Four centuries ago, in the year 1616, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal at the young age of twenty-three years arrived in Bhutan from Tibet. His arrival in Bhutan heralded in an important era in Bhutan’s history. Zhabdrung unified Bhutan under his rule, defended Bhutan from repeated Tibetan invasions, built Dzongs in each valley and thus established firm political and religious control over the region. He also gave the country a unique national identity which has contributed to the protection of Bhutan’s sovereignty over the centuries.
Before coming to Bhutan, Zhabdrung had a vision of a raven perched on a tree near a lhakhang inviting him to visit the southern lands. When he arrived at Pangrizampa, he recognized the lhakhang from his vision.
Pangrizampa Lhakhang, known then as the Druk Phodrang Ding, was built by his great great grandfather Lama Ngawang Choejay in 1529. Pangrizampa Lhakhang consists of two temples – Kargi Lamai Tenpa Lhakhang and Zhabdrung Lhakhang – and the Chundu Shing Goenkhang.
There is an interesting story on how the statue of Zhabdrung came to face the river. Legend has it that after the temple was completed and statues were built the tshomen (mermaid) residing in the tsho (lake on the river) requested the statue of Zhabdrung to face towards the river so that she could offer him choep (water offering) for eternity. That is why the statue of Zhabdrung is facing the river.
Today Pangrizampa is the National Centre for Traditional Astrology under the state clergy. There are about 100 monks, coming from monasteries all over the country, studying traditional astrology. The recently completed Twenty-one Tara Zhingkham (Dema) Lhakhang adjacent to the previous splendor of the place. The new Lhakhang built by Her Majesty Queen Mother Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck, is unique as it is the first temple dedicated exclusively to the goddess Tara.
A zam (bridge) connected the temple with Pangri and the lhakhang eventually became known as Pangrizampa Lhakhang. With the passage of time, the original bridge was damaged. Pangrizampa without the zam (bridge) was seen as incomplete. On inspiration of Her Majesty Queen Mother Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck, the Ministry of Works and Human Settlement took up the project of building a Bazam (traditional wooden cantilever bridge) over the Wangchhu river and near the historical Lhakhang.
The Bazam is a unique architecture of Bhutan, a distinctive bridge that blends well into the scenic natural landscapes. The traditional construction techniques of the Bazams has been on a decline, and this conscious intervention is an important initiative in preserving and promoting the distinctive Bhutanese national and cultural heritage.
Features of the Pangrizampa Bazam
• Located east of the main Lhakhang
• Effective span of 17.0 m and 2.4 m carriage-width with loading capacity of 2.5 kN/m2
• Spans over Wangchhu river which runs through heart of Thimphu
• Two abutment houses on either side with roofing or three tier of 250×300 mm cantilever beams each comprising of five members as the main structural elements. The beams are embedded into the abutments that are constructed with stone masonry in cement mortar
• Timbers are all from mixed conifer
• 20 sincere artisans from many Dzongkhags worked full time on the project starting from April 2015 and completed in duration of five months. This contributed not only to the building of the beautiful structure but also in enhancing their capacity and building their confidence in replicating similar bazams across the country.
It seems fitting that the revival of our age old practice, culture and traditions are the best way to tribute a man who was larger than life, who gave the country its unique national identity, and can be rightly remembered as one of the greatest figures in Bhutanese history.
Photo of (1) Bazam and (2) Inauguration of Bazam – from BBS website
Some information on this site, including features of the Bazam, from MoWHS