Saturday, December 3, 2011

Thimphu Trashichhodzong

In keeping with the Dzongs series I've done so far I want to turn my attention now to Thimphu Trashichhodzong, the seat of His Majesty the King, the Zhung Dratshang (Central Monastic Body), the Ministries of Finance, and Home & Cultural Affairs, as well as playing host to the Thimphu Tshechu at the Tendrel Thang.

Thimphu Trashichhodzong as seen as from the Taba-Dechenchholing Road

I had a daily glimpse of the Trashichhodzong almost everyday for five-and-half years while I studied in Zilukha Lower Secondary School. All my primary and junior high days have been spent in the comforting presence of Dzongs around the schools I've been in; the first was the Paro Rinpung Dzong and the Thimphu Trashichhodzong after that.

Thimphu Trashichhodzong as seen as from the road to Zilukha just below the Zilukha Anim Dratshang

I'm not going to delve too much into the history of the Trashichhodzong. To mention just a few points - the present Dzong was constructed/renovated in its present form during the reign of the Third Druk Gyalpo Jigme Dorji Wangchuk. There is a picture dated 1921 which shows the Dzong in its erstwhile form. A significant amount of money had to be taken as aid from India, and gladly provided by them, to construct/renovate the present Dzong and that kind of cooperation laid the foundations of India-Bhutan friendship in the modern era. As per tradition the renovation works were carried out without a single nail or a formal blueprint.

Thimphu Trashichhodzong as seen as from the road to Hejo-Jungshina

Before the Dzong was moved to its present location near the Thim Chhu it was situated at the hillock where the Dechen Phodrang Monastery now stands. It was built by Lam Gyalwa Lhanangpa in the 13th century and christened Do-Ngyen Dzong (Blue Stone Dzong). When the Dzong was moved to its present location by the Zhabdrung in the 17th century Dechen Phodrang became a monastic school which is going strong even to this day.

Thimphu Trashichhodzong as seen as from the road to Hejo-Jungshina just below Dechenphodrang Monastery

As is the tradition in all Dzongs across the country, women are not allowed to stay beyond sunset and enter before sunrise. This proved to be a hitch when former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi visited Bhutan in 1968. There was no Indian Embassy nor any guesthouses for her to stay and King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk wanted her to stay at the Trashichhodzong so he consulted with the Je Khenpo at the time about the particulars regarding overnight stay. The Je Khenpo declared that since the Prime Minister was the Head of Government of another country, gender didn't matter and thus she became the first woman to stay in the Trashichhodzong overnight. The second such exception was made for Mrs.Sonia Gandhi, President of the Indian National Congress and widow of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi; they visited Bhutan in 1985 (I have the documentary video of that visit in VHS format).

Coming back to the present day, the Trashichhodzong lies on one bank of the Thim Chhu surrounded by the villages of Lanjophaka (to which there is access across a wooden cantilever bridge), Hejo, Jungshina, Zilukha, and the town areas of Kawang Jangsa and Chubachu. Across the river from it stands the SAARC Building, the seat of Bhutan's National Parliament, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. On the grounds of the Trashichhodzong are the Ministry of Agriculture & Forests, the Royal Civil Service Commission and the Office of the Gyalpoi Zimpoen. The Lingkana Palace, the residence of His Majesty the King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuk, lies in a secluded area of the Dzong grounds. The Tendrel Thang is a new addition to the north end of the Dzong; it plays host to the Annual Thimphu Tshechu, which was held inside the Dzong before its construction. The latest addition is the red LED lighting around the upper windows of the Dzong; this addition was made around the Royal Wedding of His Majesty King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuk in October, 2011. One of the most endearing images of the Dzong is when it is decked with snowfall. I haven't been able to capture that image till now - will definitely do some day. Till then, hope you like the pictures thus far.

Thimphu Trashichhodzong as seen as from across the river near the Royal Banquet Hall