Lifestyle & Belief

Bhutan's Wangdue Phodrang temple to be rebuilt following devastating fire


Bhutan's Prime Minister Jigmi Thinley has vowed to rebuild the country's cherished Wangdue Phodrang temple, which was destroyed in a fire over the weekend.


Ishara S. Kodikara

Bhutan's historic Wangdue Phodrang Dzong, a temple-fortress built by the nation's founder in 1638, was destroyed by a fire over the weekend.

The loss of the Dzong has devastated the entire nation, and the country's Prime Minister Jigmi Thinley has vowed to rebuild the ancient site, BBC News reported.

"Wangdue Phodrang Dzong did not succumb for the first time to the reality and inevitability of destruction," Thinley said in a statement to the citizens of Bhutan published by Kuensel, Bhutan's daily paper. "It was destroyed before and it will be destroyed again by forces beyond our control. [...] We the people of Bhutan have not lost but gained another opportunity to renew and further enrich our proud heritage. The people of Shar Dhar Gye will have their dzong again." 

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The Dzong housed temples and served as the district's seat of administration, CNN reported, and is highly regarded as a significant gateway to eastern Bhutan. It is positioned up on a dramatic ridge at the confluence of the Punatsangchhu and Dhangchhu rivers, according to Bhutan's Tourism website

"It's not just a Bhutanese architectural loss but [a loss] for the whole Himalayan region," Dasho Karma Ura, president of the Thimphu-based Center for Bhutan Studies, told CNN. "Something could not have been built like that anywhere else." 

Bhutan's Home Minister Minjur Dorji, King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and the queen have all been on site since the fire broke out on Sunday "trying to morally support the people," according to CNN. 

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The cause of the devastating blaze is still not known, but it is believed that a short circuit in the temple's wiring caused the structure (made up almost entirely of timber) to burn, CNN reported.

Thankfully, most of the temple's ancient artifacts were saved, either by being carried out or thrown into iron boxes, BBC News reported. As of Tuesday, all that remained of the temple were the stone stairs and the smoldering embers of the timber, Kuenstel reported

Wangdue Phodrang had just been submitted for World Heritage List consideration by the country in March, CNN reported.