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Popular religious festival or Tshechu in Bhutan - Trongsa Tshechu

Trongsa Tshechu - Popular Festivals in Bhutan

Trongsa Dzong has a rich history dating back to the 16th century. The first construction on the site was carried out by Lam Ngagi Wangchuck, son of Ngawang Chhojey, who also established Pangri Zampa in Thimphu. He came to Trongsa in 1541 and built a tshamkhang (small meditation room) after discovering self-manifested hoof-prints belonging to the horse of the protector deity Pelden Lhamo. Trongsa ('New Village' in the local dialect) gets its name from the retreats, temples and hermit residences that soon grew up around the chapel.


The rambling assemblage of buildings that comprises the dzong trails down the ridge and is connected by a succession of alley-like corridors, wide stone stairs and beautiful paved courtyards. The southernmost part of the Dzong, Chorten Lhakhang, is the location of the first hermitage, built in 1543. The Dzong was built in its present form in 1644 by Chhogyel Mingyur Tenpa, the official who was sent by the Zhabdrung to unify eastern Bhutan. It was then enlarged at the end of the 17th century by the Desi, Tenzin Rabgye. Its official name is Chhoekhor Raptentse Dzong, and it is also known by its short name of Choetse Dzong.

The dzong's strategic location gave it great power over this part of the country. The only trail between eastern and western Bhutan still leads straight through Trongsa and used to run directly through the Dzong itself. This gave the Trongsa penlop enviable control over east–west trade and the tax revenue to be derived from it. Today most visitors enter through the main eastern gate, but energetic types can hike the Mangdue Foot-Trail from the viewpoint and enter the dzong via the western gate, in traditional fashion.

Trongsa Dzong is also the ancestral home of Bhutan's Royal family. The first two hereditary Kings ruled from this Dzong, and tradition still dictates that the crown prince serve as Trongsa Penlop (Governer) before acceding to the throne.

The Trongsa rabdey (district monk body) migrates between winter (Trongsa) and summer (Bumthang) residences, just as the main dratshang (central monk body) does between Thimphu and Punakha.

There are 23 separate lhakhangs (temples) in the dzong. The Dzong was severely damaged in the 1897 earthquake, and repairs were carried out by the penlop of Trongsa, Jigme Namgyal, father of Bhutan's first King. Most of the existing fine decoration was designed during the rule of the first King, Ugyen Wangchuck.

The three-day Trongsa Tsechu is held in the northern courtyard in December or January and takes place from the 9th to 11th day of 11th lunar month in the Bhutanese calendar. Of the many smaller festivals held in various parts of Trongsa, the grandest is this three-day annual Tshechu. This festival brings together people from all walks of life. In addition to traditional mask dances, visitors can witness the unfurling of the sacred Thongdrol and receive blessings from high ranking monks. People also receive blessings from the sacred Nangtens that is opened during the last day of the Tshechu.

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