Paro Rinpung Dzong
The construction of the Paro Dzong was started in 1644 by the order of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the unifier of modern day Bhutan. Unlike most of the other Dzongs in Bhutan, it survived the massive 1897 earthquake mostly intact, though it was damaged by fire in 1907.
Paro Dzong’s full name is Ringpung Dzong, which means ‘the fortress of the heap of jewels’. In the 15th century, two brothers (descendants of Phajo Drugom Zippo, the founder of the Drukpa Kagyupa School in Bhutan) named Gyelchok and Gyelzom lived in the Paro valley. Gyelzom established himself at Gantakha Monastery; his brother Gyelchok travelled to Tibet to study theology. When Gyelchok came back to Paro, he was not respected in the community due to the many years he had spent studying without any money. His brother Gyelzom, renounced his existence, in his eyes a “beggar” could not be part of the family.
Gyelchok moved to Humrelkha, a place which took its name from the guardian deity of Paro, Humrel Goemba. He then built a small structure that would later become the Paro Dzong. Gyelchok’s descendants, who controlled a large portion of the valley, are well known through Bhutanese history as the ‘Lords of Humrel’.
In 1645, the “Lords of Humrel” relinquished their small fort to Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, thus recognizing his religious and political prowess. Immediately, the Zhabdrung began construction of a much more superior fortress and in 1646, the Dzong was consecrated.
Approached by a gently sloping flagstone road and an attractive wooden bridge roofed with shingles and abutted by two guard houses; the Dzong is the administrative seat of the district of Paro, and also contains a state monastic community of about 200 members.
Administrative offices line the first courtyard of the Dzong. The entrance is guarded by two traditional effigies standing on either side of the gate: a Mongol holding a tiger on a leash and a man holding a black yak. The Utse of the Dzong is one of the most beautiful in Bhutan with its outstanding woodwork.
Just above the Dzong stands the so-called Ta Dzong (watch tower). At present this tower houses the National Museum of Bhutan. In 1905 the Dzong caught fire, but was repaired in 1908/9 to its original state with the addition of statues of Guru Rinpoche, Buddha and the Zhabdrung. The most precious object of the Dzong, the Thongdroel, a 20×20 meter wide Thangka, was saved from the fire and is displayed in spring to the public during the Tshechu.