There has not been a single day when I have not thought of the enormity of the loss of Wangdue Phodrang Dzong. It is a national loss, and not the loss of the people of Wangdue alone. Bhutan is poorer by one Dzong and, despite all our bravado, that Dzong cannot be replicated, ever.
Two thoughts occupy my mind: one, that of pulling down the ruins to make way for the construction of the new Dzong and two, that of the rationale behind rebuilding a new one on the same location where the old Dzong stood.
I thought long and hard and, whichever way I look at it, at the end, there was only one conclusion I could arrive at. The act of pulling down the ruins and clearing the site of the remains of the old Dzong serves no other purpose except one - that of obliterating, forever, all signs of the Dzong’s close to four hundred years of existence.
As far as I am concerned, the perpetration of such an act can be defined in two simple words: cultural insensitivity. For the only country in the entire world that advocates cultural preservation as one of the main pillars of the philosophy of GNH, the deliberate and willful eradication of this important historical and cultural evidence would be nothing short of devastating to our reputation as a GNH country.
Without doubt, we need to build a Dzong for the Rabdey and the people of Wangdue Phodrang Dzongkhag. However, what is the rationale behind building the Dzong on the same location where the ruins of the old Dzong now stands? How valid are the compulsions of the 17th century Bhutan to that of the 21st century modern Bhutan?
There were warlike conditions prevailing during the time when our Dzongs were built, mostly during the early 17th century. Dzongs served as fortresses from where wars were waged and enemies were repelled. Because of its principal intended use, they had to be built and located at strategic locations with commanding views and impregnable topographical features. Making them as inaccessible as possible was the primary design feature of most Dzongs in the country.
Unfortunately, its impregnability and inaccessibility was the sole cause for Wangdue Phodrang Dzong’s complete destruction. If it were constructed at a location with multiple and easy access, the Dzong could have been saved. All our modern firefighting equipment at our command, all the good intentions of a few thousand people who thronged the periphery of the Dzong was not good enough to save it from being razed to the ground. All because of one single factor: its perilous location.
Mistakes and losses are a part of life. What is important is that we derive lessons from such occurrences. If anything, this phenomenal loss should teach us one simple lesson: never ever to build our Dzongs and other vital structures on locations such as those on which the Wangdue Phodrang Dzong was located.
Natural and manmade disasters are a reality. Part of our preparedness to combat them effectively must include a design parameter that accepts natural calamities as something real and unavoidable.
…….. to be continued