Located atop an exhilarating ridge that faces that Thimphu Valley, Semtokha Dzong or Simtokha Dzong is one of the ancient dzongs in Bhutan. If translated in Bhutanese language, the name of the dzong translates to ‘Palace of the Profound Meaning of Secret Mantras’ and ‘Atop a Demon’. According to the legends, this monastery was built to subdue a local demon who used to trouble the travellers passing through this region.
Built in resemblance to Gyal Gyad Tshel Institute of Ralung in Tibet with its Utse having 12 sides, it was constructed by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the unifier of Bhutan, in 1629. This three storied dzong has only one entrance gate on the south. The lower floor of Semtokha Dzong has prayer wheels with 300 slates that have carvings of different Bhutanese saints and philosophers. The main chapel of this dzong has images of ‘Sakyamuni’ along with the images of eight bodhisattvas.
Inside the Semtokha Dzong, one can also find detailed murals painted in dark shades and images of Chenresig, green, and white Taras. Paintings of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, tiger’s tail and gun can also be found within the Semtokha Dzong.
The assembly hall or ‘Tshogdu’ of this dzong has unique mural paintings of the mighty Himalayas. Furthermore, the celling of the assembly hall is built in the form of mountain range that has yellow concentric squares with colourful circle within them.