Bhutan was known as Lho-Mon Khazhi (Southern Mon of Four Approaches) to the Tibetans who resided to the north of Bhutan. The ‘mon’ probably meant darkness. The Lhomon means Dark South or Sothern Land of Darkness. And Khazhi means ‘four approaches’. Four approaches/passes are Pasakha to the south, Dalingkha to the west, Tagtserkha to the north and Dungsamkha to the east.
Dungsam comprised of present district of Samdrup Jongkhar and Pemagatshel. Now Dungsam is predominantly associate with the Pemagatshel after merger of Dungsam Nganglam and Decehenling to Pema Gatshel district. As of now Dewathang.(it is place where Duar war was fought between British and Trongsa Penlop, father of the First King of Bhutan. The place was known as Dewangiri) and few other small places in Sumdrup Jongkhar is known as Dungsam
Some said that Dungsam means ‘three conch shaped hills’ named after three hills in Pema Gatshel. Some said that there was a lake called Dungtsho Karma Thang (Conch Lake on Plain of Stars) on the hill above Khar community. Later, lake dried up and people started settling there. Those people were known as Dungtshopa. Dungsampa could be corrupted word of Dungtshopa. Dungsam also was known as Dungsam Dhosum. It was probably one of the eight spokes of wheel of East (Sharchog khorlo Tsibgay). The term Dungsam could also mean three villages/communities. It is possible that dhosum was added later for easy understanding by official for purpose of tax collection. Although I am unable to find any concrete text at this point, Dungsam could also meant three dung (bone). Dung or bone refers to important secular family of which ruled central Bhutan which later spread. Dungsam was said to have four Choje namely Chungkhar, Bangtsho, Dungkhar and Shalikhar. Three of these were said to be equivalent to Dung family while Dungkhar was combination of Gya clan (from Yab Tenpai Nyima) and Dung.
Dungsam played vital roles in Bhutan socio-political history. According to a legend, Dungsam family was originated from celestial Guse Langling who was sent by Lord Indra to help people of Merak and Sakteng. When bride to a family of Dungsam (earlier name not known) halted for night at Mukulung Tsho (under Tashigang), she got impregnated by Langley in the form of snake slithering over her body. When he reached Dungsamkhar, she gave birth to a son called Barkye. Barkye or Ralpa Tobchen (as known later) was considered an originator of Dung families in Bhutan.
In 16th century, Mipham Tenpai Nyima (1567-1619 A.D) of Gya Clan also founded Dungkhar Gonpa in Khar, Pemagatshel. Mipham Tenpai Nyima was father of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. He fathered a son from a local lady. The son believed to be Tenzin Drugdra become second Desi under dual system of governance founded by his half-brother Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal.
Dungsam Yongla Gonpa also played important role as strategic point during battle of Dewangiri war in 1864/5. According to a legend, with aid of deity, Jigme Namgyal was able to assassinate British army officer from a long distance. Yongla Gonpa was founded by Khedrup Jigme Kundrol who was siddha as well as probably Bhutan’s first diplomat.
Dungsam Pema Gatshel is also blessed by many Buddhist Luminaries like Yab Tenpai Nyima, Jigme Kundrol, Lama Sonam Zangpo, Do Drupchen Rinpoche, Dung Thinley Norbu, Dudjom Rimpoche as well as 70th Je Khenpos.
In 1970 A.D, invited by Lama Sonam Zangpo and Dungse Thinley Norbu Rimpoche (son of Dudjom and son-in-law of Lama Sonam Zangpo), His Holiness consecrated the renovated Yongla Gonpa. And Dudjom Rimpoche also presided over 10 days Yongla Phurpai Drubchen. After the Drubchen, Rimpoche was invited to lower place popularly known as Khidhung (Village of Cuckoo) or Khoidung presently where Pema Gatshel Middle Secondary School is located. At this place, Rimpoche gave complete empowerment of treasure teachings of Pema Lingpa for 12 days. During this time, people of Pemagatshel requested the Rimpoche to give a new name to the place since the name khidung is inauspicious as well as embarrassing. People said that the Rimpoche looked around studying the shapes of hills which collectively resembles the shape of a lotus flower. Thus it was named Pema Gatshel or Happy Forest of Lotus.
But people are overlooking the fact why Rimpoche might have named this place as Pema Gatshel. This place was named during initiation of Pema Lingpa’s treasure teaching. Thus, it could also mean happy forest of Pema Lingpa or simply Pema. Thus, this place seemed to have named based on two auspiciousness-place where complete teaching of Pema Lingpa was given and place which resembles shapes of lotus.