Lhuentse Dzong is an ancient fortress and Buddhist monastery located in Lhuentse district, in eastern Bhutan. It lies on the eastern side of Kuri Chhu and perched on a spur at the end of a narrow valley. Lhuentse Dzong was originally a temple built on the site where Ngagi Wangchuk meditated in 1551. The temple was known as Kurtoe Lhuentse Phodrang. For many years, the Lama resided here and later on, went to Timula, where he established his summer seat.
There was also a story that Ngagi Wangchuk was meditating in Timula, and he arrived at the present location of Lhuntse Dzong, looking for a winter seat. A deity appeared before him in the form of a white bleating goat. The bleat was taken as an auspicious sign, and thus, he built the temple in 1552. The temple was named Leyley Dzong, ‘Fortress of the Goat’.
The monastery was originally established by Pema Lingpa’s son Kuenga Wanpo in 1543, although it wasn't until 1654 that the Trongsa Penlop (governor), Minjur Tenpa, built a formal dzong here after winning a battle and named it Lhuentse Rinchentse. The dzong was later restored in 1962 and again between 1972 and 1974.
The historic importance of Lhuntse Dzongkhag is on account of its established link as the ancestral home of theWangchuck Dynasty. The forefather of Wangchuck dynasty, Jigme Namgyal was born there in 1825.
Lhuentse dzong contains five temples, three of which are in the central tower and are dedicated to Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche). The dzong also contains a Gonkhang, which is dedicated to Mahakala, and a temple dedicated to other deities. The ground floor also has a temple dedicated to Avalokitesvara. The Kunre, the assembly hall for the monks, is located on the upper floor. Presently, there are around 100 monks residing there.
A legend tells about the origin of the statue of Tshepame, the most sacred artefact in Lhuentse Dzong. A fisherman who had laid his trap in a stream, possibly Kilingchu, found the image while inspecting the trap one morning. It was decided that the image be kept in Killing Lhakhang but the image behaved most strangely, construed as its refusal to stay in the Lhakhang. On more than one occasion, it is believed to have flown outside of the Lhakhang. On one occasion, it was found at a place called Nongma Chorten. An iron curtain was subsequently hung in front of the Lhakhang’s window in order to prevent the image from escaping. However, the image tore a gap in the chain and escaped. Killing Gonpo, the Lhakhang’s deity, is believed to have thrown a stone as it was escaping, which broke the centre of its crown, Rignga. A woman who was cutting grass in the paddy fields found the image. She heard the word atsa, an expression of pain and found that she had sliced the left thumb of the image. The statue then returned to dzong. Locals believe that smoke rises from the grave in the eighth month, prior to the celebrated “blessed rainy day.”
The dzong has suffered serious damage during an earthquake measuring 6.1 on the Richter magnitude scale that hit eastern Bhutan on Monday, 21 September 2009. Many other monasteries in the region also suffered serious damage.
The renovation of the dzong was completed in October 2013 and the structure returned to its former glory. It looks exactly like it has in the past. The newly renovated dzong was inaugurated on 12 April 2014 by His Majesty the King’s Representative, His Royal Highness, Gyaltshab Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. The Agriculture and Forests Minister and the members of the Parliament also attended the Rabney.