Having stood as a silent observer of the slowly changing face of northern Paro valley for over half a century, the ruined Drukgyal Dzong has now undergone changes and become a tourist attraction now more than ever.
Since April, 2001, the students and staff of Drukgyel Higher Secondary School have been engaged during their Socially Useful and Productive Work(SUPW) period in improving the surroundings of the dzong.
The school has cleaned and cleared the area, made footpaths, planted saplings and flowers, put waste disposal bins, made signboards and developed a bird habitat, among several activities to spruce up the area.
The Dzongkhag Administration, for its part, has put a roof on the utse and the second tower. New wooden doors and support beams have also been put up and a proper stone footpath laid all around the dzong by contractor Talop Rinchen.
Paro Dzongrab Namgay Rinchen said that the Dzongkhag Administration had put up a budget proposal for clearing up the bushes but would not renovate the dzong as they felt it should be preserved as it is.
“We have plans in the 10th five year plan to do archaeological research but we are not sure at present since we have to look into the priority as well,” said Nagtsho, architect in the Department of Culture.
“We will do restoration of main utse and then consolidation of the rest.” Peter, a tourist from Canada visiting the site, said the dzong was exquisite. “Although it’s a ruin, I prefer this kind of place that is unique and beautiful,” he said. “It’s a place to take shots and cherish.”
Thinley Dorji, 28, a resident of Paro, said visiting the ruins of Drukgyal Dzong was like a pilgrimage for him and he occasionally visited the dzong to seek blessing from the deities.
Drukgyal Dzong was built as one of the four principal dra dzongs – the others being Gasa, Damthang, and Lingzhi. It is believed that Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal built the dzong in 1647 to commemorate a famous victory over invading Tibetan forces.
Drukgyal Dzong used to be the site of a special 3 day prayer every year. The ritual started on the 27th day of the 10th month of the lunar calendar and concluded on the 29th. It was the last day of the prayers in 1951 that saw the face of the dzong change forever when it was consumed tragically by flames. The ritual is now held at Rinpung Dzong.
Although the dzong remains one of the most iconic symbols of Bhutanese fortitude, a shroud of mystery still hangs over its history. How long did it take to make it? How many people were involved and for how long? Who were the major players or functionaries of the dzong? What did it take to make the dzong? What was a typical day like in the dzong? Presently, there are no answers to these questions but the dzong stands proud, regaling patrons, pilgrims, picnickers and passersby.