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Architecture in Bhutan
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Dzongs
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Dzongs

These gigantic structures with their massive walls and elegant woodwork are among the most impressive forms of architecture in Asia.

Trongsa dzong
The basic pattern of the dzong is the utse-central tower) which generally houses several temples, a courtyard surrounded by an outer structure which houses monks' quarters, administrative offices, and the kitchen.

Trashigang, Dagana,Mongar, Gasa and Simtokha dzongs are good examples of this pattern, however, most of the dzongs have two courtyards, sometimes at spilt levels separated by the central tower.

One courtyard is for monastic use while the other is for administration. Good examples of this structure are Punakha, Wangduephodrang, Paro, Thimphu and Jakar Dzongs. Trongsa is the most complex of all dzongs with an intricate pattern of buildings, towers and courtyards.

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Chorten / Chhoeten (Stupa in Sanskrit)
Memorial Chorten in Thimphu
Chorten in Bumthang

Chortens are built in memory of eminent lamas or to pin down evil spirits. They are also built to protect a region against evil spirits at places which are potentially dangerous such as crossroads and passes as well as landslide and accident prone areas.


Bhutanese chortens are of three styles:

Huge stone chortens which are often whitewashed, are built on the model of the stupa of Boudnath in Nepal. Good examples of this style are Chendebji (Trongsa), Kurizampa (Mongar) and Chorten Kora (Trashiyangtse). Stone chortens resembling the Tibetan style are common throughout central and eastern Bhutan. They are often covered by a wooden frame.
Chortens of a purely Bhutanese tradition are primarily widespread in western Bhutan. Their outer structure is a square stone building with a red stripe at its upper level and shingle or stone-slab roofs. A chorten of the Tibetan style is sometimes erected inside that of a local type structure.
The Bhutanese style Chorten can also be found in a series of eight, called the Chorten Degye. These chortens commemorate eight great events of the life of Lord Buddha and each of them has a different shape. The selection of a site for the construction of a chortten is suggested by an astrologer; a Sogshing and the other elements of Zung are put inside the structure and a consecration ceremony is performed. The Chorten then becomes sacred and dismantling it is, therefore, a serious sin.

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Mani-walls
Mani-walls are stone walls that support a number of stones carved with sacred formulas. These formulas are either those of the three protective Bodhisattvas (Chenrezi, Jampelyang and Chhana Dorje) or a simple prayer Om Mani Padme Hum, from which the name has been derived.

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Palaces
Construction of palaces took place with the coming to power of the Wangchuck dynasty, starting with Jigme Namgyal, the father of the first king. It can be explained by the fact that from the end of the last century the country experienced a period of stability and peace, and the need for fortress type Dzongs had diminished. Palaces were built between 1870 and 1940 and are mostly found in the Bumthang and Trongsa regions. Their basic pattern is very similar to that of a dzong. A central building houses the residence of the master, and the upper floor, the private chapel.
It is surrounded by a courtyard enclosed by an outer structure in which the servants' quarters and the kitchen are located.

The palaces have been richly decorated with woodwork, and even the outer building has been embellished with numerous painted windows. The palaces of Lamey Goemba, Wangdue Choeling, Ugyen Choeling in Bumthang; Kuenga Rabten, Samdrup Choeling south of Trongsa Dzong and the mansions of Gangtey in Paro are good examples. Ugyen Pelri Palace in Paro is different from these palaces in that it was built on the model of the Zangdopelri (the celestial abode of Guru Rinpoche) by Paro Poenlop Tshering Penjor around 1930.

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Village Houses
House in Bumthang

Village houses are not built of the same material all over the country. While the western region favors compressed earth (mud) for the walls, the central and eastern regions use stones. In eastern Bhutan, bamboo is an important raw material for any construction. In southern Bhutan, houses have mud walls with thatched roofs. However, houses all over the country display distinctive uniform features:

Rectangular shape, two or three stories high, upper floors almost totally made of a framework of wood and plastered bamboo panels, pitched roof and trefoil shaped windows. The upper floor is used as living quarters and private chapels while the lower floor is used mainly for keeping domestic animals and for storage.

During the past twenty years, the design and structure of the Bhutanese architecture have changed, especially in urban areas due to the availability of new materials like cement, steel rods, metal sheets and slates as well as due to the change of purpose of the buildings. In urban houses, the ground floor these days is often used for shops. However, the traditional features of architecture have been maintained. As for the rural houses, they have improved tremendously. Glass paneled windows, smokeless stoves and improved latrines are becoming more common; painted designs are applied more and more lavishly; and the roofs are made of corrugated metal. As with the dzongs, the rural houses also contribute in giving the landscape in Bhutan its charm and uniqueness.

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