Dobji Dzong tries to shake off central jail tag

Phub Dem | Paro

From serving as the main centre to propagate Drukpa Kagyu Buddhism to housing Dobji Penlop and later as a central jail, Dogar Dobji Dzong has transitioned with changing times.

The dzong is today undergoing a major face-lift. Built in 1531 by Ngawang Chogyal, the brother of Drukpa Kuenley popularly known as the “Divine Madman,” Dobji Dzong is located about 30-minute drive from Chuzom towards Haa.

It is believed that Ngawang Chogyal followed the spring originating from the throne of Jetsun Milarepa in Druk Ralung, Tibet, to select a suitable site to establish a Drukpa Kagyud centre in Bhutan.

The suitable site is located where the Dobji Dzong stands today.

The utse (tower) which previously served as Dogar Penlop’s residential and later the central jail is being renovated into a Jetsun Milarepa’s Lhakhang.

It has been a year since renovation work began.

The project is worth Nu 36.4 million (M)  funded by His Majesty The King. The renovation work includes restoration of the tower, parking space and classrooms for the monks.

Project manager of the dzong, Tshering Penjor said that the renovation was essential for the monastic school and in preserving the age-old historical monument.

The shedra has 35 monks including lams.

The sacred statue of the temple near the dzong—Jetsun Mila—was believed to be brought from Druk Ralung in Tibet.

The dzong, today houses a monastic school and receives hundreds of devotees.

Dogar Dobji Dzong, according to Chencho Tshering Dorji’s PhD research article was discontinued as the central jail after the residents expressed grievances and the dzong had suffered structural defects.

Chencho Tshering Dorji, the former chief research officer of the National Museum of Bhutan briefly mentioned that the dzong was modified into a central jail in 1976 and the locals appealed for discontinuation in 1997.

History has it that nobody dared to visit the sacred temple to offer butter lamps, as numerous police personals and prisoners in handcuffs, shackles and neck-ring move freely inside the dzong.

It has been more than two decades since the central jail was moved to another place. However, the legacy remained.

Dobji Dzong’s Lam, Yeshey said that only a few visitors used to visit the dzong when he was appointed as the dzong’s Lam seven years ago.

He said that visitors usually get excited about the whereabouts of prisoners rather than the sacred relic. “We carried out numerous awareness programme to educate the people about the sacred Lhakhang.”

Besides, there were incidences where people discriminate and refuse support by aligning the dzong with jail, Yeshey said.

With the completion of the renovation, Yeshey is hopeful that the dzong will regain its original fame.

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