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Wangdue Phodrang Dzong and the mystery of its frequent mishaps.

Updated: Dec 2, 2022

History of the fortress

Photogrpahy of old Wangdi Phodrang Dzong.

The Wangduephodrang Dzong, constructed in 1638, was one of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel's early Dzongs. It was one of the numerous fortress monasteries built to control the nation and unite the people. Tenzin Rabgye, the fourth Desi ("Desi" translates to "chieftain of a region"), enlarged Wangdue Phodrang Dzong. He added a second, two-story building to the Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel's four-story building. Then, Dzongpon (Governor) Geduen Chophel oversaw the building project. Later, Sonam Lhendup, the seventh Dzongpon of Wangduephodrang, erected a statue of Lord Buddha and added another new building to the Dzong.

Statue of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel.

The Dzong was eventually extended toward the current town by Kawang Sangye, a strong local lord. Acho Boep, a subsequent Wangzop (ruler of Wangdue), gave the order to continue building, transforming the Dzong into its current configuration.

The catastrophes

The Wangduephodrang Dzong was often destroyed but always rebuilt. The Dzong was destroyed by a large fire in 1837 and afterwards restored. The Dzong was severely destroyed by an earthquake under the reign of Lama Neten Pelden Singye and rebuilt. The renovation also included Dzongpon Damchung; however, it's unclear when. The dzong was updated under Dronyer Pema Wangdi's direction during the reign of the late monarch, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck.

Wangdue Phodrang Dzong has been and is used as the provincial capital of the Shar district since it was built. The historic cantilever bridge that originally crossed the Punatsangchu has a fascinating history that connects it to the Wangdue Phodrang Dzong. Under the supervision of a renowned mason from Rinchengang Village by the name of Drakpa, the bridge was built after the dzong. A mandala honouring Mithugpa (Aksobya) was erected at the base of the bridge's foundation as a defence against flash floods. A significant flood during the reign of the 20th Wangzop Domchung destroyed the bridge, but the base where the mandala was set was still standing.

Yet again, the place was destroyed by a large fire on June 24, 2012. The Dzong was undergoing renovations when the razing fire occurred, and the majority of the precious artefacts that were moved had been rescued.

Picture courtesy : Kunsel

Firefighters were unable to approach the Dzong because of the intense heat from the flames, which raged for hours without ceasing. Additionally, firefighters had a difficult time due to the Dzong's building, which follows the contour of a ridge above Punatshangchu. The fire on the wooden stronghold was thought to have been started by a wiring fault.

Recent re-construction of Wangduephodrang Dzong

The Wangduephodrang Dzong was once again able to decorate the mythical hill that resembled the trunk of a sleeping elephant after ten years.

On the 67th birth anniversary of the 4th King of Bhutan (November 11, 2022), the historic Wangduephodrang Dzong was dedicated after being restored to its former splendour under the direction of the Royal Family.

His Majesty King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck commanded the dzong to be restored to its former grandeur with cutting-edge technology for disaster resilience and provided $200,000 million to start construction. The reconstruction work based on the new design was initiated in 2014.

Local craftsmen used conventional materials and methods to construct the new building on the foundation of the old. The workers utilized galvanized steel latches to attach floors to walls, more durable building materials, and bearings in the fortress's foundation for innovative modern and traditional design and technology integration. To facilitate maintenance and serve as a secure exit during emergencies, a service tunnel is placed in the centre spine of the dzong.

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