(Originally, the Dzong was referred to as ‘Rinche Pung Dzong,’ or ‘Rinpung Dzong,’ which translates as ‘Fortress on a Heap of Jewels.’ Over time it came to be known as Paro Dzong. As the finest example of Bhutanese architecture, it is always included in the top attractions in Bhutan, so much so that it is listed as a tentative site in Bhutan’s Tentative List for UNESCO inclusion. Some scenes of the motion picture ‘Little Buddha,’ starring Keanu Reeves and directed by the renowned Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci were filmed in this very Dzong.
Sometime in the 15th century, the locals offered the site to Lama Drung Drung Gyal, a descendant of Phajo Drugom Zhigpo who went on to build a fortress there and named it Hungrel Dzong. However, in the 17th century, Lama Drung Drung Gyal’s descendents, offered it to the Zhabdrung (an honorific title which translates as ‘At Whose Feet One Submits’) Ngawang Namgyal in due recognition of the religious and temporal authority that he had established by then. The Zhabdrung, dismantled the existing structure and laid the foundations for a new one, which was later established as the administrative and monastic center of the Western region. The Dzong was formally consecrated in 1646 and came to be known as ‘Rimpung Dzong.’
The Dzong played a very important role in the history of the country as it served as a very effective stronghold to repel repeated Tibetan invasions during the 17th and the 18th century. Though it did suffer damages due to the earthquake in 1897 and fire in 1907, it was restored to its former glory in due course of time. Formerly it served as the Meeting Hall for the National Assembly but today it houses the Monastic Body and the District Government offices.
Inside the Dzong, is a five storied ‘Utse’ or ‘Central Tower’ which was built during the time of the first ‘Penlop’ or Regional Governor of Paro in 1649. Towards the east of the Utse is a small temple dedicated to ‘Chuchizhey,’a eleven headed manifestation of Chenrizig/Avolokitesvara (or the God of Compassion.) On the opposite side of the large ‘Dukhang’ or Prayer Hall, one will come across exquisite murals depicting the life of Milarepa. The cotton clad Yogi/Saint is not only a significant figure in the Kagyu lineage but is among the most inspirational and beloved figures in the Vajrayana tradition. He is often held up as a unique example of Buddhahood achieved in a single lifetime through unwavering determination and effort. As an added bonus, the panoramic views of the valley and the river below are absolutely stunning to say the least. )