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Bhutan's Dzongs
Bhutan Dzongs
Dzong Architecture Architecture in Bhutan
Dzongs in Bhutan
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Bhutanese Dzongs have an unusual architectural magnificence about them. Architectural grandeur is expressed in height and massiveness of a Dzong. Thus Simtokha rises 4-storeys high, Tongsa high with wood and stonefacades 6-storeys, and the principal capital citadel Utse (Central Tower) at Punakha is 80ft. high. Most of theDzongs are the gigantic in structure, and rise high in a pastoral landscape as impregnable fortresses set in a patternof architectural design distinctively Bhutanese. Both in form and design the concept of Dzong architecture is oneof the most elegant and harmonious in fortress building in the world.

Though massive, the Bhutanese Dzongarchitecture is not heavy; it has both form and elegance, and a rare blending of harmony and proportion. Although Dzong system came to Bhutan from Tibet, and Lam Gyalwa Lhanangpa is credited to have introduced it intoBhutan in the 12th century, yet the system transformed itself into its dual functional role, soon afterwards and to adopt itself to Bhutan's national and socio-economic requirements. Thus the earlier Dzongs constructed by various saints, who came to Bhutan before Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, soon became archaic and incommodious for the temporal and religious requirements.

Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal gave to the Dzong system a larger dimension, and a new ideology. He built almost all the principal Dzongs in Bhutan - Simtokha, Tongsa, Punakha, Wangdiphodrang, Gasa, Tashichhodzong, and the Rinpung Dzong at Paro. The basic concept of building these massive strongholds was primarily a bulwark or achain of defensive fastnesses to check Tibetan inroads into Bhutan.

That the system enlarged itself into a focal point of all Bhutanese national activities-social, military, administrative and monastic, was a simultaneousdevelopment. Simtokha was built to stop further Tibetan intrusions; Tongsa commanded the trail between the eastern and western passes; Tashigang dominated the eastern region; Punakha became a historical capital after Bhutan's victory over the Mongol and Tibetan armies; Wangdiphodrang arose high between the rivers PunatshangChhu and Dang Chhu as a sentinal; Tashichhodzong grew to become the seat of central government; and finally, the Drukgyal Dzong guarded the traditional route to Tibet.

The growth of these strategically located fortresses in Bhutan into defensive and functional strongholds had adistinct set pattern. They are all massive, gigantic and possess grandeur. Mostly located on a mountain spur, a Bhutanese Dzong usually overlooks and commands the valley, rising steep on three sides. Situated at the top of hillside are its watchtowers and observation posts. The Dzong walls are made of mixture of sand and clay bricks, the foundation is stone, and wooden beams are skillfully cut to fit each other most dexterously. The traditional Bhutanese architecture has no nails and no iron bars are used. Its foundation generally does not decline with the slope of the rock; its high walls are thick and solid. Punakha

It is usually oblong in construction, with a rectangular buildingsurrounding a hollow square, in the centre of which is a larger tower several storeys high, surmounted by a large copper cupola. The entrance to the Dzong, usually by the side of the river, is over a bridge and single gateway linedwith iron plates. Some of the Dzongs, as for instance, Rinpung Dzong at Paro had an underground alley for exit intime of siege. A covered passage leads, as in Jakar Dzong, to the source of water supply. As defence fortress a Dzong's architectural design tends to make it not only impregnable and inaccessible, but also quite harmonious with the landscape.

On the functional side, as it served both as religious and administrative centre of the region, it enlarged itself to accommodate both the monastic orders and administrative officials. It has numerous outer and inner buildings for that purpose and many temples. It serves the double purpose of a centre of religion and also of administration. It is the focal point of all social, religious and political activities of the region. The Dzongs contain some of the finest statues of the Buddha and the Bodhisattavas. The meditative Buddha Virochana with his female companion of Shakti is one of the most popular themes of Bhutanese Sculptur.


Mongar Dzong Tashichhoedzong Thimphu
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