Haa Wangchuk Lo-Dzong


Wangchuk Lo-Dzong was built in 1913 by Gongzim Kazi Ugyen Dorji[1], the first Drungpa (Governor) of Haa district as a replacement for the previous Dumchog dzong which was completely destroyed by fire. Dumchog dzong was initially built in 1895 by Gonzim Kazi Ugyen Dorji after his appointment as Haa Drungpa. It was built in the middle of Dumchog village as an administrative centre to cater better services for the people of four Gewogs of Haa known as Ha Ju Zhi, “the quadrupled-range” namely Usesu, Kartsho, Bji and Samar. He named it Dumchog dzong.

Unfortunately, Dumchog dzong was completely destroyed by fire in 1913 but in the same year, instead of restoring the old dzong, Gongzim Kazi Ugyen Dorji built a new dzong at the base of Meri Puensum, the sacred hills and named it Wangchuk Lo-Dzong. It is seen on the left side of Lhakhang Karpo, one kilometer away before you cross the Indian Military Training Team premises (IMTRAT) and on the way to Haa town. It is hardly 1.5 kilometers away from the present Dzongkhag headquarter and Haa town located at 3050 m.

Currently, there is nothing left at the site of Dumchog Dzong, except for some debris and a tiny living abode of Nagas (Luebum) in the middle of Dumchog village which is situated at the right side of Lhakhang Karpo. Both the Dumchog Dzong and Wangchuk Lo-Dzong were used as the residence of the Drungpa and the administrative centre for Haa Juezhi from 1895 to 1963.

In 1963 following the Indo-China war, as a priority, the Wangchuk Lo-dzong was handed over to the Royal Bhutan Army to establish an office for the military training center which later eventually became the main campus for the Indian Military Training Team (IMTRAT). This led to the building of a new administrative center for Haa district. The current administrative block called Namgyal Choling was built in 1968 at Lhukha village above Ugyen Dorji Higher Secondary School and Haa town.



Bhutanese historical sources confirm that both Dumchog dzong and Wangchuk Lo-dzong were built by Gongzim Kazi Ugyen Dorji (1855-1916) who was the first Drungpa of Haa district. There was no separate Drungpa for Haa district prior to 1895. It was under the jurisdiction of Paro Governor (Penlop). In order to cater better services for the people of Haa Juezhi, Gongsa Ugyen Wangchuck[2] (1862-1926), the first hereditary king of Wangchuck Dynasty appointed Kazi Ugyen Dorji as the first Drungpa of Haa district in 1895. During his tenure as Haa Drungpa, he built Dumchog dzong in 1895 in the middle of Dumchog village which is located at the base of Meri Puensum, the three sister hills. The three sister hills are of the same height and believed to be the embodiments of Bodhisattvas.

The elders from Dumchog village share that Meri Punsum, the three sister hills are very sacred and they are considered as the representation of three Bodhisattvas namely Jampelyang (Manshushire), Chenrizig (Avalokiteshvara), and Chagna Dorji (Vajrapani). The first hill on the left stands for Jampelyang which represents Manjushiri; the central for Chenrizig (Avalokiteshvara) and the one on the right for Chagna Dorji (Vajrapani).

Lam Sangay, 96 years old resident from Ingo village states that Dumchog village is located at the base of a sacred hill that is Chenrizig (Avalokiteshvara). The Dasho Drungpa had chosen the site for dzong construction at Dumchog village since it falls at the base of compassionate god Chenrizig and close to Lhakhang Karpo and Lhakhang Nagpo which are considered sacred and among the oldest Buddhist temples in Bhutan. In order to take advantage of the auspicious signs and bring good health and prosperity to the villagers, Dumchog dzong was built on the right knee of Cherizig (Avalokiteshvara). Then the village name was given to dzong, and thereafter people recorded it as Dumchog dzong in the official documents.

Unfortunately, Dumchog dzong was completely razed to the ground by fire in 1913.  In the same year instead of restoring the old dzong, Kazi Ugyen Dorji who was still in the post of Haa Drungpa shifted the location and built the new dzong on the left side of Lhakhang Karpo at the base of Meri Punsum which falls on the left knee of Chenrizig. The dzong construction was completed by 1915 and he named it Wangchuk Lo-dzong, the “fortress of glory”. Dasho Sonam Tobgay (1896-1952), the eldest son of Gongzim Ugyen Dorji succeeded his father in 1917 as the Haa Drungpa and Bhutan Trade agent followed by his son Jigme Palden Dorji (1919-1964) who was also the first Prime minister of Bhutan. The hereditary Drungpa of Haa district used the Wangchuk Lo-dzong till 1963 as a residence and the center for administration.

