Trongsa: The Vanguard of the Warriors
Pelela pass is a geographically important area that separates Western Bhutan from Central and Eastern Bhutan. After crossing the pass, you will enjoy the pastoral feeling as you drive deeper into the valley with meadows where sheep and yaks graze. Dwarf bamboo plants are plenty on these hillsides and yaks love to graze the dwarf bamboos. If you are a bird watcher, look out for the specialty called the Wren Babbler taking refuge underneath those bamboos. In the months of April-June, the hillsides are painted with the rhododendron blooms. Trongsa, the sacred and the temporal heart of the country is the first district that you will come across.
Trongsa Dzong is historically important as the main seat of power for the first and second kings of Bhutan. It was from Trongsa dzong that the former kings exercised power over central and eastern Bhutan. It was built in 1648. All future kings are invested as Trongsa Penlop (“governor”) prior to ascending the throne. The dzong is a massive structure with many levels, sloping down the contours of the ridge on which it is built. Because of the dzong’s highly strategic position, on the only connecting route between east and west, the Trongsa Penlop was able to control effectively the whole of the central and eastern regions of the country from here.
Ta Dzong or the watchtower is right above the main Trongsa town. In the ancient times, it was used to guard Trongsa Dzong from internal rebellion. It was built in 1652 by Chogyal Minjur Tempa, the first Governor of Trongsa. It has four observation pints resembling Tiger, Lion, Garuda, and Dragon. Climb up the path to visit Ta Dzong which now houses a shrine dedicated to the epic hero, King Gesar of Ling. A visit to this former watchtower provides visitors with an insight into the significance of Trongsa in Bhutan’s history. As of date the Ta Dzong of Trongsa is the most fascinating museum of the nation.
Thruepang Palace is the birth place of our Late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. The palace is above the highway. The late king spent most of his early childhood days in this Palace. The other palace of interest is the Eundu Choling Palace which was the winter residence of the first King Ugyen Wangchuck.
Another important historical site is Kuenga Rabten Palace, 23 km from the main Trongsa town and about an hour drive that takes you 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 Kuenga Rabten, 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.
Chendebji Chorten was built by Lama Zhida in the 18th century. It is on the riverside, en route to Trongsa. The chorten has eyes painted at the four cardinal points and carries pattern similar to Kathmandu’s Swayambhunath Stupa. The structure was built 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.