Trongsa, in central Bhutan, was the winter capital city during the reigns of the first and second kings. It lies at 1800m above sea level and is 200 km from Thimphu, the current capital city.
Trongsa was named in 1541 AD when Lama Nagi Wangchuk, the great grandfather of Zhabdrung, visited and lived in the village of Yueli, above the Dzong. One night, he saw a light burning on the ridge below. He went to investigate and saw the footprints of the horse of Pelden Lhamo (Bhutan’s guardian deity). He took this as an auspicious sign and built a small temple which later attracted many disciples. This transformed the place into what looked like a small village and hence the name Tong Sar, meaning ‘new village’.
The site was founded by Lama Ngi Wangchuk in 1643 AD and built the Chorten Lhakhang at the edge of a ridge. In 1647 AD, Zhabdrung Rimpoche began his great work of expansion and unification, during which he discovered the strategic position of Trongsa. In 1652, Mingur Tempa the third Desi, who was sent by Zhabdrung Rimpoche to unify eastern Bhutan, built the Dzong and connected it to Chorten Lhakhang. Through the years expansion work continued for the Dzong up till the 21st century. It is Bhutan’s largest and most impressive Dzong today, signifying the magnificent work of Buddhist architecture through its four courtyards, passageways and corridors.
Trongsa Ta Dzong
In 1652 Chogyal Minjur Tempa while extending the Trongsa Dzong, he had built the Ta Dzong (Watch Tower), on a steep hill above the main Dzong, the structures consists of a massive circular five-story tower(Utse), flanked by two lower towers. These south and north towers connect to the center tower by multi-story wings. Two smaller, free standing semi circular towers located farther down hill.
Ta Dzong houses two temples. One is dedicated to the legendary Gasar of the Ling. In other, the future Buddha Maitreya is the main deity. Today Ta Dzong is both a place of worship used by Bhutanese Buddhists and a museum presenting the rich historical and religious heritage of Trongsa Dzong. A narrative thread takes the visitor through eleven galleries which showcase the historical and religious significance of Trongsa Dzong.
One of galleries is dedicated to the history of the kings of the Wangchuk dynasty who have ruled the kingdom since 1907. Religious painting and statues display in most of the Galleries.
In 2005 Ta Dzong started restoring major funding from the Austrian Government, was completed in 2008.
Kuenga Rabten Palace
The palace lies to the south of Trongsa – 23 km and one hour drive away. It was built by the second king Jigme Wangchuk in the 1930s as his winter palace. The ground floor was used to store food, the first floor was the residence of royal attendants and the king’s body guards and the second floor housed the royal quarters and the king’s private temple. It is now under the care of the Department of Home and Culture Affairs. Part of this palace is used as a library where many religious books are kept. It was established as monastery in 2006 and around 20 monks reside here presently.