Haa: The valley of the Guardian spirit

The ancestral home of the Royal Grandmother and the Dorji family, the Haa district is undoubtedly one of the most picturesque of the districts in the country. The district adjoins the districts of Paro, Chhukha and Samtse, covering an area of 1706 sq. Km. It is one of the smallest districts in the country. Legend says that the Haa valley, before the 8th century, was wrapped up in animist tradition. Still some elements of this belief system exist in form of festivals and rituals. The tantric master Padmasambhava visited the valley in the 8th century and transformed some blood sacrificing animist beliefs into peaceful Buddhist traditions. Ap Chundu and several other deities, once hostile animist forces, were subdued and made the guardians of the land.The construction of the Wangchulo Dzong was commissioned by Gongzim Ugyen Dorji, the Grandfather of the Royal Grandmother Ashi Kezang Choden Wangchuck. The Dzong structure resembles the Wangdicholing palace in Bumthang that was the seat of the 1st and 2nd Kings.

Dobji Dzong

 At an altitude of 6,600 feet, Dokar or Dogar is situated en-route to Haa, under Paro Dzongkhag. The name Dokar is derived from the fact that there is “Five White Boulders of Cattle size” which still lay in the main village of Dogar. Through the course of time, the name changed from Dokar to Dogar, most probably, because of the fact that there are many stone quarries in this area. Dogar meaning: stone camp or village. Dogar Dobji Dzong is believed to be the first model Dzong in Bhutan.

The Dzong was built in 1531 AD by Ngawang Chhogyal. It is 2 km away from the motor able roadway. Chhogyal brought with him 100 carpenters and masons from Druk Ralung to build the centre tower. The Dzong was built on a cliff facing the eastern wing to the narrow ravine of Pachhu-Wangchhu River. Later, the Dzong and all it’s surroundings were destroyed in an earthquake of great magnitude; with the exception of the centre tower which by popular belief, survived because of a sacred Terma (the statue of Guru Langdarchen), housed in the top floor of the Dzong. This statue is believed to have spoken when the Tibetan King Langdarma tried to destroy it by smashing the left ear with a hammer.

Today the official Dzong is the five storied Utse. Initially the Dzong was used as one of the main centers to propagate Drukpa Kagyu teachings in Bhutan. Ngawang Chhogyal’s descendants preserved close ties with the Bhutanese people and frequently visited the centre to preach the doctrine of the Drukpa Kagyu tradition. Dogar Dobji Dzong later became a winter retreat for the monk body; when Hungrel Dzong was built in Paro, by Lama Drung Drung. Dobji Penlop was then appointed to look after the Dzong, the local administration, and to collect taxes in kind from the public residing in the area from Jangwaphuchay in Paro extending to Toko-Gelay in the south. Since then Dogar Dobji Dzong became the headquarters of Dobji Penlop.

Later the post of Penlop was abolished throughout the country and Dobji Penlop was no exception. This rendered Dogar Dobji Dzong useless. In 1976, the Dzong was renovated into a jail with additional structures constructed to house the prisoners.

Shekhar Drak:

A place of importance in the valley is the Shekhar Drak temple that is ensconced at the foot of a cliff with its walls melded in the rock. A visit to the temple will be truly an spiritually fluffing one.

Lhakhang Karpo and Nagpo:

Explore the two great temples namely the White (Lhakhang Karpo) and the Black (Lhakhang Nagpo). The temples are both located in the tiny village of Dumchoe. Lhakhang Karpo can be distinguished by its sparkling white walls while lhakhang Nagpo is easily distinguished by its grayish black wall. The temples are both located in the foothills of the three towering identical mountains venerated as Rigsum Gonpo. Mesmerise yourself with the stories of how the temples and the mountains were formed. They represent the essence of Wisdom, Knowledge and Subjugation. Maybe you can draw your own parables here. The people of Haa have a tradition of going on pilgrimage to the temples and you can join the pilgrims on foot.

Summer Festival:

The Summer festival at Ha valley is an annual festival where you get an opportunity to explore the Alpine valley which is a favourite haunt of the nature lovers with lakes and mountains. You also get an opportunity to participate in the nomadic life styles of the Haaps and feel the experience of ancient Bhutan besides savouring the delicacies of the Haaps, especially the Haapi Hoentoe, a dumpling. You may also take rides on Yaks and horses back and compete in the traditional game of khuru, archery and soksum and try hitting the bull’s eye.

You may also share a night or so in the traditionally built farmhouses and experience the true essence of cultural exposure. We can design tours that will allow you to experience farming of the valley’s staple crops of wheat, potatoes, barley, millet and ample green vegetables. Trekking will reveal the legends of Nob Tsonapatra (highland lakes) and yak herders livelihood. We present the best of Haa during the Summer Festival and other festivals as listed here.