Dzongs in Bhutan
1. Daga Dzong
Location: Located on a ridge overlooking the Daga valley.
Background: The building of the dzong by Druk Namgyal under the command of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal was started in 1648 and completed in 1651. Named Daga Trashiyangtse Dzong, the dzong was built to defend the country from invading forces from the South and Duar areas. The dzong was the seat of Daga Penlop during the time of Druk Desi. Today, the dzong houses the district administration as well as the district monastic body. It consists of many temples, including the goenkhang (inner sanctum) of Mahakala and Mahakali, Lamai Lhakhang, Jigjed Lhakhang, and Neten Lhakhang.
2. Dokar Dobji Dzong
Location: Located at an altitude of 6,600 feet, below the Thimphu-Haa highway, some distance from Chunzom.
Background: Considered to be the first model dzong of Bhutan, Dokar Dobji Dzong was built by Lam Ngawang Chogyal in 1531. The name Dokar is derived from the five white boulders found in the village (do – stone; kar – white). The five-storey dzong was used as the main Kagyu centre during the time of Ngawang Chogyal. Later, after building Hungrel Dzong in Paro, it became the winter residence for the monastic body. It also served as the seat of Dogar Penlop. It was renovated in 1976 and converted into a central prison. The dzong consists of a temple housing the statue of Jetsun Milarepa, Guru Langdarchen, Dungsey Dewa Zangpo (son of Drupthop Thangtong Gyalpo), and Ngawang Chogyal, besides the goenkhang of Mahakala, Mahakali and the Raven Deity.
3. Drukgyal Dzong
Location: Located in Phongdey village in Paro.
Background: The dzong was built as one of the principal Dra Dzongs (defence dzongs). While some attribute the building of the dzong to Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1649 to commemorate a victory over Tibetan invasion, some attribute it to the second Druk Desi Tenzin Drukdra. But as its name suggests (Druk – Drukpa; gyal – victory), the dzong was built to celebrate the victory over Tibetans. The dzong was used as the summer residence of Rinpung Rabdey until 1951 when it was completely burnt down. The dzong is currently being rebuilt to its former glory to celebrate the birth of Gyalsey Jigme Namgyel.
4. Gasa Dzong
Location: Built on a slope that resembles Tsheringma, the Goddess of Long life.
Background: Formally known as Gasa Trashi Thongmon Dzong, Gasa Dzong was built by the second Desi Tenzin Drukdra in the 1640s under the command of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. It served as the Dra Dzong (defence fortress) of the north. The dzong has three watch towers and many temples. The dzong contains the skeleton of Zhabdrung Rinpoche’s sheep. Today, the dzong houses the district administration, district court, and district monastic body.
5. Haa Dzong
Location: The dzong is located in the Haa valley.
Background: The dzong was originally built in 1895 in the village of Damchog and was called Damchog Dzong. Later, during the reign of the second Druk Gyalpo, the dzong was enlarged and used as an administrative centre. Known as Wangchuck Lodzong (Wangchuck Training Centre) today, the dzong was handed over to IMTRAT (Indian Military Training Team) in 1963 and its is still occupied by them.
6. Jakar Dzong
Location: Located on a ridge above Chamkhar valley.
Background: Jakar Dzong, formally called Jakar Yugyal Dzong, was founded by Lam Ngagi Wangchuk in 1549. Lam Ngagi Wangchuk was believed to have seen a white bird land at the spot where he built a small temple and started a monastic body. Later, when Desi Chogyal Migyur Tenpa expanded the temple into a dzong in 1646, it came to be known as Jakar (Bya dkar) Dzong (White Bird Dzong). The dzong houses many temples and it is today the seat of district administration and monastic body.
7. Lhuntse Dzong
Location: Located on a rocky spur overlooking the Kurichu River.
Background: When Lam Ngagi Wangchuk was looking for a site for his winter residence, the local deity of the place appeared at the very spot on which the dzong stands in the form of a white bleating goat. Considering it as a good omen, the lam built a small temple at the site in 1552. The dzong that was built in 1654 came to be known as Lhundrub Rinchentse Dzong. But it is sometimes called Leley Dzong (Goat Dzong). The dzong has two parts: Dzong Thogma (Upper Dzong) that houses the monastic body and eight temples and Dzong Wogma (Lower Dzong) that houses the district administration.
8. Paro Dzong
Location: Located on the bank of Pachu River.
Background: Paro Dzong, formally known as Rinchen Pung Dzong (shortened to Rinpung Dzong), was built in 1644 under the command of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. It is one of the most beautiful and historically important dzongs in the country. Today, it houses both district administration and monastic body.
9. Punakha Dzong
Location: The dzong is situated on a stretch of a land where two rivers – Phochu and Mochu – meet.
Background: The dzong was built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1937 and named it Pungthang Dewa Chenpai Phodrang, the palace of great bliss. Later it became the final retreat palace for him. The first monarch, King Ugyen Wangchuck, was crowned there and it served as the capital of the country until 1955. Today it serves as the winter residence of the Central Monastic Body. The sacred relic Rangjung Kharsapani is also kept in the Machen Temple inside the dzong.
