Paro dzong is also known as Rinchen Pung Dzong or Ringpung Dzong in short. Rinchen Pung Dzong means ‘Fortress on a heap of jewels’. It is located in Paro and serves as a residence for the monastic body, district government offices and local judicial court as well. Paro dzong is one of the sightseeing places in Paro.
The history of Paro dzong dates back to 15th century when a Lama called Drung Drung Gyal built a small temple in Paro. Later Gyelchok (the founder of Drukpa Kagyupa School in Bhutan) built a five storied building on this small temple. Then it was known as Hungrel Dzong. The legend says that the base of the dzong’s cliff was the Lha Tsho (Soul Lake) of the deity called Jag Wog Nep.
In 1644 Gyelchok offered Hungrel Dzong to Zhabdrung Ngawang namgyal. After that, Zhabdrung built the further construction. The dzong was established to serve as both monastic and administrative of the western region, and was called as Rinpung Dzong. The dzong caught fire in the year 1905 but was repaired to its original state.
The first entrance towards the dzong is the beautiful wooden bridge called Nyamai Zam which is roofed with shingles. In 1969, the original bridge was washed away by the flood and the present bridge is the reconstruction of it. The dzong is located on a steep hillside. The first courtyard of the dzong is the administrative offices. We can see ‘Utse’ (tower) which is five storeys tall and is one of the most beautiful towers with outstanding woodwork. Utse was built in 1649, during the reign of the first Penlop (Governor) of Paro. We can see a small lhakang towards the east of the Utse. This lhakang is dedicated to Chuchizey which is an 11-headed manifestation of Chenresig.
We can see a monastic quarter which is led by a stairway. This quarter houses about 200 monks. To the left of the southern side, we can see the classrooms of the monks called ‘Kunrey’. There is also a large prayer hall which we call Dukhang. Opposite to this Dukhang, we can see beautiful exterior murals which depict the life of a Tibetan poet-saint Milarepa.
Rinpung dzong has fourteen shrines and chapels which are Kungarwa, Monk’s assembly hall, Sandalwood Stupa, Protector’s shrine, temple of the Guru’s Eight Manifestations, Chapel of the head Lama, The clear Crystal Shrine, Chapel of the Eleven-faced Avalokitesvara, Apartments of the Abbot, Chapel of Akshobhya, Temple of the Treasure Revealer, Apartments of the King and Temple of the Bursar.
After the reconstruction from the fire, the dzong was added with statues of Guru Rinpoche, Buddha and Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. Most of the important relics of the dzong were destroyed by the fire but a precious Thangka (embroidered religious picture) was saved. This Thangka is 20×20 meter-wide and is displayed annually for the Thongdrol. This Thangka was commissioned by the eighth Druk Desi called Chhogyel Sherab Wangchuk in the 18th century.
Tsechu of Rinpung dzong is held in the 11th to the 15th day of the second month of the traditional Bhutanese lunar calendar, which is usually in March or April according to the Gregorian calendar. In this great annual festival, series of traditional mask dances are performed by monks. This mask dances conveys religious stories and are performed in the stone-paved festival ground which is located to the northeast of the entrance.
Before the fall of sunlight on the 15th day morning, a huge thangka which is an embroidered religious picture is displayed for the public. This great sacred thangka depicts the Eight Manifestations of Guru Padmasambhava. This thangka is displayed before the break of dawn because to keep the tradition of not allowing the sunlight to fall on it.
It is best to visit in the month of February or March because along with the visit to this beautiful views and places, we can also witness the great annual festival called Tsechu. Along with the Paro tsechu, we can also witness other tsechu within Paro such as Dzongdrakha tsechu and all.
We can drive from the Paro town to reach the Rinpung dzong. It is 15 minutes walk from the town.