The pristine land of Bhutan is blessed with serenity and peace spread all over the country. No doubt it has been announced as the eighth happiest country in the world. You feel the touch of spirituality and simplicity in the air, in the people and their life-style from the very first moment you step foot on the land for a tour in Bhutan.
The mystery and divinity drag you inside when you are in the lap of the ‘land of thunder dragon’, especially when you go for visiting the monasteries. The monasteries of Bhutan were actually built as defense from enemies, as the word ‘Dzong’ refers to its precise meaning ‘fortress’. Dzongs were built on the mountain spurs following the strategy to prevent any invasion or attack. These fortresses are a prominent and significant part of the history of Bhutan. Later they tuned into centers of cultural and religious activities. Not only that, each and every Dzong carefully preserve the national treasures, weapons, written records, books etc.
If you are on sightseeing trip to Bhutan and you haven’t planned to make a tour to the monasteries at Bhutan, the prime part of that country will be unknown to you. Not only because they are historically and religiously important, they execute excellent examples of the architecture of Bhutan too. Dzongas or monasteries in Bhutan are thus an unavoidable part of this holy land from every aspect. Bhutan tour is not even half complete without experiencing the spiritual aura of the monasteries.
1. Taktsang Dzong (Tiger Nest Monastery)
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Usually known as Paro Taktsang, this monastery hangs on a cliff and stands above a mesmerizing jungle of rhododendrons and blue pines. Legend says that Bhutan was sanctified after Guru Padmasambhava came to this place on a tigress’s back, defeated a demon and meditated there for three years, three months, three weeks, three days and three hours in the 8th century. Now it is blessed with Bhutan’s most sacred location of religious importance.
2. Punakha Dzong
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Punakha Dzong is genuinely the palace of great happiness or bliss, as the other name Pungtang Dechen Photrang Dzong refers. Legend says that Guru Padmasambhava foretold that “a person named Namgyal will arrive at a hill that looks like an elephant”. When the first Zhabdrung Rinpoche, Ngawang Namgyal, visited Punakha, he discovered a hill seems to be the trunk of elephant. He built the Dzong there on 1637-38.
3. Tango Monastery
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If you head 14 km north from the capital city of Thimpu, near Cheri Mountain, you will be introduced to a monastery built in Dzong fashion. The word ‘tango’ means ‘horse head’ in Bhutanese language and this name derived from the horse headed ‘Hayagriva’, the main deity of wisdom and knowledge. First Zhabdrung, Ngawang Namgyal, meditated in the cave of this monastery.
4. Trongsa Dzong
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The Bhutanese district of Trongsa is honored with the largest fortress of Bhutan, located in the centre of the country. Now-a-days it serves the purpose of headquarters and an important administrative building of Trongsa district. This place is sometimes called as ‘way to heaven’. With the backdrop the Black Mountains and wild rocky area, it is located on a spur above the Mangde Chhu valley. This situation creates a magnetic view and haunts people throughout the globe.
5. Rinpung Dzong
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This Dzong in Paro district is a large Buddhist monastery and fortress. UNESCO included the name of this monastery in the list of tentative sites in Bhutan. In the 17th century, Ngawang Namgyal was recognized for his religious and temporal authority, with offering this fortress by the descendants of Lama Drung Drung Gyal. Deyangkha Temple is just outside the Rinpung Dzong and fourteen shrines and chapels are found inside.
6. Lhuntse Dzong
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This monastery in Lhuntse district in eastern Bhutan is a very significant Dzong, and culturally it is rooted to central Bhutan. Three of the five temples in the Dzong are in central area, dedicated to Guru Padmasambhava. Today, the town beside it is the administrative capital of the district and the Dzong is a home to 100 monks now.
7. Gangteng Monastery
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Located in the Wangdue Phodrang district of central Bhutan, the Gangteng Monastery is the main seat based on the well-known Pema Lingpa’s tradition and was established in 1613. It is situated on a spur amidst the Gangteng village, in the west side of the Black Mountain on a range above 5000 meters. Tourists need to travel 75 km from Thimpu to reach here.
8. Tashichho Dzong
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On the northern edge of Thimpu, you will come across one of the finest tourists spot in Bhutan, Tashichho Dzong. Since 1968, it has been the seat of the civil government of Bhutan. This monastery presently contains the throne room and offices of the king, the cabinet secretariat and the ministries of home affairs and finance. Thirty shrines, chapels and temples are found inside the Dzong.
9. Kyichu Lhakhang
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This monastery in Paro was originally founded on 7th century. It is actually a Jowo temple of Kyichu and one of the oldest in Bhutan. It is said that Pema Lingpa revealed and restored the temple like before, when two Jowo temples was not being seen. It is said that there are two orange trees in the courtyard of Kyichu Lhakhang, which bear fruits all the time of a year.