Tango is located at the farthest region north of Thimphu. It is roughly 14 kilometers away from Thimphu town. Following the trail, the walk uphill takes about 40 minutes to reach the monastery.
The word Tango literally means ‘horse head’ and is derived from the deity Tandin (Hayagriva) that features the head of a horse. The revered place of Hayagriva was first recognized by Guru Rinpoche in the eighth century. In 1222 A.D. Phajo Drugom Zhigpo visited the place and while he was involved in his teachings in Dodeyna, he heard the neighing of a horse approaching from the direction of Tango. On approaching the place, to his surprise he saw a cliff, alleged to be the body of the deity Tandin, engulfed in flames. The deity appeared before him in person and prophesied that Phajo would build a meditation centre at Tango, marry the Dakini, Khando Sonam Peldon and lay the foundations for the Drukpa Kagyu School in Bhutan.
Tango was later visited by many other notable Buddhist saints including Lama Drukpa Kuenley – “the Divine Mad Man”, Drukpa Kuenley’s son Lama Ngawang Tenzin who discovered many treasures and relics from the sites, Mipham Tshewang Tenzin and Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel. It was here in Tango that Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel meditated and also wrote down the Nga Chu Drugma – My Sixteen Accomplishments. The corpse of his late father Tenpai Nyima was also placed inside the cave of the deity Hayagriva.
The present day monastery was built in 1689 by Gyalsay Tenzin Rabgyal at the age of 51. The three storied monastery was built with the help of the locals and was completed within two months. Gyalsay Tenzin Rabgyal was born to Tshewang Tenzin and Damchoe Tenzin, who was a daughter to Changangkha Lama. He was adopted by Zhabdrung and was ordained in the monk body. He was trained in both monastic and secular systems of governance in order to succeed Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel. Thus he was known as Gyalsay – “the Heart Son”. He was addressed as Gyaltshab, representative of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel in the year 1650 and later in 1672 he was known as Thri Rinpoche – Lam on the throne of Zhabdrung. Tenzin Rabgye was enthroned as the 4th Desi in 1680. Gyalse Tenzin Rabgye passed away in 1696 at the age of fifty nine and it is believed that the statues shed tears at the time of his passing. Still today these tears can be traced out on the wall paintings while visiting the Dzong. There is a stupa known as Kudung chorten of Gyalse Tenzin Rabgay where his ashes are kept.
The sandalwood trees found are supposed to be the walking sticks of Phajo. The Chorten, stupa found beside the cypress trees is the place where Khando Sonam Peldon attained enlightenment. At the time of enlightenment she left behind all her belongings. The chorten was used to house them. Phajo after his meditation also built a small temple known as Tandin Nye.
In 1966 the 64th Chief Abbot of Bhutan Jamyang Yeshey Singye and Her Royal Highness the late Queen Ashi Phuntsho Choden appointed Lam Tenzin Dhendup as the first head of the meditation centre of Tango. Later His Holiness Dujom Rinpoche visited the place on an invitation from the Queen mother Ashi Phuntsho Choden. The 69th Chief Abbot Geshey Geden Rinchen served as the head of the meditation centre for around twelve years and renovated the old dismantled portion of the Utse with assistance from the Queen mother Ashi Kesang Choden Wangchuck. His Holiness Dilgo Khentse Rinpoche was invited for the consecration ceremony. The monastery was renovated in 1977 by her Majesty the Queen Mother Ashi Kesang Choden Wangchuck. In the middle of the courtyard there is a natural spring which flows throughout the year. In 1986 under the command of the 4th Druk Gyalpo King Jigme Singye Wangchuk, the renovation project for the Dzong started and in the same year the College for Buddhist studies was started. It was successfully completed in 1996.
The monastery has six temples that include Trulku lhakhang, Longku lhakhang, Choeku lhakhang, Guru lhakhang, Namsey Lhakhang and Gonkhang (inner chapel dedicated to deity). The main statues and idols in Tulku lhakhang are of Buddha Shakya Muni (the present Buddha), Sangay Marmey Zed (Dipankara-the great illuminator) and Jowo Jamba (Maitreya) made out of precious metals, specifically gold and copper. Other statues that can be seen are eight different Buddhas known as Jang Sem Nye Wai Say Chen Gyad (Jamyang, Chador, Chenrizig (Avaloketeshvara), Namkhai Nyingpo (Akashagarba), Dripa Namsel, Saye Nyingpo, Jamba and Jampel Zhenu Jurpa sculptured by Tulku Zing and Druk Chophel.
The Gonkhang houses the statue of Pel Yeshey Gonpo (Mahakala), the protective deity holding a skull. The skull is believed to be the skull of the famous King of Tibet, Thrisong Detsun.
Longku Monastery holds the statue of Avaloketeshvara – the Buddha of compassion. The statue was sculptured by a Nepalese artist named Pentsa Dewa.
Choku lhakhang has the statue of Tshepamed – the Buddha of long life (Amitayus). It was also sculptured by Pentsa Dewa, with the assistance of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel and Gyalse Tenzin Rabgye.
The main statue in the Guru Lhakhang is the statue of Guru Padmasambhva and his eight manifestations.
Namsey lhakhang is home to the statue of Namsey (Vaisravana – the god of wealth).
The chamber of Gyalse Tenzin Rabgye houses many statues, which include those of Guru Padmasambhava surrounded by bodhisattvas Tshepamed (Amityus), Dorji Chang (Vajradhara) and Sangwai Dagpo; the Kagyu masters Tilopa, Naropa, Marpa, Gampopa, Phag Druk, Ling Ray Pa, Singye Tshechen Gu (Nine Lions), Rig Sum Namtrul, Gyalwang Je, Ngawang Chogyal, Choki Drakpa, Tenpai Gyeltshen, Ngagi Wangchuk, Kuenkhen Pema Karpo, Mipham Chhogyal, Tenpai Nyima, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, Drukpa Kuenley, Ngawang Tenzin, Tshewang Tenzin and Gyalse Tenzin Rabgye. The chamber also holds many images and paintings, specifically those of Tsangpa Gyaray, Drung Damchoe, Khey Chen Sonam Yoezer, Dechog, Dorji Phagmo, Khenchen Bodhisattva, Dragpo Marchen, Drupthob Shawa Ripa, Dorji Rabgye, Jimba Gyaltshen, Phajo Drugom Zhigpo, Chenrizig (Avaloketeshvara), Dolkar, Drolngoen, Jamkar, Nangso Rinchen Zangpo, Drukpa Kuenley, Drupthob Ngawang Tenzin, Tshewang Tenzin, Zambala Nagpo (Jambala-god of wealth), Ngawang Chogyal, Dorji Sempa, Jampel Mar Ser, Chana Dorji,(Vajrapani) Lopen Ludup, Jowo Jampel Atisha, Dupchen Shacha Phel, Kunpang Jumai Gar Khen, Je Rinpoche Ngawang Tenzin Rabgye and Norjuema.
The most important festival held at Tango is the Yarney (summer retreat) which first started in Tango in 1967. It begins on the 15th day of the 6th month of the Bhutanese calendar and concludes on the 30th day of the 7th month of the Bhutanese Calendar.