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Bhutan

Tashichhodzong

Tashichhodzong was built in 1641 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and reconstructed in 1962, by the Late King, His Majesty, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. While other governments around the world ensconce themselves in fortresses of stone and steel, the seat of Bhutan's Royal Government is in a building that mirrors the county's culture and its people.

The Taschichho Dzong was built in the late 1700's and also serves as the home of the Central Monastic Body. The building we see today is largely a modern affair, built in 1962 when His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuk moved the government to Thimphu after a fire at its original location.

With the consecration of a newly built Neten Chudrug (16 Arhats) Thongdroel by His Holiness the Je Khenpo on February 20, 2002 an invaluable religious treasure has been added to Trashichhodzong.

Measuring 43 by 64 ft, the Thongdroel depicting the Buddha Shakyamuni, surrounded by his 16 followers (Arhats), was created under His Holiness' initiative. His Holiness also contributed Nu. 1.6 million to construct the Thongdroel which took six months of meticulous and painstaking work for 13 artists. It will be unfurled to the public annually on the 15th day of the 4th month of the Bhutanese calendar, coinciding with the Duechhen Ngazom (Lord Buddha's Mahaparinirvana) celebration. "The success of creating this unique masterpiece goes to the concerted efforts of embroidery master, Lopon Ugyen, and his artists who put long hours into the making of the Thongdroel," said the deputy secretary of the Dratshang Lhentshog, Ngawang Phuntsho. "If we did not put in extra efforts it would have taken at least a year or so," Lopon Ugyen, who built more than 14 various Thongdroels over the years, said.

The need for the Neten Chudrug Thongdroel was felt when His Holiness initiated a special prayer ceremony last year as an annual event on the sacred occasion of Lord Buddha's Mahaparinirvana which is celebrated all over the Buddhist world. "Since we do not have this Thongdroel in Trashichhodzong we had to hire and bring the Sangay Tsokhorsum Thongdroel all the way from Dagana dzong during the celebration of Duechhen Ngazom last year," Ngawang Phuntsho said. According to religious beliefs, a mere sight of thongdroel liberates sentient beings from the transmigratory existence through its great cleansing power.

Trongsa Dzong

Built 463 years ago, the dzong's street-like corridors, wide stone stairs, beautiful flagstone courtyards and sacred temples have been witness to many significant events that have shaped Bhutanese history since the 16th century.
Trongsa Dzong today represents an important link with Bhutan's precious institution of monarchy.

"The Trongsa dzong is a symbol of Bhutan's rich cultural and religious heritage which we have inherited from our forefathers and the announcement that efforts would be made to preserve and restore was a source of great joy to us," said the Trongsa chimi.

Now we can pass on the legacy to the future generations of Bhutanese who can also look on it with equal pride." Karma of Korphu said that the people of Trongsa saw the renovation as an opportunity to contribute in any way they could to preserving a part of Bhutanese history. "We, the people of Trongsa, are ready to assist in any way we can to ensure that the dzong stands for many more centuries," he said. "It is a monument that the people of Trongsa are proud to have."

Tashi Dorji of Drakteng geog said that the renovations were timely in that the government had taken the initiative to restore the dzong before any major irreversible damages could occur. "The Trongsa dzong is a precious historical monument and if anything were to happen to it, it will be a great loss not only to the dzongkhag but also to the nation as a whole," he said.

The Trongsa dzongda, Dasho Dophu Tshering, said that the preservation of the Trongsa dzong was important to the dzongkhag and the entire country.

"The Trongsa dzong is of national significance because it is where the institution of monarchy in Bhutan began," he said. "The dzong is also one of the largest structures measuring about 227 meters and is home to the second largest monastic body in the country."