10. Simtokha Dzong
Location: Located around 5 km south of Thimphu town.
Background: The oldest dzong in Bhutan built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1629, it is believed to have been built over a stone onto which Zhabdrung Rinpoche pinned down a demon and subdued it. The dzong contains the bed chambers of Zhabdrung and Desi Jigme Namgyal, the father of the first King of Bhutan. Formally known as Sanga Zabdon Phodrang (Palace of the Profound Meaning of Secret Mantras), the dzong contains many sacred relics.
11. Paro Ta Dzong
Location: Located on a spur above Rinpung Dzong, five and a half kilometres’ drive from Tshongdu town.
Background: The dzong was built in the mid-17th century as a watchtower overlooking Rinpung Dzong by Lanyongpa Tenzin Drukdra and Chogyal Migyur Tenpa. The circular dzong houses the National Museum of Bhutan.
12. Tashicho Dzong
Location: Located on the bank of the Wangchu River in the Hejo village.
Background: Tashicho Dzong was built in 1641 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and enlarged in 1694 by Gyalse Tenzin Rabgay. It was entirely rebuilt under the command of Third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck in 1962. Today, the dzong is the seat of the central government, His Majesty the King’s office, and the summer residence of the Central Monastic Body.
13. Trashigang Dzong
Location: Located on a hilltop overlooking the Drangmechu River.
Background: The dzong was built by the third Druk Desi Migyur Tenpa as prophesied by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1659. It is also referred to as the fortress of the Auspicious Mound. The dzong was built to spread the Drukpa rule over the eight regions of the east (Sharchog Khorlo Tsib Gyed). The dzong houses the statue of Drubthob Thangtong Gyalpo sculptured by himself and many different temples, including a goenkhang. The fortress also consists of the monastic body of Trashigang district and the district administration.
14. Trashiyangtse Dzong
Location: Located on a ridge, four kilometres from Trashiyangtse town.
Background: The dzong was first built in the 9th century as Dongdi Dzong. Later, Terton Pema Lingpa rebuilt the dzong from its ruins in the 15th century and renamed it as Trashiyangtse Dzong. Later in 1648, when the eastern districts came under the Drukpa rule, Trongsa Chila Migyur Tenpa renovated and enlarged the dzong. The dzong consists of many sacred relics, including the statue of Chuchizhey and Jampelyang.
15. Trongsa Dzong
Location: Located spectacularly on a ridge overlooking the Mangdechu River.
Background: The most spectacular dzong in Bhutan, Trongsa Dzong was built by Chogyal Migyur Tenpa in 1647 at the site where a small temple was built by Yongzin Ngagi Wangchuk and named it Druk Migyur Chokor Rabten Tse. The dzong was once a seat of the highest ranking regional ruler in Bhutan, Trongsa Penlop. The dzong consists of many different temples built by many different rulers and saints of Bhutan.
16. Wangduephodrang Dzong
Location: The dzong is located on a ridge that “resembles a sleeping elephant”.
Background: Located between Punatsangchu and Dangchu, Wangdiphodrang Dzong was built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1638 on a mountain ridge that resembles a sleeping elephant. Zhabdrung is believed to have received the prophecy to build the dzong from guardian deity Mahakala while meditating at Khyime Lhakhang. He sent his attendant to check out the place after a dark figure instructed him to meditate on the ridge. On approaching the ridge, the attendant saw four ravens fly towards four directions. Taking it as a good omen, Zhabdrung built the dzong. Years later, it was enlarged by the 4th Desi Tenzin Rabgay. The dzong was completely burnt down in June 2012 it is being rebuilt to former glory.
17. Zhemgang Dzong
Location: Located on a triangular ridge facing Trong and Zhemgang town.
Background: Lama Zhang Dorji Drakpa from Tibet founded the dzong in the 12th century in the form of a small hermitage. Later, around 1655, a one-storey dzong was built to mark the unification of Khengrig Namsum (upper, middle and lower Kheng region) under Chotse Penlop. With Zhemgang becoming a separate district, the dzong was renovated in 1963 under the command of Third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. Today, the dzong has seven temples, including a goenkhang, Mithrugpai Lhakhang, Lhamoi Lhakhang, Nekhang, old Kuenrey Lhakhang, Guru Lhakhang, and New Kunrey Lhakhang.
18. Zhongar Dzong
Location: Located on a gentle slope between Lingmithang and Thridangbi village in Mongar.
Background: There is no record of when the dzong was built, but it is believed to have been built by an architect called Zochen Bala from Paro under the command of the local chieftain Karpo Dung. It is said that the chieftain killed the architect on completion of the dzong so that no one would build a similar dzong. The architect cursed the king which led to the downfall of his reign which in turn led to the downfall of the dzong. The grand dzong is in ruins today.