Yearender/Religion: Preservation of Bhutan’s rich spiritual heritage, consolidating and sanctifying historical monuments, and strengthening the spiritual wellbeing of the country, were the highlights of the religious activities in the year of the wood male horse.

His Majesty the King, on July 10, placed the first sachu bumter (religious vessel for land stability) into the ground of the Wangduephodrang dzong utse (central tower), re-sanctifying the site that once housed the fortress.  The 17th century fortress that used to house more than 200 monks was completely destroyed in a fire in June 2012.

His Holiness the Je Khenpo consecrated three renovated historical dzongs, a half dozen new monuments constructed for the wellbeing of the country and sentient beings, and many religious institutions across the country.

On April 12, His Holiness consecrated the 16th century Lhuentse Lhuendrup Rinchentse dzong.

A month later, His Holiness, on his first visit to Gasa, consecrated the Kagong lhakhang in Gasa Tashi Thongmoen dzong.  The lhakhang was renovated after a fire in 2008.  After a week His Holiness consecrated the 365-year old Daga Trashi Yangtse dzong, along with newly built goenpo Tshepamey Thongdroel.  Built in 1651, the dzong had undergone major renovation since 2010.

During his 52-day religious tour to the eastern, south central and central dzongkhags in April and May, His Holiness consecrated the newly built Dragmar Neykhang in Tshenkhar gewog in Lhuentse, ancestral home of the Wangchuck dynasty, the Kuenphen Yoeselcholing monastic school in Gyalpoizhing, Mongar, and the newly constructed dratshang and Lhamoi goenkhang at Phumethang goenpa in Shingkhar gewog, Zhemgang.

His Holiness also consecrated and sanctified several newly built monasteries, such as Tara Lhaden Zhingkham lhakhang at Pangrizampa, Thimphu, Bajo lhakhang and Wachen dzong, both in Wangduephodrang, the Penden Tashi Choeling tshulakhang in Phuentsholing, and the renovated Euto Goenpa lhakhang in Shaba, Paro.

In September, His Holiness consecrated the eleven one-storied elderly home for retired monks in Limukha, Punakha, and the first Choeji Drukpa Kuenley thongdroel at Chimi lhakhang on December 1.

His Holiness also presided over Moenlam Chhenmo (Great Prayer ceremonies) in Chukha, Haa, Tsirang, Pemagatshel, Trashigang, Samdrupjongkhar, Samtse, Gyalpoizhing in Mongar, Autsho in Lhuentse and Zhemgang.

On May 15, Her Royal Grand Mother Ashi Kesang Choedon Wangchuck, and Khentse Yangsi Rinpoche inaugurated the Shechen Dharma Society in Thimphu.  The society will look after dratshangs, shedras and nunneries, which were established under rinpoche’s initiative in his previous life.

In December last year, five dzongs of Wangduephodrang, Punakha, Paro, Trongsa and Dagana have been nominated for the first ever World Heritage tentative list of Bhutan.

His Majesty the King, His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, and members of the royal family graced the final day of the five-day Sipa-Chi-Dhoe offering ceremony in Punakha on January 5 this year.  The five-day kurim, presided over by His Holiness, is performed once every 12 years.  The offering this year is dedicated to the 60th birth anniversary of His Majesty The Fourth Druk Gyalpo.

His Holiness appointed khenpo Karma Rangdrol and lopon Karma Gellay as the lam neten of Trashigang and Zhemgang Rabdey dratshangs.  His Holiness on November 10 conferred Toedtse Jim, or official recognition scarf, on a Japanese monk, Hakuho Kiyokawa, for his successful completion of Buddhist studies and three-year retreat in Bhutan.

The horse year was also an opportunity for Bhutan to clarify its position on the proselytisation issue at the 27th session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) in September.

Thousands of devotees received blessings and offered prayers to the kudung (mortal remains) of the late 14th Kunzig Shamar rinpoche, Mepham Chokyi Lodro, which was brought to Paro on July 27 en route to Kathmandu, Nepal.

Thousands of devotees attended the cremation ceremony at the Shar Minub monastery, as wished by the late rinpoche, on July 31.

Rinzin Wangchuk