The political change swept in the Himalayas and our farsighted leaders felt the need to adapt to the surrounding situations. So in 1963, Wangchuk Lo-dzong was officially handed over to the Royal Bhutan Army to establish a training centre for armed forces which eventually became the main campus for the Indian Military Training Team (IMTRAT). Even today, except for the three- storey of Utse, the central tower, which houses the main shrine and is administered by the Bhutanese government, the rest of the building and the two-storied apartments around the central tower are still utilized by the IMTRAT for offices, stores and shops. This has led to the building of a new administrative centre for Haa district. The current administrative block “Namgyal Choling” was built in 1968 at Lhukha village above Ugyen Dorji Higher Secondary School and Haa town.

Haa district remained with no Drungpa due to the untimely death of Dasho Jigme Palden Dorji in 1964 who was the Haa Drungpa as well the prime minister of Bhutan. People of Haa requested the government to appoint a new Drungpa for their welfare. Upon the request of the Haaps, His Majesty the third King late Jigme Dorji Wangchuck appointed Mr. Namgay Dorji from Paro as a Ramjam Soepoen who could cater the services in place of a Drungpa. During that time, there was no separate court (Thrimkhang) in Haa, and therefore Namgay Dorji had to take up the responsibilities of both the district administration and judicial functions.

Before the construction of the current administrative block, the private house belonging to Aum Yangden and Ap Dorji Khandro located at Lhayulkha village which is now in the Haa town was rented for office and residence until 1968. Since there was no proper workplace owned by the government, Mr. Namgay Dorji felt the need for a separate place for administrative office and judicial functions. Then he initiated construction of the current administrative building with the help of the government and people of Haa Juezhi.

Subsequently, Thrimpoen Tshong Tsho from Paro Tsendona also assumed the dual responsibilities of Administration and Judiciary. After the creation of separate Dzongkhag Administration and Judicial functions, His Majesty appointed a Dzongdag as the head of district Administration and a Thrimpoen as the head of judicial functions.

Architectural Styles

The structure of Wangchuk Lo-Dzong shares a floor similar to Wangdicholing palace[3] in Bumthang which was built by the 10th Trongsa Penlop Jigme Namgyal[4] (1825-1881) in 1857 as a private residence.  The structure of the Utse, the central tower with its three-storeys, and the Shakor, the two-storied surrounding apartments are also very similar to Paro and Semtokha dzong[5]. It has thick stone walls bonded with earthen mortar, wattle and daub partition, and richly ornamented timber. The architect of Utse (central tower), the climbing ladders, windows and doors has also retained original design and features like Yungdrukcholing palace[6] in Trongsa.

The design of pillars, windows, floor, the climbing ladders and doors is very traditional without single use of modern nails and iron rods. They are made out of seasoned pine trees and other local woods. Most of them are still in good condition even after decades of daily use. The materials used for construction are local materials available in the region. It has great architectural, aesthetic, historic, and spiritual significances. It forms an integral part of the symbol of Bhutanese cultural identity and continuity.

From the outer part, Wangchuk Lo-dzong retains a majority of its original architectural features of windows and pillars of the great artistic and technical workmanship of our ancestors. There are 21 windows and two entrances, one from the front which stands in the east direction and another secret entrance in the south that is meant only for emergency and security purposes. Both the outer and inner part of the structures are preserved well except for the courtyard which needs minor maintenance.

Compared to many other dzongs, Wangchuk Lo-dzong has never been destroyed by fire nor damaged by any major earthquakes. There seem to have no records or oral history of earlier renovation works undertaken on this dzong after its construction in 1915. Minor alteration works were carried out by the IMTRAT recently for their convenience. They have just added a few modern necessities such as plastic and iron pipes for water and electricity connection for the offices, stores and shops. They have preserved the unique structure as it was before without any major alteration.

