Neten Dorji | Trashigang

Residents of more than 70 households in Tongling, Trashigang, who use Drung Goen Lhakhang to conduct their monthly rituals, are worried they would not have a common place to conduct the rituals.

Without proper maintenance after the 2017 earthquake, the lhakhang is now on the verge of collapse. The walls of the temple have major cracks.

Located more than 10km from Rangjung town, the two-storey lhakhang caters to about  90 households in the chiwog. Residents say the lhakhang is more than 100 years old and it was a private lhakhang before the owner handed it over to the community.

The temple is considered the most sacred among temples in Radhi gewog. Residents are worried that a strong earthquake would damage the lhakhang with its sacred relics.

A resident, Kinzang Dhendup, said if the government doesn’t support the lhakhang renovation, people would not be able to do it on their own. “The lhakhang will fall apart and turn into ruins. A proposal to renovate it has been submitted several times from our side.”

He said it is sad when a village doesn’t have a lhakhang in a religious country like Bhutan.

According to villager Dorji Phuntsho from Tongleng, minor renovations were carried out but the structure remains vulnerable.

“The renovation was once carried out 10 years ago. The walls developed cracks due to the earthquakes some years ago,” said Dorji Phuntsho.“When we perform our rituals every month, we fear it might crumble.”

Another villager, Dorji said that even the caretaker of the lhakhang fears going inside the lhakhang to offer daily prayers. “If the government could support us with the reconstruction, we would be grateful. We would also like to contribute in our little ways to help maintain the lhakhang,” he added.

Tongling-Pam tshogpa, Thinley Dorji, said they raised the issue to the gewog and dzongkhag administration several times but nothing has happened until now. “Dzongkhag officials have inspected the lhakhang but nothing has come out.”

The lhakhang houses important relics, which include the Chugchi Zhey statue. Ancestors of Tonglengpa brought the statue from Bumthang. It is believed that the statue was given by the first King, Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck.

Local residents believe that a similar statue is in Tharpaling Monastery.

Meanwhile, Radhi Gup Yonten Phuntsho said that gewog administration is well aware of the issue and they expect the lhakhang to be renovated through people’s contribution.

“As per financial guidelines from the government, we are not allowed to allocate a budget for renovation of temples and reconstruction purposes. We discussed with people to collect Nu 2,000 and renovate the temple,” the gup said.

The gup said engineers are working on budget estimation and other works to reconstruct or renovate the lhakhang.