Wangdue Dzong

Written by Cipto Handoyo

Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel was supposedly at Chimi Lhakhang in Punakha when he met a decrepit old man. He described a ridge in the present-day Wangdue Phodrang as a ’sleeping elephant’ and told Zhabdrung that he would unite the country by building a Dzong on the ’neck’ of the ridge. The Zhabdrung, surmising the old man to be Yeshey Gonpo (Mahakala), took his suggestion and sent forth a noble to study the area. As the emissary drew close to the area, he saw four ravens circling above the ridge. Upon reaching the ridge, the birds flew in four directions. On returning to Chimi Lhakhang, he made his report. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel took this as a good omen and immediately outlined in 1638 to construct Dzong overlooking the convergence of the Dongchu and Punatshangchu.

An interesting story connects the Dzong to the old cantilever bridge that once used to span the Punatsangchu. The bridge was built after the construction of the Dzong under the direction of a famed Mason called Drakpa fromRinchengang village. As a safeguard against flash floods, a mandala dedicated to Mithugpa (Aksobya) was installed at the base of the bridge’s foundation. During the tenure of the 20th Wngzop Domchung a big flood washed way the entire bridge, but the base where the mandala was installed was left intact. 


It is said that Dzongpon Domchung organized a tsechu in which the Doley Raksha dance, famed in the region for its aesthetic intricacies, was performed to attract the river spirit who was disrupting the reconstruction of the bridge. As the spirit stayed engrossed in the festivity, Domchung, with several hundred men, sneaked down the river and completed the bridge. The spirit unleashed many floods to bring down the bridge, but the Wangzop, true to his clever character, had a worked design into the foundation pillars to withstand the force of the water. 



Wangdue Dzong has 14 temples, including Kunrey (assembly hall of monks). The Goenkhang has a figure of gonpo (Mahakala) carved on a stone slab. 
 Wangdue Dzong was razed to the ground on 26 June 2012. It is believed that an electrical short circuit causes the fire. Though most of the Dzong expect for one monastery was destroyed, religious and historical relic managed to be rescued by volunteers and care keepers. More information can be read on CNN.