Punakha’s Bridges: There is only one hurdle between the devotees living across the Phochu river and the place where the Chakrasamvara blessing is being conducted in Punakha – the 180m long suspension bridge.
The bridge built in 1997, which is about 25m high, is one thing these commuters do not look forward to. Yet they have to face the ordeal twice everyday.
Dorji Tshomo from Bumthang, who lived at Shangana, said, had it not been for assistance, being provided by police and desuups deployed at the bridge, she would never make it to the blessing.
Every time she reaches the other end of the bridge, safe, she folds her hand in gratitude.
“How can an old woman like me repay your kindness?” the 66-year old says to her helper.
Like her, hundreds of devotees cross the suspension bridge everyday with help from about a dozen of desuups and community police, and about ten police. Shivering and chanting mantras from fear, it is mostly the elderly that seek help.
“But there are also young people, who have height phobia and find it difficult to cross the bridge,” a desuup, Ugyen Wangchuk, said.
One of the police said some people started as early as 2am. “We work round the clock to ensure safety,” he said.
During rush hour, which was between 6am to 10am, around 50 to 60 people were sent in at a time.
Dzongkhag engineer, Tandin Dorji said the bridge, which can hold about 100 people at a time, was safe to ply.
“The dzongkhag team recently inspected it,” he said. Busy hours in the evening start from 3pm and go on till 7pm.
The commuters are those living in Chubu, Toedwang and Zomi gewogs,
on the other side of the dzong.
The rush is also experienced at the Mochu bazam, at the entrance of the dzong, and Changyul bailey bridge towards the north of the dzong.
Being closer to the Thangzona, where the blessing is conducted, the bazam gets very congested, despite commuters being sent in four rows.
While it can accommodate 150 people at a time, experts recommended to allow only 40 to 50 people at a time as a precaution.
Serving as the main entry and exit links to the venue of the blessing, the bridges see thousands of commuters everyday.
By Tenzin Namgyel, Punakha