Ku Sung Thug Ten or Nangtens (Sacred Relics and Buddhist scriptures)

The three-storied of Utse, the central tower has a temple on the third floor managed by a monk who is appointed by the Haa Rabdey on a three year rotation basis.  This is the only temple inside the Wangchuk Lo-dzong. In the main altar room, a sacred statue of Guru Rinpoche is displayed in the center surrounded by Bodhisattvas. On the right, a statue of Toenpa (Gautama Buddha), Chenrizig (Avalokisteshvara) and Tshepamey (Amitayus), and on the left a statue of Dolma (Tara), Phurpa (Vajrakila), Zhabdrung, and Dorji Phagmo stand with different postures.

On the right of the main shrine, a statue of Ap Chungdu riding on the horse is displayed separately since Ap Chungdu is one of the powerful and mythical deities of Haa region. It is displayed separately in order to pay respect for his protection and continuous blessings.

On the thick walls of the temple, mural paintings of Bodhisattvas, local deities and learned lamas are displayed. On the left wall, we see mural paintings of Toenpa (Gautama Buddha), Chenrizig (Avalokiteshvara), Guru Rinpoche accompanied with his two consorts Mendarawa and Yeshi Tshogyel.  There are also paintings of protective deities and gods that include Drakpo Marchen, Dorji Zhunu, and Dorji Chungdu. Below them is a painting of Kunkhyen Pema Karpo (1527-1592), an accomplished Tibetan scholar who belonged to the Drukpa Kagyud tradition of Ralung monastery.

On the right side of the wall, there are a mural paintings of the highly accomplished Lam Jetsun Milarepa, a 12th century Tibetan saint who sacrificed his entire life for Dharma practice, as well of Tshepamey (Amitayus), god of long life, Toenpa (Gautama Buddha), Jampelyang (Manjushri) and Jampa( Maitreya), the future Buddha.

The temple also owns a set of Kanjur, the Buddhist canon printed on traditional paper (Desho) which was imported from Tibet.  Besides that a Throngdrol, a large size cloth painting of Guru Tsengyed (eight manifestations of Guru Rinpoche) is also housed in the altar room. According to Mr. Sonam, the temple caretaker of Wangchuk Lo-dzong, the Throngdrol is displayed only once in a year on the 10th day of the 8th Bhutanese month during Haa Tshechu. On this day, it is displayed for the general public from 8.30 am to 11.30 am so that they can make offerings and get blessings for their family and community.

Religious activities and Social functions

The temple caretaker performs daily Soelkha (offering ritual) every day in the morning and evening. Besides that he also coordinates the following monthly rituals and religious activities under the leadership of the Lam Neten of Haa Rabdey.

Wangchuk Lo-dzong is the only dzong in Bhutan without class rooms and residential facility for monks. The monks of the Haa Rabdey reside in the Lhakhang Karpo and it is their main central seat of learning. The Lam Neten and monks of Haa Rabdey pay visits to Wangchuk Lo-dzong to perform monthly rituals and religious activities for the benefit of the nation and people of Haa district.

  1.     15th of 1st Bhutanese month, Neten Chudrug (Ritual dedicated to sixteen Arhats)
  2.     10th of 2nd Bhutanese month, Tshechu, a ritual dedicated to Guru Rinpoche
  3.     10th of 3rd Bhutanese month, Zhabdrung Kuchoe, a ritual dedicated to Lam Zhandrung who

entered in permanent retreat in 1658.

  1.     On one auspicious day of 4th Bhutanese month, Neten Chudrug, a ritual dedicated to sixteen


  1.    On the 10th day of the 5th Bhutanese month, Trelda Tsechu, a ritual dedicated to Guru is

performed to observe his birth anniversary.

  1.     On the 4th day of the 6th Bhutanese month, Drukpa Tsezhi, a ritual dedicated to Gautama

Buddha to observe his auspicious day birth, enlightenment, turning wheel of Dharma and

attainment of Parinirvana.

  1.      On the 25th day of the 7th Bhutanese month Drakmar Chen, a ritual dedicated to the Dharma

and protective god of Kagyud and Nyingma tradition is performed.

  1.     On the 10th day of the 8th month, a Tsechu is dedicated to Guru Rinpoche.
  2.     On the 22nd day of the 9th Bhutanese month, Neten Chudrug (Ritual dedicated to sixteen


  1. On 14th day of the 10th Bhutanese month, Goem, a ritual dedicated to Dharma protector god

and deity.

