As a photographer and record keeper, it dawned on me that I had a responsibility to posterity, to record what was still left standing after the inferno of the 24th June, 2012. Thus, at 4.30AM on the morning of 29th June, 2012, I drove to Wangdue Phodrang to photograph the ruins. With all that talk about rebuilding the Dzong to its former glory, I needed to keep a record of how the ruins looked, before they are pulled down to make way for the reconstruction work.
Upon returning to Thimphu, I began to examine the images of the ruins on my computer screen. As I continued to sift through few dozen images shot from a variety of angles, a feeling of sadness overwhelmed me. But this time, strangely, my sadness was not for the Dzong that got burnt.-->
My sadness was for the ruins that will be pulled down soon - to make way for the reconstruction work.
It dawned on me that the historic Wangdue Phodrang Dzong is going to undergo not one, but two calamities. The second calamity - the act of pulling down the final remains of the Dzong that the Zhabdrung built in 1638 - will effectively obliterate, without a trace, a historic edifice that is an inseparable part of our history and nationhood. In its place, we will build, at great cost that the nation can ill afford, a towering monstrosity fashioned out of concrete and steel - a structure that will rob us of a historic monument that can never be replaced.
All over the world, there are ruins of monuments that are considered cultural heritage sites - not because they have been rebuilt to their former glory, but because they have been left standing, as they are, as reminders and proof and as historical evidence of our past glory and pride.
The Pyramid and the Sphinx of Egypt, the Acropolis of Athens, Machu Picchu of Peru, the Roman Colosseum - all these UNESCO heritage sites derive their importance because they stand on their original site and in their original state - without reconstruction or alteration. All these historic ruins remain as they are not because the governments in those countries did not have the money to rebuild them but because they did not want to erase an important evidence of their history and culture.
Can we stop and think for a while and reconsider what may be at stake? Can we consider building the new Wangdue Phodrang Dzong on a different location and not on the same location where the old historic Dzong stood? Can we consider preserving, and not pulling down, the burnt and charred remains of the old Wangdue Phodrang Dzong for the benefit of our future generations?
……… to be continued