Bowled Over by Bhutan - 2007

close alliance of political governance and the Buddhist religion. Each of the twenty

districts of Bhutan is administered by a local governor (penlop) whose offices are

housed in half the dzong. Theother half of the building contains the religious

authority and a monastery. The double- purposed building thus demonstrates the dual

nature of Bhutanese governance.

These buildings are impressive in size compared with other structures in their districts.

They share the ornate window treatments and the construction style. The walls are very

thick and taper inward as they rise. In addition, they are crowned with shining, gold or

brass, multi- layered roofs with pagoda-like projections from the topmost portion.

These buildings are always covered in white stucco.

No paintings adorn their exterior walls. Inside the religious portion of the dzong there

is always a temple that can only be entered barefoot. Local citizens, both male and

female, must also add a shawl (for men) or a wide ribbon (for women) to their official

costume in order to go inside the temple. There is always a complex altar, sometimes

with representations of the Buddha in one or more of his many incarnations, or of a local

divinity, or of the bringers of Buddhism to Bhutan, as well as of important saints and

lamas. There are always candles, flowers, and water vessels adorning these altars.

Most of the dzongs also contain a monastery with a school for the education of young

people who wish to be monks. Housing for the monks and the students is also

within the dzong compound. In the past, this monastery education was the only formal

course of study open to young Bhutanese boys. Here they learned to translate the

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