The resilient structure upon sleeping elephant.Tuesday, June 26th, 2012
Wangduephodrang Dzong: Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel was at Chimi lhakhang in Punakha when he met a bedraggled old man, who described the ridge in present day Wangduephodrang as a ‘sleeping elephant’.
He told Zhabdrung that his aspiration to unify the country would be realised if he built a dzong on the neck of the ridge.
Divining the old man to be Yeshey Goenpo, one of the supreme guardian deities of the country, Zhabdrung took his suggestion seriously, and deputed a noble to scout the area.
As the emissary drew close to the place, he saw four ravens circling the air above the ridge. When he reached there, the birds flew away in the four directions, north, south, east and west. On returning to Chimi lhakhang, he related what he had seen.
Taking this as a good omen, Zhabdrung immediately set forth to construct a dzong on the spur, overlooking the confluence of the Dangchu and the Punatshangchu rivers. The people of Wang and Shar Da Gye were believed to have been involved in the construction, along with the people of Rinchengang, who were skilled masons.
This is the legend behind the building of Wangduephodrang dzong as the provincial capital of the Sha district in 1638. It is the third oldest dzong in the country that the Zhabdrung built.
There is another legend on the building of Wangduephodrang dzong. It says that when Zhabdrung arrived at the confluence, he saw a little boy building a sandcastle. The boy’s name was Wangdue, and therefore he decided to name the dzong Wangduephodrang or Wangdue palace.
Around 1683, the dzong was said to have been enlarged by the fourth Desi Tenzin Rabgye, who added another two storeys to the four-storey utse built by Zhabdrung.
Many years later, after the clergy was properly institutionalised, the 10th Je Khenpo came to live in the dzong and enlarged it.
In 1837, the dzong was destroyed by a major fire and later rebuilt. During the time of Lam Neten Pelden Singye, the dzong was also damaged by a severe earthquake in 1897.
Much later emerges a powerful local lord with the title of Wangzop. Kawang Sangye, as he was called, extended the dzong towards the old Gangtoe Thangka township. Another Wangzop, Acho Boep, commissioned constructions that further elongated the dzong, and gave its present shape.
As testimony to the three major additions on the original edifice, there are three doorways and three courtyards in the dzong. The first gate is the entrance, the second leads to the inner sanctum of the dzong, and the third opens out into the deep interior of this historic structure.
One of the finest descriptions of Wangduephodrang dzong is in the form of lozey, the ballad of Pemi Tshewang Tashi, which says the dzong, situated on the lap of Khujuk mountains, neck of Sumthuet bridge where Dzongothang has been levelled, Thangochoten has been constructed, chorten and mani are being circumambulated, the mani, in clockwise direction, is rotated, the Gayshing is in profuse blossom, the tail of the dzong ends on cliff, the cliff is braced by the river lake, the river lake is beautified by turquoises, the turquoises are offered as mandala, and the dzong is painted white.
Pemi Tshewang Tashi, who led the expedition to help Trongsa Penlop Dungkar Gyeltshen against Choje Pem Tenzin of Jakar in 1875, was the chamberlain of Wangdue Dzongpon Ang Druk Nim.
Some renovations were carried out between 1997 and 2003. The internal electrical wiring system was replaced, the drainage system improved, the DYT hall, office and dzongkhag store were rebuilt, the lam neten’s and monks’ residences and their kitchen renovated and a new toilet built.
The dzong also suffered minor damage in the 2011 September earthquake.
Major renovation work began in January this year, after its 196 monks were moved to the new drasha (hostel) built outside the dzong in November last year.
About Nu 84M of the total budget of Nu 200M fund provided by the government of India was spent on the two drashas.
The remaining Nu116M budget for the Wangduephodrang dzong conservation project was to renovate the fortress’s main structure, which comprises 15 temples, the administration block, 60 units of rooms for lams, lopons and a dratshang office.