Trashigang: The Jewel of the East - Trashigang spans the easternmost corners of the kingdom, skirting up to the edge of the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. It is the country’s largest district, with an altitude ranging from 600m to over 4000m.
Bhutan’s largest river, the Dangmechu, flows through this district. Trashigang town is set on a scenic hillside and was once a bustling trade center for merchants looking to barter their goods in Tibet.
Today it is the junction of the East-West highway, with road connections to Samdrup Jongkhar and then into the Indian state of Assam. Trashigang town is also the principle market place for the semi-nomadic people of Merak and Sakteng, whose unique way of dress stands out from the regular Bhutanese Gho and Kira.
Built in 1659, the Dzong serves as the administrative seat for the district as well as the home of the monk body. The Dzong commands a remarkable view over the surrounding countryside. This imposing fortress is strategically situated high atop a spur overlooking the Dangmechu River. According to legend it is said that upon seeing the Dzong, invading Tibetan armies remarked that the Dzong was “not on the ground. It is a Sky Dzong” before retreating. It has been the political stronghold of Eastern Bhutan for over 300 years.
Mount Meru is the site of the palace of the Druk Chhoglay Namgyal (victory of Bhutanese Over enemies in all directions). It is accessible only from the north, via a narrow road, paved by blasting through the cliff-side. Due to its location Trashigang Dzong is one of the most strategically placed Dzongs in Bhutan. The present Dzong was enlarged by Dzongpon Dopola, in 1936.
24 km from Trashigang, the temple of Gom Kora is set on a small alluvial plateau overlooking the river. Surrounded by rice fields and clumps of banana tress , it looks like an oasis in an arid landscape. It is one of the famous places where Guru Rinpoche meditated in order to subdue a demon that dwelt in a huge black rock.
This monastery is more than half an hour drive from Trashigang town. It is a Nyingmapa monastery founded by Garab Rinpoche in 1990. One can get a good view of the valley from the monastery.
This monastery is supported by The Rangjung Foundation , was established in 2007 by Dungse Garab Rinpoche, as per the approval letter no.DLG-26/2006/875 dated 17.05.2006 of Ministry of Home and Culture Affairs and Registered Certificate awarded by Commission of Religious Organization on 31/07/2013, also registered as Tax Exempt Organization with the Department of Revenue & Customs, Ministry of Finance on 28 July 2010 under the Tax Exempt Code No. E05.
It is a non-profit foundation established with the main purpose of supporting the welfare of over 500 monks, nuns, yogis and old folks of Rangjung Woesel Choeling Monastery, Thegchhog Kunzang Chhodon Nunnery, retreat centres and old folks home in Bhutan, as well as helping the poor and needy. Additionally, Rangjung Foundation organises and implements long term projects in dharma propagation and conduct welfare activities
In Kanglung, besides the Zangdopelri, another place of visit is to Sherubtse College or the Peak of Learning. Founded in the late 1960s as a Higher Secondary School, Sherubtse College was until recently the only Institute of Higher Learning in the country. It was run by the Jesuits from Canada and the late Father William Mackey was its first Principal. The College has been instrumental in providing the much needed higher skill base for the country as many of the graduates were employed by various Ministries, Corporations and Organizations.
Further up the road from Sherubtse College is located the oldest temple in Trashigang – the Yonphu Lhakhang whose establishment cannot be ascertained. It houses several sacred relics and a Tercham that is conducted twice in a year commemorating the feats of religious luminaries like Guru Padmasambhava.
A 22 km drive on the highway that connects Trashigang with Samdrup Jongkhar will take you to Kanglung where one can visit the Zangdopelri lhakhang. Built in the early 1970s at the initiative of the late Tamzhing Jagar, the Minister for Home and Cultural Affairs, the lhakhang houses some of the most intricately designed statues besides a Shedra, a monastic school headed by a Khenpo.