Dzong is a unique architectural style mainly prominent in a small part of Asia. Dzongs have a rich history behind them, especially in Bhutan which is arguably the country of dzongs. In English, dzong means fortress-monastery generally built in mountain passes or high altitudes. Dzongs serve as both defense mechanisms and places of education and worship.
Although there are several clashing views on whether Paro is truly a dzong or not, no one can deny that it is a magnificent sight to look at. Located up on a cliff in the Himalayas, a source of legends, Paro Takstang is the symbol of Bhutan’s rich myths and history. The dzong was built in 1692 Tenzin Rabgye the fourth Druk Desi, the title of Bhutan’s rulers.
Paro Takstang stands upon a highly sacred location in the history of Bhutan. According to legends, the animal tamer Padmasambhava flew to this location on the wings of a tiger. He then went on to meditate for three years, three months, and three weeks. Moreover, he taught new things to his followers which became parts of Buddhism too all for which they dedicated Paro Takstang to him.
One of the oldest dzongs in the country of dzongs, Tashicho Dzong’s history goes back to at least the 13th century. Although one of the oldest, the dzong is still in use by the Bhutanese government. Since its construction, Tashicho dzong served as the residency of Druk Desi. Moreover, it is also home to the Bhutanese government since 1968.
The dzong survived various fires and earthquakes but through renovations, it still stands strong. From the 13th to the 18th century, the dzong was a place of worship and only monks lived in it. In the 18th century, some government officials started to occupy the dzong as well. Although it has seen many renovations, the important part is that all of them had to comply with the traditional look of the dzong and not use any nails.
What many call the most beautiful dzong in Bhutan, Punakha Dzong is the second oldest and largest dzong in the country. It is the administrative center of Punakha district which was the capital of Bhutan until 1955. The dzong is in the middle of two rivers and the only way to reach it is by a bridge. While the original bridge is no longer here, its 2008 version does the job as well.
Punakha Dzong has an intriguing story behind its construction. One night, the future architect of the Dzong sees an important spiritual Buddhist man in his dream. The man tells him to sleep under a small dzong but at the same time shows him a palace. The architect decides to build the palace that the man showed him in his dream which went on to become Punakha Dzong.
Despite being one of the smallest dzongs in Bhutan, Simtokha is the oldest dzong that survived in its original form. It was built by Zhabdrung who unified Bhutan in the 17th century. It was the first dzong in Bhutan after the unification and served as both monastery and an administrative center. Simtokha survived various invasions with little to no damage in the 17th century.
The dzong has a unique story behind it. The Bhutanese Buddhists believe that the dzong is a form of protection. In Buddhist belief, Simtokha Dzong protects the land of Bhutan against a demon that is trapped in a rock nearby. The name Simtokha comes from the words “simmo” and “do” which roughly translates to “the demon of the stone.”
The largest dzong in the country of dzongs, Trongsa Dzong is as majestic as it gets. It was built by Tibetan Buddhists in the 16th century. Various developments added to the dzong and it gradually became the version it is today. Although the dzong suffered heavily in the late 19th century due to earthquakes, through extensive renovations it came back to life and today serves as the administrative building of Trongsa District.
Currently, 200 monks reside in the dzong which has a print house that prints some of the most important Buddhist texts. When the Tibetan Buddhists came to this rocky hill, they realized that it was a barren land. However, they later saw a strong source of light at the end of the spur and believed that this was a sign. Therefore, they built the temple in the exact spot all those years ago.