  1. On the 10th day of the11th Bhutanese month, a Tshechu ritual is dedicated to Guru


  1. On the 10th day of the 12th Bhutanese month, a Tshechu ritual is dedicated to Guru Rinpoche.



Wangchul Lo-dzong was initially built as an administrative centre to cater better services to the people of Haa Juezhi. The dzong was utilized as the administrative center for Haa district besides serving as a residence of hereditary Haa Drungpa. In 1963, the dzong was handed over to the Royal Bhutan Armed Forces to set up a Military training center which eventually became the main premise for the Indian Military Training (IMTRAT). Due to its unique architectural style and its rich historical stories, the locals pay visits to the dzong but the tourists are not allowed.

Wanghcuk-Lo dzong is the only dzong in Bhutan which has no record of being destroyed by either earthquakes or fires after its construction. People of Haa still believe that Wangchuk Lo-dzong is very sacred and important since it was built at the base of Meri-Punsum, sacred sister hills which they consider as the representations of three Bodhisattvas namely Jampelyang, Chenrizig and Chagna Dorji.



Ngawang Jamtsho, Lecturer

Paro College of Education, Royal University of Bhutan


Local Informants:

Lam Sangay, age 94, farmer, Ingo village, Kartsho, Haa.

Pem Tshering, age 83, Ex-Gup, Yangthang village, Bji, Haa

Sonam, age 36, Temple Care taker, Wangchuk Lo-dzong, Haa.






ཀུན་བཟང་འཕྲིན་ལས། (༢༠༡༠) དད་པའི་ས་བོན། ཐིམ་ཕུ། ཨེ་ཀེམ་ཀྲི།

མཁན་པོ་བཀྲིས་དཔལ་བཟང་དང་ཚེ་དབང་རྡོ་རྗེ། (༢༠༡༩)ཧཱ་རྫོང་ཁག་སྨོན་ལམ་ཆེན་མོ་ཐེངས་བཅུ་དགུ་པ། ཐིམ་ཕུག ཀུན་གསལ་རང་སྐྱོང་ལས་འཛིན།

པདྨ་ཚེ་དབང་། (༡༩༩༤) འབྲུག་གི་རྒྱལ་རབས་གསལ་བའི་སྒྲོན་མེ། འབྲུག། རྒྱལ་ཡོངས་དཔེ་མཛོད་ཁང་།

བསྟན་འཛིན་དབང་ཕྱུག (༢༠༠༩) ནུབ་རྫོང་དཔའ་བོའི་གད་རྒྱང་། ཞིབ་འཚོལ་གོ་རིམ་བཞི་པ་ཁ། འབྲུག་རྒྱལ་ཡོངས་འགྲེམས་སྟོན་ཁང་། སྤ་རོ།


NYE, Atlas of Bhutan: Religious, Cultural and Historical (2018) National Land Commission,


Phuntsho, S. ((2015). Bhutan: A Complete Guide. Bhutan. Tourism and Management.


Tenzin, S. (2020). The legend of Pholha Masang Chungdue: Untold lores from Haa. Thimphu.

Kunesel Coporation Ltd.




[1]  Gongzim Ugyen Dorji (1856-1916) was a member of the elite Dorji family and influential Bhutanese politician. He served under the first King Gonsa Ugyen Wangchuck as a mediator between British, Tibet and Bhutan. He was also the Bhutan trade agent based in Kalimpong in India. He held the post of Gonzim (Chief Chamberlain), Deb Zimpoen (Chief Secretary) and Drungpa (governor) of Haa province.


[2] Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck was the first heridatary King of Wangchuck Dynasty of Bhutan. He was born to the 10th Trongsa Penlop Jigme Namgyal and Pema Choden in 1862. He served in various capacities under leadership of his father who was a legendary Bhutanese leader and warrior who fought with British India in 1864-1865.


[3] Wangdicholing palace is located in Bumthang above Chamkhar town and below Jakar dzong. It was built by the 10th Trongsa Penlop Jigme Namgyal in 1857 as a private residence.

[4] Jigme Namgyal (1825-1881) was the legendary Bhutanese warrior who fought a battle with British India in 1864-1865. He is a forefather of the Wangchuk Dynasty. He served as 48th Druk Desi of Bhutan and held the hereditary post of 10th Penlop of Trongsa.

[5] Semtokha dzong is the first dzong built in 1629 by Lam Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal who came to Bhutan in exile from Ralung, in Tibet in 1616 AD.

[6] Yungdrucholing palace was built by the Trongsa Penlop Ugyen Phuntsho in 1839. It is located in Langthel
Gewog under Trongs district on the highway to Zhemgang.