June 24, 2012: On hearing the dzong had caught fire, Aum Yeshey dropped the tools, folded her hands and started praying. Seeing only the smoke from her village in Gaselo, Yeshey cried, frantically praying for rain. By late evening she heard the majestic Wangduephodrang dzong was reduced to ashes.

Yesterday, standing close to the television set perched on a “showcase’ at her granddaughter’s house in Babesa, Yeshey, 87 cried again. This time she cried out of happiness watching the consecration programme that was broadcast live from Wangduephodrang.

For once, the octogenarian was convinced of an old saying (mitse chi na kap gu, gu gi medo, chopgay yoed). This roughly translates to – we can witness anything in a lifetime. Yeshey never thought that the dzong would be restored to its original glory. She was speechless.

Wangduephodrang dzong has risen from the ashes. The people of Shar Dhar Gye got their dzong back, with greater glory and magnificence. Beyond Shar Dhar Gye, Bhutan has a monument that is historically and symbolically important.  Perched high on a spur overlooking the Punatsangchhu and Dangchu, the dzong was a pride not only for the people of Shar Dhar Gye, but a monument with deep significance. When the fire left only the walls, the people felt that their “heart was ripped out of the body.”

Today they agree that the fire was a blessing in disguise. When the dzong went up in flames and effort to save it became futile, many believed that it was predestined, a symbol, an indication to restore the dzong to the grandeur of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel’s times.

Wangduephodrang dzong was the third dzong Zhabdrung built in Bhutan. It was damaged thrice – once by a fire in 1837, an earthquake in 1897 and a devastating fire in 2012. If what people believed was hope, restoring it back to greater glory after the third disaster is a hope fulfilled.

When Zhabdrung built the dzong in 1639, it was to be a seat of power strategically located between the western and central regions, built to unite the country. If the vision was fulfilled, the consecration yesterday was assuring of the unity that is Bhutan’s strength.

The unity was symbolised by the presence of His Majesty The King, His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen, Their Royal Highnesses Gyalsey Jigme Namgyel and Gyalsey Ugyen Wangchuck, members of the Royal family, elected leaders including local leaders, Lam Netens and the people at the consecration presided by His Holiness the Je Khenpo.

Rebuilt on the grounds Zhabdrung chose more than 400 years ago, the new dzong is a blend of the old and the new, no less sacred or significant. 10 years ago, a monument was destroyed, but it was only a physical structure. The spiritual legacy has stayed and it has risen from the ashes. In line with Zhabdrung’s effort of uniting the country centuries ago, the disaster helped in achieving the same vision.

As soon as the dzong was destroyed, Bhutanese from all walks of life, at home and abroad, Bhutan’s friends and development partners knew that it had to be restored.

His Majesty The King generously contributed to the restoration, the government of India recognised the priority and Bhutan’s friends, well-wishers and Bhutanese played a crucial role in reviving not only a monument but hope and belief.