450 km east of Thimphu, the capital city, lies the Mongar district which is the starting point to the eastern region.
Mongar in the earlier days was referred to as Zhongar and of recent is considered as the commercial hub of the eastern region of the country. It has an area of about 1,947 sq.km with elevation ranging from 400-4000 meters above sea level. The lower and southern parts are sub-tropical while northern and higher regions have temperate climatic conditions.
Places of interest:
- Mongar Dzong was built in 1953 making it one of the newer Dzongs in the country. It was built as per the traditional architectural pattern handed down through time and without the usage of any nails or drawings. A visit to this Dzong gives visitors an impression of how over the centuries traditional Bhutanese architecture has continued to flourish to this day without any change.
- Ruins of the Zhongar Dzong: (A history in brief)
- Oral sources reveal that the local chieftain Gyalpo Karphodung had invited Bala from Paro to be the chief architect of the Zhongar Dzong. Upon reaching the site where the Dzong was to be built, Bala happened to see a white stone bowl on a small hill. Therefore upon completion, Bala named the Dzong as Zhongkar, meaning white bowl. The Dzong was of such architectural genius and perfection that the King decided upon cutting off Bala’s right hand in order to prevent him from building a similar Dzong again. An infuriated Bala prayed for the King to die a similar, painful death. He prayed to be reborn as a demon that would haunt the Dzong and the other areas in the vicinity. It is said that Bala was later reborn as a giant snake, referred to as the Golongdrak Tsen which is believed to be guarding the ruins of the Zhongkhar Dzong even to this day. Upon being reborn as a snake, Bala took to tormenting the King by killing one of the King’s horses every night. Unable to tolerate the torture anymore the King invited Pedseling Trulku Tenpai Gyaltshen from Bumthang to set things right. Trulku Tempa Gyaltshen entered into a retreat after instructing the King not to disturb him for the next seven days. The King grew suspicious and ordered his chamberlain to check on the Trulku on the sixth day. The chamberlain is said to have seen a gigantic snake prostrating before the Trulku. On the seventh day after the Trulku concluded his retreat and informed the King that he had been unable to completely subdue the snake because of the king’s lack of faith and the chamberlain’s disturbance. Centuries later the Dzong was damaged by a disastrous fire. Later it was destroyed by a supernatural earthquake lasting for seven days. The number seven has been considered significant in the Dzong’s history. First, its builder Bala took seven days to make the Dzong’s model out of Artemisia stems. Second, Peseling Trulku meditated for seven days to subdue the Golongdrak tsen, and finally an earthquake that destroyed it lasted for seven days. The earthquake was a blessing in disguise since most people favored abandoning the place which was believed to be infested with demons and malaria. The Zingarp (Royal Attendant) sent by the Trongsa Penlop to assess the damage was bribed to falsely report that the Dzong was beyond repair. Thereafter, it was abandoned, and its functions shifted to present day Mongar.