Paro is also home to the National museum.
The museum is set in Paro Ta Dzong, an ancient watchtower that now displays hundreds of ancient Bhutanese artifacts and artwork including traditional costumes, armour, weaponry and handcrafted implements for daily life. The collection at the National Museum preserves a snap-shot of the rich cultural traditions of the country.
Ta Dzong is the National Museum of Bhutan. It is located above the Paro Rinpung Dzong. It is a cultural museum. Actually Ta dzong means watch tower as it was used to serve as a watchtower and fortress to protect the Paro Rinpung Dzong.
Who built Ta Dzong?
Ta dzong was built by Tenzin Drugdra, first Penlop (governor) of Paro in the year 1649. Ta dzong protected the Rinpung dzong from all the invasions by serving as a watchtower. The building of Ta dzong is round and has seven storeys. The building design is unusual as it is round and has the shape of a conch shell. The stone walls of the building are 2.5 meters wide. In other words, the design also looks like a union of the sun (circular) and the moon (crescent). It is believed that the union symbolizes victory and fame. In the past, Ta dzong also served in housing the soldiers and as well as the prison for rival soldiers.
Ta dzong was officially opened and renovated as the museum in the year 1968 under the command of His Majesty, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. Ta dzong as the national museum helps in contributing to one of the four pillars of Gross National Happiness (GNH). The Paro national museum helps in supporting one of the four pillars of GNH by being as a preserver and promoter of Bhutanese cultural values, lifestyles and architectures.
Contents of the Ta Dzong
The museum has different galleries which provide better display and various categorizations such as anthropology, arms and armor, pre-history, manuscript, paintings, textiles, bronzes, decorative arts, philatelic items, epigraphic items and numismatics.
Arms and armors displays the long matchlock gun which are known as Tshanda, canons, spears, fish-scale helmet, rhino hide-shield and indigenous arms. These items were used in the war of Bhutanese and Tibetans during 15th century and in the Duars war during 19th century.
The gallery of bronze shows us the finest bronze, ivory, wood and iron exhibits.
Decorative arts gallery highlights the 17th century masterpieces such as finest copper teapots with metal inlays and brilliant geometric patterns.
Epigraphic and Numismatic gallery has the stone inscriptions such as inscribed footprints on rock which tells us about the culture and history of Bhutan. We can also see early coins such as gold and silver.
We can see a chart relating to the story of the evolution of Bhutanese script in the gallery of Evolution of the Bhutanese script. Here, we will know about ‘jogyig’ which is the cursive way of Bhutanese writing.
Gallery on the 18th and 19th century shows us the Stem Cup of the first Desi Umze Tenzin Drugyal and pair of arrows belonging to the first King Sir Ugyen Wangchuk of Bhutan.
Gallery on the Zhabdrung Era highlights the seal of Nga Chudrugma, Thangkas and photographs of dzongs relating to the life of Zhabdrung and his works and lineage.
Jewel gallery displays the brooches, earrings and amulets which date back to 17th and 20th century.
Gallery of Manuscripts highlights rare manuscripts such as ‘Prajnaparamita’ text which is written in golden letters. ‘Prajnaparamita’ text literally means Transcendental Wisdom.
The gallery of Natural history is loved by the school children as it displays varied fauna species of Bhutan such as birds, butterflies, takin, crocodile and snow leopard.
Thangka art gallery highlights the selected Thangkas from 17th and 20th century. This gallery is divided into three sections which are origin of Bhutan in India by eight masters, Development of Buddhism in Bhutan and protective and tutelary deities of Bhutan.
The next attractive gallery is the water clock which is a unique instrument known as Chusang khorlo in Bhutanese terminology.
The star attraction of the museum is such as the horse-egg, horn, 12th century arrow head and a 1000 year old statue. The horse-egg is one of the most precious objects which were gifted to the museum in 1969. This horse-egg is believed to have originated from a horse in Trashiyangtse which is made up of unknown substance.
The museum opens from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm from Tuesday to Saturday and 11:00 am to 4:00 pm on Sundays. Cameras are not allowed inside but we can take pictures of the Ta dzong and the surrounding areas.
In 2011, the National Museum suffered damage in the earthquake. Ta dzong renovation project was started from July, 2014 which is under the supervision of structural engineer of division for conservation of Heritage Sites. The renovation will not change any original structures. It is expected that the renovation will be completed by December, 2016 which will coincide with the golden jubilee. Sample of exhibits are currently on display in an adjacent annex until the completion of renovation.
Accessibility to Ta dzong: You can walk to the museum or take a car. Its about 20 minutes walk from down town Paro.