Dechen Dzong

Zhemgang dzongkhag derives its name from a 12th century monastery built by Lam Zhang Dorji Dragpa, a scholar-sage of Drukpa Kagyud School according to a Bhutanese researcher. The Dechen Yantse dzong, in 1980, stands on the site where Lam Zhang built a monastery in 12th century The monastery was named "Zhangang" or immeasurable mound based on the name of the founder who visited Bhutan from Zhamling in Tibet in his mission to propagate Buddhism.

"Zhemgang, then called as Khengrig Namsum in olden times derived its name from Zhangang, different pronunciation changed the name into Zhemgang," the researcher at the national library said.
The monastery, which was later rebuilt as a dzong in the 17thcentury had a significant role in the evolution and shaping of the history of Khengrig Namsum. It has witnessed the major events of triumphs and blunders, withstood intrigues, a sacrilegious murder and cruel jolts of nature in the history of Zhemgang.

Taktshang Monastery

After Guru Rinpoche departed from Bhutan, Langchen Pelkyi Singye returned to Taktshang to meditate. After he passed away in Nepal, Pelkyi Singye's Kudung was brought back to Taktshang by his assistant Damchen Dorji Legpa. Today, the Kudung of his principal disciple, Langchen Pelkyi Singye, lies in the Pelphug. The sanctity of Taktshang was strengthened, over the years, by a number of saints who meditated in the cave.

In the 11th century, Mila Repa (1052-1135), the Yogi and the disciple of Marpa, is said to have meditated at Taktshang. Here, he composed his famous song, the exposition of Ten Signs (Tag Chu) of yogic attainment.

In the 12th century, Mahasiddha Pha Dampa Sangye, the famous Indian saint who introduced the Chod system in Tibet, visited Taktshang. His disciple, the famous yogini Machig Labdron, is said to have left a foot-print on a rock at Taktshang known today as Machigphug.

In the 16th century, Terton Pema Lingpa discovered the religious texts of "Kuenzang Yathig" and "Kagyed Yangsang Lamed" after intense meditation in Taktshang. Other saints like Machig Labdron and Terton Lethro Lingpa also meditated in the Taktshang cave. Religious pilgrims to Taktshang throughout Bhutanese history include successive Je Khenpos including the late Geshe Geduen Rinchhen who was born in a cave near Taktshang.

Taktshang saw significant development as a monastic site in the 17th century whenZhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel took over its custody. The plan to build a lhakhang at Taktshang was originally that of Zhabdrung himself. It was at Taktshang, during the Tibetan war of 1644/46, that he and his Tibetan Nyingmapa teacher, Terton Rigdzin Nyingpo, first performed the ritual associated with the Tshechu, invoking Padma Sambhava and the protective deities to achieve victory over the invading armies. In a meditative vision at that moment, the local deity of Taktshang came to the Zhabdrung in the form of a black man and offered Taktshang to him, saying that if he took it, he would ensure that no one could ever steal it. As it turned out, Bhutan's success in the war became a defining moment in the country's history, but the Zhabdrung was never able to carry out his plan to build the celebratory lhakhang.

Between 1961 and 1965, the monastery was renovated by the 34th Je Khenpo, Shedrup Yoezer. The latest additions were made in 1982. The Lam Neten of Paro said that the reconstruction of the Taktshang Monastery, during the reign of His Majesty King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, was not just an important event in the history of Bhutan but it was an invaluable contribution to the preservation, teaching, and strengthening of Buddhism, one of the world's great religions.

Trashiyangtse Dzong

One of the most revered and oldest monasteries in eastern Bhutan, the Trashiyangtse Dzong was originally calledDongdi Dzong. Historical accounts suggest that a palace or dzong of some kind was built on the present site as far back as the ninth century by Gongkar Gyalpo, grandson ofLhasey Tsangma.

According to the principal of Trashiyangtse Institute for Zorig Chusum, Lam Kezang, who conducted research on Trashiyangtse dzong, Terton Pema Lingpa (the treasure revealer)built the dzong in the 15th century on the same site where Dongdi dzong stood.

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