A facebook page ‘Citizens Initiative to rebuild Wangduephodrang Dzong’ garnered more than 20,000 members within three days of the disastrous fire that burnt down the 374 year old Dzong.
Since the fire there have been offers of support and many citizens have vented their grief and in some cases frustration in the formal and social media.
Though a major disaster by any standards the way people from all walks of life have come together over this tragedy shows that the Bhutanese national spirit and unity is only getting stronger.
It is also comforting news that the precious and truly unique Nangtens of Wangdue Dzong were saved thanks to the brave efforts of a few, especially His Majesty the King who immediately reached the spot to oversee and also personally secure the precious Nangtens.
There is no question that the Wangdue Dzong must be rebuilt to its former glory so that a valuable aspect of Bhutanese history and culture is restored.
In some western literature castles, fortresses, monuments, pyramids and temples are seen as symbols of state power and authority.
Here in Bhutan it is different as these are not only symbols of authority but also the symbol of love, trust and ‘tha damtsi’ between the rulers and their citizens. The Dzongs by themselves have also become an integral part of the lives of every Bhutanese citizen be it spiritual or administrative.
Dzongs in many senses are also a sign of stability, religion, culture and security. It also has a unifying element and is also a symbol of the competency of Bhutanese leaders past and present who could unify and protect this small country.
A Dzong like Wangdue is not only a structure made of stone and wood but it also resides in the psyche of Bhutanese citizens as a reassuring presence, a sign of continuity and a link with our ancestors. Despite all our praises for developed countries when Bhutanese citizens stay abroad they miss the familiar and comforting cultural environment in which our majestic Dzongs play an integral role.
The burning of Wangdue Dzong struck that vital socio-cultural quality of Bhutanese society.
On the way forward there must a thorough and comprehensive investigation ,not so much to find out who is responsible but the actual cause of the fire so that similar incidents can be avoided in our other historical structures.
Once people get over their grief there will be also questions in why the fire was not prevented or what more could have been done.
Apart from the social and cultural loss hilighted above the burning of Wangdue Dzong will have an economic impact.
The Department of Culture has estimated the cost of reconstruction to be up to Nu 1 billion. This comes at a time when the country is going through a rupee crunch. In the economic context if our Dzongs are insured then the economic impact can be lighter. The government needs to now seriously consider insuring some of our our Dzongs.
The Wangdue Dzong fire is one more in a spate of crises and natural disasters that are stretching the capacity and resources of the government.
If reconstruction can start soon and Bhutan can get enough international support then all the above impacts can be mitigated.
For now Bhutanese citizens should all come together as one in our moment of shared grief and loss to ensure that the beautiful and familiar Dzong is rebuilt to its former glory and splendor.