishment of the Trongsa Dzong greatly helped in this endeavor.
The Raven Crown, designed by Lam Jangchub Tsendrue is featured in the third gallery. It was worn by the 1st King of Bhutan, Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck. It also houses the images of Jigme Namgyel’s protective deity, Tadin (Hayagriva) and Palkhorlo Dompa (Chakrasamvara), a statue of Lam Jangchub Tsendrue and Nyep Garab Wangchuk (local deity), ceremonial silk textile that belonged to the first King and four chests of Jigme Wangchuck, the 2nd King of Bhutan that were used in the Wangdue Choling palace in Bumthang to store personal belongings of the royal family and the King.
The fourth gallery has the scroll of 3.5 meter oath of allegiance that was signed by the representatives of the clergy during the coronation of second King in 1926. It also showcases Jigme Wangchuck’s prayer book and silver box, the 3rd King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck’s amulet, ivory flask, container for betel, areca and lime, and a zenith radio besides the silk kira and tego of the first Queen Ashi Choden, a sword, gho, scarf and traditional boots belonging to His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, a self created Pema Lingpa bronze statue and a wooden phurba (dragger).
The fifth gallery showcases the meaning of the sacred dances including the wheel of life, masks and costumes while the sixth gallery is about Buddhism and rituals with the images of Buddha Shachamuni, Maitreya Buddha (Gyaltsab Jampa, also known as the future Buddha), Dorji Phurpa (Vajrakila) and a magic dragger.
A Khesar Ling lhakhang is on the seventh gallery and the statues of Guru Rinpoche, His eight manifestations in the eighth and Maitreya Buddha lhakhang in ninth gallery.
The five Tathagata Buddhas (Gyalwa Rignga) sit in the tenth gallery. Each of the Buddhas represent one of the five transcendental insights, which are antidotes to the five mental poisons; anger and hatred, pride, desire and greed, envy and jealously, delusion and ignorance.
The top gallery showcases the body, the speech and the mind of the Adibuddha. It also houses a sacred image of Sung Joenma Dorji Chang, self-spoken Vajradharna.
It was built by the 2nd king Jigme Wangchuck as his Palace most likely in 1930’s. The palace was occupied by the senior queen Ashi Phuntso Chhoden. The third king was born in Thruepang Palace and he spent most of his childhood traveling between the Thruepang, Kuenga Rabten and Wangdichholing palaces.
It is situated just above the motor road right next to the gate that leads to the Tronsa Dzong, before entering the proper Trongsa. It was renovated recently and is used by the fifth king.
Kuenga Rabten Palace
The Kuenga Rabten Palace under the Trongsa District formerly served as the winter residence for the second king, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck and his junior consort, Ashi Pem Dechen. Constructed in 1928, it has been well preserved on account of its royal connections.
The Palace is located just beneath the motor road and it stands on the slope overlooking the mighty Mangdue River. As soon as you cross the threshold of the courtyard, you feel the aura of the past and your experiences from other such sites get further replenished with the contemplation of the elegance of the conventional complex.
Like most palaces, the Kuenga Rabten Palace is surrounded by stone walls with spy-holes which were used by the royal guards to check on the adversaries. A gallery runs around the courtyard on all four sides. To the left of the central tower there is a royal apartment and an outside where the royal bodyguards would stay. The central tower (utse), which has finely decorated woodwork, is a three-storey building. The ground floor and the second floor, which were once used respectively as a granary and a military garrison, are now empty. On the third floor, there are three adjoining rooms. The main entrance leads into the central room, known as the Sangye Lhakhang, which contains images of Shakyamuni Buddha and the Twenty-one Aspects of Tara. The room to the left was the private residence of King Jigme Wangchuck, while the room to the right is the Kangyur Lhakhang, now housing part of the National Library of Bhutan, to which the Palace is presently affiliated.
The palace was built by the first king’s grand father-in-law Trongsa Penlop Ugyen Phuntsho (father of Jigme Namgyel’s wife) in 1830’s or 40’s. Presently the palace is used as a residence by the Penlop’s great great grand daughter, Ashi Kelsang. It also houses about 150 monks who are sponsored by them.
The Palace is no different from the rest of the traditional structures in the country, with an exquisite architecture and its interior design like that of the Dzongs.
With its warmer, more temperate climate the valley of Mangdelung, where the palace is located, provided a welcome relief from the harsh winters of Bumthang. The 2nd king, at various points in this extensive, well cultivated valley built no less than three residences.
Although the palace is not open to tourists at present, there are plans for this great mansion to be unbolted soon.
Old Route between Trongsa Dzong and View point
Before the construction of the east west highway the Trongsa Dzong was the “gateway” to western, eastern and southern Bhutan. The so called “old route” was a trail leading down from the “viewpoint” of the Trongsa Dzong to the river Mangde Chu and from there after crossing the river via a Ba Zam (traditional wooden bridge) up the Trongsa Dzong. The bridge was once washed away by the river, but it was rebuilt to improve the existing trail. The trail provides a shortcut for the locals living in the area and a nice day hike for tourists.
To enter the Dzong via the “old” historical route will add to the experience of tourists traveling to Trongsa. The steep and dense forest has huge variety on fauna and flora. A short stop at the traditional cantilever bridge for taking pictures or even a small picnic would also be a memorable experience for the tourists. Arriving at the Dzong the tourists would be welcomed with local drinks or food, get information about that old route and the importance of the Trongsa Dzong as the gateway to other parts of the region, and how people entered and left the Dzong after paying the route tax.
The altitude difference between the viewpoint and the river is 300 meters descent. The altitude difference between the river and the Dzong is about 250 meters ascent. Although the terrain itself is very steep the trail itself is rather moderately steep as it winds down in many turns.
The area next to the bridge is a great picnic spot with the lively reverberation of the river passing by. It offers a welcome diversion to the usual cultural tours.
Distance : 1:30- 2:30 Hrs
Season : September- May
Tourist Profile : Old/ young, loves to hike, loves nature and history
(one should be equipped with insect repellent lotions, sun screen lotions, hats and water).