Paro, a beautiful valley in Bhutan, is
one of the most attractive tourist destinations of this mountenous
Paro, one of the most beautiful of Bhutan's
valleys, was also historically the centre of two of the most
important trade routes to Tibet.
Today the new road to Phuentsholing on the
Indian border runs through the valley, amid a patch work of
rice, paddies, wheat fields, trout filled streams and scattered
Here the Paro Chu (Chu means River) flows
south from its watershed in the chomolahri range. Above it
in a rocky outcrop of the sleepy hillside stands the Paro
Dzong, at an altitude of just over 7000 feet, overlooking
both sides of the valley this dzong was historically one of
Bhutan's strongest and most strategic fortresses. Before the
rebuilding of the Tashi Chho Dzong at Thimphu, it was also
the seat of the National Assembly.
Distance from Paro to other places
Paro can be reached easily by road from India through
the Jaigaon - Phuentsholing boarder. The distance between
Phuentsholing and Paro is about 175 km and takes about 6 hours.
The only international airport of Bhutan is also located at
Paro. This airport is connected with Major Indian cities such
as New Delhi, Guwahati, Bagdogra and Kolkata as well as neighbouring
country capitals such as Kathmandu in Nepal and Dhaka in Bangladesh.
The town is a few kilometres north of the Airport
|To Punakha (via Thimphu)
Paro Dzong (Fortress)
The Paro Dzong has a long and fascinating history. A monastery
was first build on the site by Padma Sambhava at the beginning
of the tenth century.
In the coming years, the legend goes, a
lama went into the forest to prepare planks for a chapel,
he uttered the mantra "Hun" and the planks miraculously
moved on their own to create the planks of Hungrel Dzong.
The construction work was carried on by the villagers by day,
and was continued at night by the spirit, and the hoof marks
left by their horses are still visible today as evidence for
In 1646 Ngawang Namgyal built a larger monastery
on the old foundations, and for centuries this imposing five
storey building served as an effective defence against numerous
invasion attempts by the Tibetans. Built with stones instead
of clay, the Dzong was named Rinpung, meaning "heaps
of jewels". Tragically Rinpung and all its treasures
were destroyed by the fire in 1907. Only one thangka, known
as Thongdel, was saved. Painted in remembrance of Padma Sambhavna
the bringer of Buddhism, the Thongdel is a large and exquisite
example of the Bhutanese art of fashioning religious scroll
paintings from silk and cotton. It is believed that by visiting
the monastery and paying homage to the Thongdel, the faithful
can attain nirvana. It is displayed only once a year, for
a few hours during the five-day spring tsechu of the Dzong.
The Paro Dzong was rebuilt by the penlop
dawa Penjor right after the fire. Housed within its walls
is a collection of sacred masks and costumes. Some date back
several centuries; others were contributed by Dawa Penjor
and his successor Penlop Tshering Penjor in recent times.
On the hill above the Dzong stands an ancient
watchtower which has been, since 1967, the National Museum
Inside the Dzong, at the entrance to the
Paro Lhakhang, is found a Kunrey, or terrace, where the states
of heaven, earth and hell are graphically depicted. Across
a medieval bridge below the Dzong stands the Ugyenpelri palace,
a royal residence constructed by penlop Tshering Penjor and
fashioned after the heavenly abode of the revered Shabdung
The ground above Paro Dzong hosts the biggest festival of
Paro, referred to as Paro Tsechu. The Tsechu is held every
year in the month of March or April. Bhutanese people travel
from far and wide to attend the festival. The locals come
to the Tsechu in hordes with their family and friends and
in their traditional costume of Gho and Kera.
The Tsechu festival continues for five days
and throughout the day different religious performances such
as dances are held at the festival ground. The festival is
also an excellent photo opportunity for visitors who come
to Paro especially to cover the event.
The word Tsechu literally means the tenth
day. The festival is organised on the 10th day of different
Lunar months. Different districts of Bhutan hold the Tsechu
at different months. The Paro Tsechu is held in March or April
every year and is one of the largest festivals in Bhutan.
A large fair is also organised in an open ground besides river
Paro Chu and below the Paro Dzong.
About 15 Kilometres North of Paro Dzong and half
an hour drive away is Taktsang Monastery. Like an outgrowth
of the terrain itself, the gem-like Taktshang monastery clings
to a sheer, 3000 foot rock face. The name of this gravity
defying cluster of buildings means literally "The Tiger's
nest," an allusion to the popular legend that Padma Sambhava
flews here from Tibet on the back of a Tiger. The Monastery
shares its name with another monastery in North West Arunachal
Pradesh which also shares very similar legend.
Today pilgrims and visitors reach Taktsang
in a more earthbound but no less dramatic fashion by climbing
on horseback up a steep and winding track. You can also trek
to Taktsang which takes about three hours on foot. About halfway
through there is a cafeteria where you can take a break. It
is also an excellent place for taking photographs of the Monastery.
The trek offers very good view of the Paro Chu and its valley.
Even higher than Taktsang, poised on a projecting
rock spur, the Sang-tog Peri monastery overlooks the whole
Paro valley. Built in harmony with the natural features of
its site, this 300 year old retreat is, in name as well as
by virtue of its lofty elevation, "the temple of heaven."
About 6 kilometres north
of Paro Dzong, overlooking the Paro Chuu, is found the Kyichu
Lhakhang, one of Bhutan's two ablest and most sacred monasteries,
dating from the introduction of Buddhism in the 18th century
(The other is the Jampa Lhakhang in Bumthang). The central
temple was erected in 1830 and a golden roof added to the
monastery itself. A new extension was built by the present
Further up the Paro valley, the Drukgyel Dzong, now in ruins,
recalls the days when Bhutan was frequently, and successfully,
attacked by armies from the north. The Drukgyel Dzong was
built by in 1649 by Ngawang Namgyal to commemorate a victory
over an invasion from Tibet.
The word “Druk” means Thunder Dragon and
symbolically refers to Bhutan whereas “Gyel” indicates victory.
The Dzong was build perched on top of a hill, it can be entered
only from one side and this is protected by three tall towers.
A unique turreted passageway, deigned to ensure water supplies
in times of war, connects the fortress to the far riverbank.
The Drukgyel Dzong was laid to waste by fire in 1954 is in
ruins now. Still the erstwhile glory of the fort can easily
be imagined once you are there.
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