By Tshering Denkar
If you are driving along the Phuenstholing-Thimphu highway and happen to scan the rising mountaintops, Dobji Dzong greets you with its majestic air. Indeed, its central tower stands like a lone sentry keeping eternal vigilance over the neighborhood.
Ngawang Chogyal, the brother of Drupka Kuenley— the famous “Divine Madman”—built the Dzong in 1531. It is said he brought with him 100 carpenters and masons from Druk Ralung in Tibet (today, the Tibet Autonomous Region) to build the central tower.
Located on a hilltop at an altitude of 6,600 feet, it is approximately 37 km from Thimphu. The Dzong has several names—Dokar, Dogar, Dobji, Dobdrek. It is considered the first model Dzong and sits on the head of a snake-shaped hill.
In the 1970s, the Dzong was renovated and converted into central prison, and people dreaded the very name Dobji. Its dank dungeons held notorious prisoners in solitary confinements. Tales abound about prisoners being tied in sacks and thrown down the steep hill into the river below.
However, the Dzong was converted into a seat of learning with a monastic school. It houses relics like the statue of Jetsun Milarepa, Ngawang Chogyal, Guru Langdarchen, and Dunsay Dewa Zangpo. It’s inner sanctum houses the Goem-Chamdal Sum—Mahakala, Mahakali, and the Raven Crown.
Today, the place is becoming popular for drupchu or the holy water believed for its healing power. The main site of the holy water is located in between the hills, a 15-minute walk from the Dzong. Therefore, for the convenience of pilgrims, an electrical motor pumps the drupchu close to the Dzong.
Many pilgrims visit the site to collect the holy water. They carry jerry cans and bottles. Some wash parts of their body to cleanse themselves off the earthly sin. There is also the option of a hot stone bath in the holy water. One can choose to stay overnight for this luxury, and will cost just about Nu 500 (USD 8). This includes a basic room and the cost for preparing the bath.
Monks say the money raised through the facility helps sustain the Dhob Dreg Chorkhorling Monastic School. One could also make a small donation if one wishes!
Note: A slightly different version of this story appeared on the writer’s blog: denkarsgetaway.com
Tshering Denkar travels solo around the country exploring its sights and sounds.