Progress report on Drametse monastery renovation project

Heritage: Renovation works on the Drametse monastery that began last year are in full swing.

Coordinated and supervised by Sungtrul rinpoche, the head of Drametse Gomdey dratshang, villagers from three gewogs are contributing labour.  The renovation team also includes local carpenters and masons.

They are currently working on the ground floor of the monastery, where windows, roofs, and decayed wooden structures are being replaced in keeping with the original structure and design of the monastery.

Sungtrul rinpoche said the renovation work began after the monastery was badly hit by the 2009 earthquake.  The earthquake also damaged the guesthouse, monks quarters, dining hall and office, besides the retention wall and courtyard that were rebuilt in 2011 and 2012.

A budget of about Nu 300M (million) has been approved for the renovation as of now.  Renovation work had to carried out phase-wise owing to a lack of budget in 2011.

The head carpenter at the renovation project, Yeshi Namgay, said that more than 50 carpenters were utilised.  Since last year, carpenters from three gewogs have been deployed at the site, while about 20 masons will join the team. “The carpenters and masons work together to dismantle the stone structures that developed many cracks during the earthquake, which has to be done carefully,” he said.

The major renovation work, according to Gomdey Dratshang’s kudrung Lhuendrup Dorji, was necessary to preserve the sacred Peling monument to strengthen the roots of Buddha dharma in the country. “Drametse monastery is the biggest spiritual centre of the Peling tradition in eastern Bhutan,” he said.

The great grand daughter of Terton Pema Lingpa, Ani Choeten Zangmo, founded the Drametse monastery in 1511.  There are many ancient and rare spiritual relics at the monastery, besides Ani Choeten Zangmo’s kudung (embalmed body) and the statues of Guru tshokhor-sum.

Legend has it that Ani Choeten Zangpo fled from Bumthang to escape the marriage proposal from a local king.  When she reached the east, she sought solace in the place and named it ‘Drametse’, which literally means ‘the peak where there are no enemies’.  Ani Choeten Zangmo’s kudung (remains) is preserved to this day in the monastery as the most important relic.  Further, Drametse was blessed by the birth of three successive incarnations of the Zhabdrung: Jigme Drakpa (1791-1830), Jigme Norbu (1831-1861), and Jigme Chogyel (1862-1904).

Until the appointment of Sungtrul rinpoche, the 11th reincarnation of Terton Pema Lingpa, by His Majesty the Fourth King in 1992, the late Royal Grand Mother Gyalyum Phuntsho Choden Wangchuck was the patron and owner of Drametse monastery.  For nearly five centuries, Drametse monastery has remained as the secret repository of the innermost teachings and traditions of Pema Lingpa and, even today, its ancient spiritual rhythms remain uninterrupted.

Meanwhile, construction work to build a Nyingma Peling college has begun in Thegchhog Namdrol Ugyen Choling monastery in Drametse, Mongar, with HRH Gyaltshab Jigme Dorji Wangchuck gracing the salang tendrel (groundbreaking ceremony) on March 29.  With an approved budget of Nu 107M from the government, the construction includes a library, classrooms, dormitory, conference hall, administrative office, kitchen, and dining hall.

Tashi Phuntsho, Mongar

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