Sarpang Dzongkhag is a district located in the central part of southern Bhutan with a total area of 1655 sq. km. The elevation of the region ranges from 200 meters to 3600 meters above sea level. It shares a border with Assam state of India, directly with Kokrajhar and Chirang districts and with Zhemgang in the east, Tsirang in the west, and Trongsa to the north. The district, with a population of 49,439 from 10,388 households, encompasses 12 gewogs, 61 chiwogs, and Thromde A. The Gelephu Thromde is the most populated area, followed by Gelephu and Dekiling Gewog. Only 491 people live in Tareythang Gewog, making it the least populated.
Sarpang is well-known for its rich biodiversity, with 88% of its land under forest cover. The Royal Manas Park and Phibsoo Wildlife Sanctuary in the district host natural habitats for various species of animals, birds, fishes, and reptiles, including globally endangered species. Commonly sighted animals include elephants, golden langurs, gaur, spotted deer, wild buffaloes, hornbills, and hares. The two protected areas are also homes to the Royal Bengal tiger, one of the globally endangered animal species.
Sarpang serves as one of the developing socio-economic zones in Bhutan and is a commercial center for the surrounding areas including Trongsa, Zhemgang, Tsirang, and Dagana, and Bumthang. The district is also one of the gateways to Bhutan from India through Gelephu. However, security issues have posed limitations to its development as a vibrant commercial zone.
Sarpang as an admin center dates back to 1955 with the institution of the Chichap system. Governance was directly from the central and the establishment of the Chichab Office in Shompangkha brought admin closer to people.
In 1975, authorities moved District Admin to Gelephu, but Shompangkha residents demanded a return to Shompangkha and Dungkhag Admin stay in Gelephu. The Dzongkhag Administration operated from Gelephu until it moved to Umling in 2019.
The origin of the name Sarpang is not clear, but the district is said to have a background story. The Department of Culture states that Sarpang is a combination of two Sanskrit words, “Sar” and “Bang.” Negative forces disturbed a religious Indian person while he meditated at the Duvar cave, leading to the creation of the term Sarpang. Sar represents the person in meditation and Bang represents the disturbance.
The term “Shompangkha,” meaning “leaves over the meadows,” originated from Guru Rinpoche’s arrival in Bhutan in 746 AD. The people of Sarpang welcomed him by creating a leaf cushion for him to sit on and serving him tea. Similarly, the place name Sheychamthang