August 10, 2007

Trongsa Dzong : The Ancestral Home of Royal Family

Trongsa District which is located in the centre of the Bhutan is four hours by drive from Wangdue Phodrang, The approach to the town involves a round trip around Trongsa valley. A vantage point from the opposite side of the valley which is still 14 kms from Trongsa, provides an exciting view of the Dzong and the town.

Trongsa Dzong, built in 1644 by Chhogyel Mingyur Tenpa, a representative of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal sent to pacify the eastern portions of the country. It was enlarged at the end of the 17th century. Trongsa dzong is the ancestral home of the present royal family. The Dzong used to be the seat of power of the Wangchuck dynasty before it became rulers of Bhutan in 1907. Traditionally the King of Bhutan first becomes the Trongsa Penlop (governor) before being named Crown Prince and eventually King. Both his majesty king Ugyen Wangchuk, the Penlop of Trongsa, who was elected the country's first hereditary monarch, and his successor king Jigme Wangchuk, ruled the country from Trongsa's ancient Dzong. The crown prince of Bhutan normally holds the position of the Trongsa Penlop (Chotse Penlop) prior to the ascending to the throne - the present king continued this tradition as he appointed Trongsa Penlop in 1972 shortly before he ascended the Throne of Bhutan.

Built on a mountain spur high above the gorges of the Mangde Chhu, the dzong, which controlled movements between western and central Bhutan (the ancient trade route passed right through the middle of the dzong). Trongsa Dzong is an impregnable fortress. The Dzong itself is a labyrinth of temples, corridors and offices holding court over the local community. It is built on many levels into the side of the hill and can be seen from every approach to Trongsa, heralding its strength as a defensive stronghold.

Higher yet on the mountainside is a large watchtower, called "Ta Dzong", to guard the dzong from enemies in olden days.

Trongsa can also be a good shopping stop. The local population weaves its own textiles from hand - dyed wool and the Tibetan-origin Bhutanese shopkeepers sell them at more competitive prices than those found in Thimpu. They also sell machine woven carpets in the traditional style. These are also sold at more reasonable prices than those found in Thimpu.

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