Thursday, 5 June 2008

Lingshi dzong – An uphill struggle for survival

4 June, 2008 - Lingzhi dzong first comes into view from Tsargijathang, a 90-minute walk from the dzong, standing proud in the cold wind and shrouded by the mists of highland weather.

But, on getting closer, the Yuley Namgyel dzong, built by the Zhabdrung in the 16th century, presents a sad picture; its boundary walls are crumbling and its main entrance has fallen apart.

Except for a few old prayer flags, two black Tibetan mastiffs, a roofless chorten and 17 monks, the more than 400-year old dzong, that sits atop a mountain at 4,020 metres, appears abandoned and left to the ravages of time.

Initiatives to rebuild the dzong have suffered hitches, budget constraints and lack of interest from contractors to take up the work high up in the mountains.

“Given its location, it’s difficult to transport timber and stones,” said the dungkhag engineer Rinchen. It takes two whole days to fetch timber on yaks and they have to climb down two hours from the mountaintop to the streamside for mud and stones.

The first renovation started in 2006-07, when it was decided by the department of culture to restore the dzong in three phases.

Lam Chencho, who heads the dratshang of Lingshi Dzong, said that the government has been kind enough to help in restoring the dzong but it still needs more help. “Rodents are eating up the old built up mud and stone blocks. If not renovated in time, there are chances that parts of the dzong may collapse.”

The utse – central tower – has been restored at a cost of Nu 3.2 million, of which the German government provided Nu 1.4 million. Some German tourists funded the debri and choesham inside the utse and the sertog, contributed by Layap Tshering, is yet to be mounted. The utse earlier had a gyeltshen in place of the sertog. The consecration was done on Shabdrung kuchoe this year.

The second and third phase of building the dratsang and dungpa’s office were supposed to be completed by 2007-08 but, with budget constraints, nothing has been done so far.

The work was given to a Bhutanese contractor at Nu 5.6 million. LND construction won the tender by bidding higher, at Nu 6.5 million, but since the government took a long time to release the budget, he decided not to work as the 90 days of the bid validity lapsed. “Technical support from the dzongkhag is in place but the main obstacle is budget constraint and contractors not turning up for the tender,” said Rinchen. “We’re still in the process of tendering the work.”

Considered one of the oldest in the country, Lingshi dzong houses statues of Sangay Shacha Thup, Guru Rinpoche, Chenrizig, Chana Dorji, Tshepamey, Dem, and Je Kuenga Drakpa. Headed by Lam Chencho, the Dratshang manages its own ration with contributions from private individuals interested in helping the dzong.

“If the dzong is not restored, the number of monks will not increase and there will be less religious service to the people around,” said Lam Chencho. “One day the dzong itself may disappear.”

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