Wangdue Phodrang Dzong - Rising From the Ashes
It has been around four years since the reconstruction works of the Wangdue Phodrang Dzong began after the fortress was completely razed in a catastrophic fire.
On 24 June 2012, a tragic fire led to the loss of one of the most important and historic heritage sites in Bhutan, the Wangdue Phodrang Dzong. Under the guidance of His Majesty the King and His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, fortunately all the precious nangtens were salvaged.
His Holiness the Je Khenpo performed purification and other religious ceremonies for the rescued nangtens, and they are currently housed in the Tadzongang Drasha, where the Dzongkhag Rabdey are currently residing.
The Wangduephodrang Dzong Reconstruction Project
It has been around four years since the reconstruction works of the Wangdue Phodrang Dzong began after the fortress was completely razed in the catastrophic fire and the tentative date of completion is scheduled to be in December 2021.
With about one third of the structures in the first courtyard completed after the installation of the Gyeltshen last year, the management said that the remaining structures in the first courtyard, except the main entrance will be completed by the end of June this year. This is excluding the internal finishing, paintings, electrification and the installation of nangtens which will ensue once the external structures are completed.
Wangdue Dzong reconstruction works reaches 51 percent completion
As of December 2017, Nu 436 million has been spent on the reconstruction works out of the allocated 1 billion budget and about 51 percent of the works have been completed until date.
With the construction works in full swing, there are 130 masons and 70 helpers working in the Dzong site and 70 carpenters and 30 helpers working in the Samthang timber fabrication workshop.
The site, at this time of the year also provides an opportunity for students to earn pocket money during their winter break. Currently there are around seventy students hired on a temporary basis, all of whose parents are also working at the site.
The three storey Kuenrey structure has been fully completed, with nangtens installed after proper consecration. The Project Engineer from the Division for Conservation of Heritage Sites under the Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs, Dorji said that the management is trying their best to complete the Utse structure by the end of March this year.
The Utse structure will be equipped with seismic resilience technology
The Utse structure, as explained by the Project Engineer, will be equipped with seismic resilience technology by the way of base isolation from the foundation. Base isolation is a technique developed to prevent or minimise damage to buildings during an earthquake.
The super structure and the foundation is built away from one another, with the super structure resting on flexible bearings known as base isolators so as to reduce the impact of the earthquake by limiting movements or not moving at all during the shake.
“The reason we are exploring very advanced method of seismic resilience of base isolation in this structure is because the Utse is the tallest structure of the Dzong. Since our country is in the earthquake prone zone, Utse will be at more risk should any such natural calamity strike the region. The base isolation technique is also the first of its kind in the country,” said Dorji.
What differentiates the Wangdue Phodrang Dzong from other Dzongs in Bhutan
Unlike the other Dzongs in the country, Wangdue Phodrang Dzong will be also the first one to have a passage built underground called the service tunnel to carry utility lines such as electricity, water supply pipes, sewer lines, and telephone and internet lines.
The service tunnel will also serve as an entry and exit during emergencies and the tunnel will have a width in which two people can walk at a time.
Dorji said that the individuals and groups coming forward for voluntary works at the site has been very positive and the numbers are increasing every year. So far around 4,400 individuals have contributed 5,400 man-days of work and about 150 tokhas have been sponsored by interested individuals and groups.
By Sonam Yangdon (This article has been edited for the New Bhutan Times)