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Changangkha lhakhang – The light at the end of the tunnel

The popular pilgrim spot, plagued by poor infrastructure, will soon see much-needed improvements

Heritage: Human faeces lie spread across the floor of the only toilet at Changangkha lhakhang.  Visitors who use the toilet have to be careful about where they step.  Visitors can also be seen walking away from the toilet, their noses wrinkled in disgust at the smell and sight.

There is also no water in the toilet.

“The toilet condition is horrible that I don’t feel like staying the whole day,” Lobzang Dema, a regular visitor to the lhakhang, said.

Changangkha lhakhang is one of the most visited lhakhangs in Bhutan.  Almost a thousand people visit the lhakhang daily, including pilgrims from other dzongkhags and tourists.

“It leaves a bad impression,” said Yeshey Wangmo, a cook for 16 years at the lhakhang on the poor state of the toilet.

“It’s said that the toilet will be built soon, but I don’t see any sign of progress,” said Phub Om, another regular visitor.

The only public toilet at the lhakhang is also used by the monks there.

Another visitor, Rinzin Dorji, suggested that financial offerings and donations be used to construct a new toilet.  He pointed out that every one of the estimated thousand daily visitors offered between Nu 100-1000. “I think, from that money, the toilet can easily be built,” he said.

Lam Yonten of Changangkha lhakhang said that the money offered was collected and used for the construction of other lhakhangs.  Some of the lhakhangs that were built are Tandin in Thimphu, and Sharida and Nabesa in Wangduephodrang.

Besides the unhygienic toilet, the lhakhang is also facing a housing problem.  An old traditional house, which was damaged in the 2013 earthquake, is now causing problem for the residents of the lhakhang.

Monk Nima Dorji said the house is very old with small rooms and no proper ventilation.  It is dark even during the day, and lights have to be kept on.  During the monsoon, the rooms even get “muddy” because of leaks.

The monks have to cook, eat and sleep in one room.  In the past, three small rooms were shared by seven monks, but now, three monks have shifted to a different house, where they bear the rent themselves, while the head lam sleeps in the lhakhang.

“I had no choice but to shift to another place since the rooms were so congested and we hardly could move,” said monk Kinley Wangchuk.  Now, he pays for his own food and house rent, which is expensive for a monk who earns only a Nu 1,705 monthly stipend.

The lack of a guesthouse is another problem being faced, especially during annual rituals.  Lam Yonten said he expects up to 60 monks, who will come to perform rituals in the near future.  He added that he has no idea where to accommodate them.

The head lam of Changangkha, Jamtsho, said that he had proposed for the construction of a guesthouse, hostel, toilet and kitchen in 2013.  However, the proposal was not approved, and he was told that the government would handle the new constructions.

“Now it has been delayed for more than a year,” he said.  He added that the required additions would have been completed by now, if his proposal had been approved back in 2013.

By the end of March, this year, however, three more rooms to accommodate monks and a toilet will be constructed by Thimphu thromde.  The World Bank is funding the constructions at a cost of Nu 8M. “By the end of March this year, three rooms for monks and one toilet will be built immediately,” said Thimphu thrompon Kinlay Dorjee.

But the home and cultural affairs ministry has to plan and implement the new constructions.

Asked why there has been a delay in the constructions, cultural affairs chief architect, (Dr) Nagtsho Dorji, said the plan had already been drafted, but work could not be done at a stretch.

“Since Changangkha lhakhang is one of the most visited lhakhangs, the visitors will face problems if we start implementing the plan all at a time,” he said.

He added that it was not a matter of delaying the work but a matter of sequence, and that the ministry was facilitating Thimphu thromde.

 By Chechey and Rosmi Rana

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