(Altitude – 1,100m/3,610ft.)
The Jewel of the East - Trashigang spans the easternmost corners of the kingdom, skirting up to the edge of the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. It is the country’s largest district, with an altitude ranging from 600m to over 4000m.
Bhutan’s largest river, the Dangmechu, flows through this district. Trashigang town is set on a scenic hillside and was once a bustling trade center for merchants looking to barter their goods in Tibet.
Today it is the junction of the East-West highway, with road connections to Samdrup Jongkhar and then into the Indian state of Assam. Trashigang town is also the principle market place for the semi-nomadic people of Merak and Sakteng, whose unique way of dress stands out from the regular Bhutanese Gho and Kira.
Trashigang Dzong or ‘The Fortress of the Auspicious Hill’ was built in 1659, to defend against Tibetan invasions. This imposing fortress is strategically situated high atop a spur overlooking the Dangmechu River. According to legend it is said that upon seeing the Dzong, invading Tibetan armies remarked that the Dzong was “not on the ground. It is a Sky Dzong” before retreating. It has been the political stronghold of Eastern Bhutan for over 300 years.
Mount Meru is the site of the palace of the Druk Chhoglay Namgyal (victory of Bhutanese Over enemies in all directions). It is accessible only from the north, via a narrow road, paved by blasting through the cliff-side. Due to its location Trashigang Dzong is one of the most strategically placed Dzongs in Bhutan. The present Dzong was enlarged by Dzongpon Dopola, in 1936.
Radhi village is famous for two things, its rice fields and the skill of its weavers. It is often known as the ‘Rice Bowl of the East’ because of its verdant rice fields that supply most of the grain to eastern parts of the country.
The village has around 200 households, all of which the people make living from fine raw silk or bura textiles during the off-agricultural seasons. All textiles produced in Radhi are made using the traditional back-strap loom and traditional dyes. As a result Radhi village produces some of the most authentic high quality raw silk textiles to be found anywhere in Bhutan.
Rangshikhar Retreat Centre, a Glimpse of True Heaven
The rough road from Trashigang Pam seems to stretch for more than 11 kilometres till the Retreat Centre and a hike up from Pam Village all the way up is most thrilling. You don’t see any single house until you really plunge into the village. Then, as you go up again, there isn’t any sign of what you will see as you reach the hill top. Really, what greets you as you reach there is nothing like you would imagine. I felt as though thousands of sins were washed off – as if an old skin of sins peeled off and I was reborn as I stood in front of a true heaven.
In the centre is a big statue of Lord Buddha in meditation posture. He is said to have put on a little weight after he was offered milk by a woman named Sujata (in six years of meditation). Around this huge statue are different statues of Buddha depicting the stories of his life.
Sangye lhum su zhug pa: The Lord Buddha’s mother, Yum Juma Lhazey had a vision of a six tusked elephant descending from heaven and entering her womb. She was conceived that night. As soon as he was born, he took seven steps, and for each step he took, a lotus WAS bloomed. For six years, Lord Buddha meditated without eating anything but a grain of rice in a day.
A devil wanted to disturb Buddha in his path to enlightenment. So he turned into a very beautiful girl and went to Buddha. But Buddha, with his unwavering mind, focused on the path, turned the beautiful girl into an ugly 108 year old woman. The devil did not give up yet. He told the Buddha that, there must be a witness to see that he won. On this, the deity (lhamo) of the Earth appeared in front of the Buddha, saying, ‘Here, I’m the witness.”
Then, in shame and regret, the devil begged for forgiveness.
This is a place that everyone should visit. If it will not give you anything, it will really take you to heaven for that moment you are there and it is worth it, for, how many such moments do we have in the fleeting life lost in materialistic world?