Friday, 15 April 2016

Zhabdrung’s Bhutan 400 years later

On the eve of Zhabdrung kuchoe, today, it took me to Drukgyal Dzong in Paro, right next to the Chinese border on the west. What remains of ruins now was once a glorious dzong (fortress). The massive structure reminded me of Zhabdrung.

Who was Zhabdrung as a person? When he came to Bhutan 400 years ago in 1616, he came into a land that did not stand the chance of survival for it was ruled by local chieftains and lords in each valley. What Zhabdrung did was to bring all of them under the Drukpa rule and gave the idea of nationhood to Bhutan. He must have been a powerful man, highly charismatic and his leadership is beyond words.

Drukgyal dzong is perched on a rock and this massive structure is entirely build with stone slabs. The walls are so huge that at some points they are more than a metre thick. It has an inner courtyard with the central tower that was photographed by John Claude White in the early 1900s. The tower stands today, but its collapsed inside. What looks like a small tower on one face is actually a large rectangular structure. The chambers around the dzong are so huge that I could imagine the lives of monks and courtiers in history.

It also has secret passages that served as both escape routes and to draw water. I am interested to learn the actual mechanism how they drew water. Pray the archaeologists shed light on this. These escape routes also have small caved in windows. The apertures of these windows are small on the outside to prevent the bullets from getting in, while the aperture is larger on the inside. I imagine soldiers must have died in these escape routes.

It has watchtowers at least on two directions, the north and the west. The Taa dzongs stand and such round structures were built with such mastery. The overall architecture is masterpiece. Whoever the architect was, it represents that Bhutanese had ingenuity that made the Drukpa nation survive 400 years.

Drukgyel Dzong renovation: With the birth of the Gyalsey, His Majesty and the Royal Government have started work to renovate the dzong to its former glory. What is special about this is that it marks four centuries after this man named Zhabdrung came to Bhutan and established what led to current Bhutanese nation. The dzong is in its initial state of assessment. We have Bhutanese geologists drilling the rocks to assess its foundation, Bhutanese architects studying the ruins and faces of the dzong, and other experts.

Restoration of this dzong will give rise to an architectural masterpiece and restore the glory of the Drukpas over their victory over the war with the Tibetans and Mongols.

Written in reverence to Zhabdrung, who came to Bhutan in 1616 and started work that led to the rise of the Bhutanese nation, the Wangchuck kings and now a happy and flourishing Bhutan.