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Trongsa Dzong: The Druk Minjur Chhoekhor Rabtentse Dzong
Trongsa Dzong: Renovation and restoration of the dzong

Among the most important sections of the dzong that were completely reconstructed were the Minjur Lhakhang, the Zimchungsarp, the Chorten Lhakhang and the lower Drashag.

Trongsa Dzong before the restauration

The portal and adjoining buildings were also dismantled and reconstructed in their original locations by artisans from different parts of the country.

According to the project manager of the Trongsa Dzong Renovation Project, Kinley Wangchuk, the renovation work had to be done very carefully because many parts of the dzong had become fragile with age.

"Most of the structures within the dzong were adjoining the damaged areas and had to be dismantled part by part," the manager said.

The other renovation works included support to the portal building, drainage in the inner courtyard, disposal drains outside the dzong, relocation of the monks' residences, reconstruction of toilets for upper and lower Dashags, construction of retaining walls over the slide prone areas on the western side of the dzong and electrification work for all the renovated areas.

The roof was also repaired, the entire dzong white washed and painted, and the ancient frescos that decorate the dzong's walls were restored. The project improved and relocated the tarey (horse stable) and monk body's kitchen outside the dzong to reduce the risk of fire, constructed the Bazam (traditional bridge), the dzong security house, renovated the Chokhor Mani, installed a Serto Jabjee for Jam Lhakhang, electrified the Drashag adjoining the Zimchungsarp and constructed the dzong archery ground. The salt room will be improved and lightening protection for the entire dzong installed.

Trongsa Dzong: History
Trongsa Dzong before the restauration
A rich history Nestled on a hill, overlooking the Mangdechu river, the Trongsa dzong is a testimony of Bhutan's architectural heritage, political history, rich traditions and cultures. This imposing structure, witness to various significant events which has shaped Bhutanese history, has a rich legacy left behind by religious and political leaders from the 16th century onwards.

The origins of the Trongsa dzong date back to the time of Yongzin Ngagi Wangchuk who meditated at the village of Yueli, in Trongsa in 1541, a few kilometers above the present Dzong.

There he saw the vision of Pelden Lhamo. One night during his meditation, Yongzin Ngagi Wangchuk saw a butter lamp light up below the ridge of the present goenkhang housing Bhutan's guardian deities, Pelden Lhamo (Mahakali), Yeshey Goembo, Leki Goembo.

A visit to the site revealed the footprints of a steed and the lhatsho (scared pond) of the guardian deity, Pelden Lhamo. Realising that the place was a ney (sacred site) he built a meditation quarter (tshamkhang). During his meditation a vision of the deity Pelden Lhamo appeared. This led him to construct a small temple which he named Mondrupde. Over the years Yongzin Ngagi Wangchuk's disciples built smaller meditation centers near the Mondrupde lhakhang which soon began to resemble a small village. The people of Yueli named this new settlement Trong-sar (meaning a new village).

In 1647, Chhoeje Minjur Tenpa was appointed by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel as the first Trongsa Penlop and Shabdrung's representative to Trongsa. On the instructions of the Zhabdrung he constructed the dzong which resembled a fort and housed various lhakhangs. He also built the present goenkhang on the same spot where Yongzin Ngagi Wangchuk saw his vision.

The dzong was later named Druk Minjur Choekhor Rabten Tse by Chhoeje Minjur Tenpa which translated into "the Dzong, built on the tip of a dungkhar (conch), of the never changing country of Druk where the dharma is everlasting".

Chhoeje Minjur Tenpa is also credited for the extension of the dzong in 1652, with the construction of the Poekhang or Minjur Lhakhang and at the end of the 17th century Desi Tenzin Rabgye expanded the dzong. Desi Tenzin Rabgye consecrated the Goenkhang of Pelden Lhamo and Yeshey Goembo in 1667.

In 1751, Penlop Druk Dendrup built the Chenreyzig Lhakhang and in 1765 the Trongsa Penlop, Zhidar, established the Trongsa Rabdey dratshang with about 50 monks. In 1927King Jigme Wangchuck renovated the Chenreyzig Lhakhang.

In 1853, the tenth Trongsa Penlop, Jigme Namgyel, built the Dechhog Lhakhang in the central section of the Dzong. According to legend, prior to the consecration of the Dechhog image and the Dechhog Lhakhang, two disciples of Lam Jangchu Tsindup arrived from Tibet with the sacred self created (rangjung) image of Dorji Phagmo, one of the 21 Rangjung Kharsa Pani, a religious relic formed miraculously from the spinal bone of Tsangpa Jarey, the patriarch of the Drukpa Kargyue sect. The sacred rangjung was offered to Trongsa Penlop Jigme Namgyel and is today housed in a Gaw (amulet) placed at the center of a life size silver image of the Dorje Phagmo in the Dechhog Lhakhang.

In all, the dzong has 25 lhakhangs, including the Chorten Lhakhang built by Yongzin Ngagi Wangchuk in 1543, housing sacred images and religious treasures and the intricate wood carvings and beautiful frescos that decorate the walls and pillars are a testimony to Bhutan's rich religious and culture traditions.

Today, more than 460 years after it was established as a meditation quarter, the dzong is a magnificent example of ancient traditional Bhutanese construction techniques and aestheticism.

Contributed By Rinzin Wangchuk, Kuensel, Bhutan's National Newspaper

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