Built in 1629 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, who unified Bhutan, is a small dzong (castle-monastery) called Simtokha Dzong also known as Sangak Zabdhon Phodrang which means “A place of the profound meaning of secret mantras” in Bhutanese language. Located 5km from the heart of the capital city Thimphu, Simtokha Dzong is a historical significant monument since it’s the first dzong of its kind to be built in Bhutan. Former Buddhist monastery, Simtokha Dzong now houses one of the premier Dzongkha learning institutes in Bhutan. The present location where the dzong stands is at the boundary common to three prominent western regions Sha (Wangduephodrang), Wang (Thimphu) and Pa (Paro).
Perched atop of the hill, Simtokha Dzong is the oldest dzong that has survived as a complete structure, and is the first structure that was incorporated by both monastic and administrative facilities. As per the legend the hilltop on which the Simtokha Dzong stands is said to have been chosen to guard over a demon that had vanished into the rock nearby, hence the name Simtokha from sinmo (demoness), do (stone). It is even said the Simtokha Dzong was resides upon the stomach of the demoness. Conveniently, the site of Simtokha Dzong is also an excellent location to protect the Thimphu valley and the valley leading to the Dochula and eastern Bhutan from the enemy attack. There is only one entrance of the dzong which is on the southern side. Tourists can see a three storeys high utse behind the prayer wheels around which there are around 300 finely craved slate depicting saints and philosophers of ancient Bhutan. The main lhakhang of Simtokha Dzong is adorned with a large image of the Sakyamuni Buddha with the images of eight bodhisattvas on both sides. There are many dark mural painting housing inside the lhakhang which is said to be the oldest in the Bhutan. The chapel to the west of the main lhakhang has an image of Chenresig, green and white Taras. Visitors can also see an old painting of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the founder of the dzong which was cleaned in 1995 along with the impression of Tiger’s Tails and guns on the pillars of the eastern goenkhang. The protector chapel is dedicated to the protectors of Bhutan, Yeshe Goenpo (Mahakala) and Pelden Lhamo. From astonishing legend to the ancient artifacts along with housing the premier Dzongkha learning institute, Simtokha Dzong has lot to offer to its visitors who are venturing upon the mystical land of Bhutan.
Walking along the corridors of Simtokha Dzong which still has the lingering essence of the ancient day and depicts the art and culture, which are the pride of Bhutan, can be an outwardly experience for any historian or tourists. The oldest and first dzong of its kind with fascinating artifact and legends has made Simtokha Dzong a must visit destination for the tourist traveling in Thimphu.
The serene of ambiance of Simtokha Dzong can be relished throughout the year but travelers should be wary of the fact that the Dzong opens from 9am to 5pm after or before these timing no outsider are allowed inside Simtokha Dzong.