Since the mid-seventeenth century, in eastern Bhutan at the confluence of the Gamri and Drangme rivers, Trashigang Dzong has served as a regional administrative and religious center. Dzongs, or fortified monasteries, were established to offer protection to local populations from raids during a period when political and religious authority was first being consolidated within what is now Bhutan. Trashigang Dzong, which dates from 1659, is organized around a rectangular courtyard protected by battered walls, with a single entrance on a south-facing front. It continues to house a thriving monastic community, as well as the central administration for Bhutan’s Trashigang District.
How We Helped
A strong earthquake struck eastern Bhutan on September 21, 2009. With its epicenter only ten miles from Trashigang Dzong, the tremors caused wide cracks to develop in the structure, making it vulnerable to serious damage or collapse. A partnership between WMF, the Bhutan Foundation, and the Netherlands-based Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development resulted in assistance for emergency repairs at Trashigang Dzong and Drametse Lhakhang, another afflicted monastery in nearby Mongar District. At Trashigang, the project involves the construction of retaining walls to guard against soil erosion on the steep slope, repairs in the building’s timber structure and damaged stone walls, and water drainage improvements designed to prevent future deterioration. Concurrently, the Bhutanese government has provided funding to train local craftsmen in the use of earthquake-resistant techniques in restoration work.
Why It Matters
Trashigang Dzong is one of 20 dzongs that survive around the country and constitute a key part of Bhutan’s built heritage. Intimately associated with the history of eastern Bhutan, Trashigang Dzong is a perfect example of a site that has been in continuous use and care by the local community. Today, it remains a hub for traditional arts and crafts, cultural events, and the locus of daily rituals and annual festivals.