The decades old stupa that resembles Boudhanath needs at least Nu 3M for its renovation

Heritage: On the hill of Thonpu stands a Samdrupcholing choeten, one that becomes visible as you drive along the Tsebar-Mikuri-Durungri feeder road that connects Pemagatshel and Nganglam dungkhag.

Located more than 20 kms from Pemagatshel, the choeten, which was constructed decades ago is on the verge of collapse crying for maintenance.

Samdrupcholing, which means, “wish fulfilling” was earlier known as Thonphu gonpa.

What attracted people to the choeten was its spherical design, which is similar to the Boudhanath stupa in Nepal.

Lama Sangay Dorji, 73, who devoted all his life to construct the choeten and have been taking care of it to date, said it was his father’s and his dream to construct a similar stupa after they realised that not everyone could visit Boudhanath.

He said the outer part of the choeten has already cracked at several places because they were constructed with sand then. He added they have to reconstruct with cement and repaint it and that would cost more than three million ngulturms.

If not renovated soon, lama Sangay Dorji said that one of the most respected choetens would crumble and fears that the foundation could give away anytime.

“We had maintained it once with Nu 300,000 but the choeten still requires attention,” he said. “We hoped we would get help to reconstruct the foundation but we didn’t.”

Lama Sangay recalled carefully studying the architecture of Boudhanath whenever he and his father visited Nepal. “Then along with villagers, we constructed this choeten manually in four years.”

He said that to raise money for the choeten, they had to start a mini incense stick factory. He was the first to start the production of dung and jhaling, which is today a popular means of income for villagers of Tsebar.

People from different gewogs in Pemagatshel, Trashigang, Samdrupjongkhar and Mongar visit the choeten for blessings. Its location is believed to be the mid point where people from different villages travelled to India for trade.

Many believe that because of the choeten, the community was blessed for they saw a decline in wildlife conflict, their draught problem was resolved and cash crops’ yield improved.

While travellers continue to admire the choeten as they pass by, lama Sangay and the 17 monks whom the choeten is home to remain in hope for help to come their way.

“Although dzongkhag officials have agreed to help we’re not sure when it would come,”lama Sangay said. “But I’m also relieved that even if I die, the government would help keep the choeten alive since it was registered as an institution during the resurvey.”

By Yangchen C Rinzin,  Pemagatshel