Trashigang: The Jewel of the East
Trashigang is the country’s largest district and lies in the easternmost part of the kingdom, skirting up to the edge of the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. The district has an altitude range of 600 m to over 4000m. Dangmechu, Bhutan’s largest river flows through the district. Trashigang town, on the hillside was once the center for a brisk trade with Tibet.
Trashigang town is also the main place for the semi-nomadic people of Merak and Sakteng to sell their dairy products or buy necessities. The unique dress of these nomads continues to draw attention. Trashigang is the junction of the east-west highway, with road connections to Samdrup Jongkhar and then into the Indian state of Assam.
Trashigang dzong or the fortress of the auspicious hill was built in 1659, on the top of a spur overlooking the Dangmechu river. It used to be the political stronghold of eastern Bhutan for over 300 years. The Landscape on which the Dzong stands is not only picturesque but arouses curiosity. The hillock like Mount Meru is the site of the palace of the Druk Chhoglay Namgyal (victory of Bhutanese Over enemies in all directions). It is accessible only from the north, through a slender road, paved by blasting the cliff. Due to its location Trashigang Dzong is one of the most strategically placed Dzongs in Bhutan. The present Dzong was enlarged by Dzongpon Dopola, in 1936.
Chador lhakhang is in a village of Bartsham that is about an hour and half drive through a feeder road from Trashigang. One can visit Chador Lhakhang, also known as Goemba Ringbu and know the fascinating tales revolving around its famous thumbsize replica of Chador, Vajrapani.
The most venerated temple in Trashigang, the Bremung lhakhang was built in 15th century. It is in the village of Bidung, about ten minute drive from Bartsham. The sacred relic of Bremung lhakhang is the embalmed remains of its founder Kuenga Wangpo, son of Terton Pema Lingpa.
Kupijigtsam lhakhang is also known as the “Temple of the Cuckoo”. The lhakhang is in the village of Yangneer, on the other side of the valley across Dangmechu. It was built in the 15th century. It is another sacred monument in Trashigang. Besides, one can also visit the Tsengmi lhakhang in Gongthung village and the Jarung Khashor temple.
An uphill drive for 22 kilometres along the Trashigang-Samdru Jongkhar highway from Trashigang will take you to Kanglung where one can visit the Zangdopelri. Built in the early 1970s at the initiative of the late Tamzhing Jagar, the Minister for Home and Cultural Affairs, the lhakhang houses some of the most intricately designed statues besides a Shedra, a monastic school headed by a Khenpo.
Sherubtse College or the Peak of Learning is another place of visit in Kanglung. It was founded by a Jesuit priest in the late 1960s as a Higher Secondary School. The architecture and the overall structures of many buildings are different from those found today. Sherubtse College was until recently the only Institute of Higher Learning in the Country. The College has been instrumental in providing the much needed human resource for the country as much of the Graduates were employed by various Ministries, Corporations and Organziations.
Yonphu Lhakhang is the oldest temple in Trashigang. You will have to drive further up the road from Sherubtse College. It houses several sacred relics and a Tercham that is conducted twice in a year to remember the divine acts of religious luminaries like Guru Padmasambhava.
Rangjung town is another commercial hub in Trashigang. You will have to drive further east from Trashigang. The town is a major commercial center where people from five geogs (administrative blocks) congregate and carry out brisk businesses. Besides the town one can visit the Rangjung temple located on a small hillock overlooking the town. The temple built in the architectural style of the Tibetans has a monastic school supported by HH Garab Rinpoche.
Radhi village is popularly known as the “Rice Bowl of the East”. It lies above the town of Rangjung. A drive through the terraced rice fields is an unusual experience and one can visit the traditional farm houses and peep into women folks strapped to the traditional looms. Radhi women are experts in weaving and are known for the silk textiles that has found their way into many handicraft shops in the capital town of Thimphu.
Namdru Choling lhakhang:
Namdu Choling lhakhang is widely known as the Phongmey lhakhang. The lhakhang is at the end of the road from Rangjung to Phongmey. To reach Phongmey, you will have to drive for about an hour through the rice fields from the Rangjung town. The lhakhang was built in the late 1890′s and fulfills the spiritual needs of the village. Opposite the lhakhang across the Gamri Chu river is the abode of the local deity Meme Ralang where one can see hermitages on its top.