The World Monument Fund (WMF) on Tuesday announced that Phajoding monastery in Thimphu has been enlisted as one of the five endangered cultural monuments that need most help in the world.
The fund reported that Phajoding has been a regional centre for a spiritual tradition of solitary meditation for centuries. Now, as more trekkers than ever before visit Phajoding to experience its tranquillity, they are exerting more pressure on the monks’ meditation and the monastery’s buildings.
With Bhutan’s stringent tourism standards starting to open up, this isolated site may soon be overrun by tourists hoping to cash in on the country’s Gross National Happiness, calling for improvements that can help balance visitation and meditation needs, WMF report said.
WMF listed 92 other sites in 47 countries throughout the world that are at risk of disappearing. The 2010 watch list includes cultural sites in danger of being demolished or permanently damaged due to encroaching development or environmental disasters.
WMF said the sites on the 2010 watch list make a dramatic case for the need to bring together a variety of sectors – economic, environmental, heritage preservation, and social – when we are making plans that will affect us all.
“The 2010 watch makes it clear that cultural heritage efforts in the 21st century must recognize the critical importance of sustainable stewardship and that we must work closely with local partners to create viable and appropriate opportunities to advance this,” said WMF President Bonnie Burnham.
The Home Minister Minjur Dorji said efforts are being made to renovate the monasteries. He said the ministry is looking for external funds.
Located at 3,650 metres above sea level, and three hours walk from capital Thimphu, Phajoding monastery was built in 1224 by Phajo Drugom Zhigpo, the Tibetan lama who spread the Drukpa Kagyud sect of Buddhism in Bhutan.
Consisting of ten temples and several meditation houses, Phajoding has since been the regional centre for a spiritual tradition that seeks the divine through solitary meditation.
Most of the buildings were constructed in 1748 through the efforts of Je Shakya Rinchen, the ninth Je Khenpo of Bhutan, whose image is the central figure in the main Khangzang Lhakhang. Many trekkers use Phajoding as a camping site.