June 24th was a very sad day for the people and country of Bhutan – the Wangdue Phodrang Dzong, burned to the ground. Almost four hundred years old, this dzong was the cultural/admin and religious center for the region. It holds a festival every year in early October, and I have been blessed to witness this festival three times now.
The above picture and the one below were from our most recent trip in October 2011. These festivals are so very important to the people and the culture. The dances tell the stories that carry the traditions and religion of the people on in to the future, woven into the very fabric of their lives.
Prime Minister Jigmi Thinley has promised it will be rebuilt. Buddhist culture looks at everything as temporary, and everything as opportunity. In the true spirit of the Bhutanese Buddhists, Mr. Thinley was quoted saying “We the people of Bhutan have not lost but gained another opportunity to renew and further enrich our proud heritage.”
According to a Kuensel newspaper editor, most of the cultural and religious artifacts were saved. Those are the most important things – that and the lives of the monks. The building can rebuilt, in the likeness of the original, but the symbolic artifacts are, of course, priceless!
And its essence has been captured in many fine photographs, like this one. Very nice post.
Yes, it’s true, Bob. When I went to the internet to check out the news stories, the most common picture was the view from across the river, looking up at it and the way it sits on the ridge. That gave a sense of location and its size, but the real essence is within the walls of these mystical, magical places that have stood for centuries. Those photographs capture the spirit and essence, I agree. The fervent practices of the monks and the people’s passion for Buddhism and tradition will live on, thankfully, though I’m not sure where they’ll hold next year’s festivals. They moved the town that was right next to it, to a new site along the river, so it’s possible that they might erect a temporary festival site in the space that the town left behind. Time will tell.