Now called the National Museum of Bhutan above Paro Dzong is its ‘ta dzong’ (watchtower), built in 1649 to protect the undefended dzong and renovated in 1968 to house the National Museum. The unusual round building is said to be in the shape of a conch shell, with 2.5m-thick walls. The ta dzong suffered damage in the 2011 earthquake but is due to reopen in 2016 as the nation’s premier museum. Until then a sample of the exhibits are currently on display in an adjacent annexe.
Displays include an impressive collection of ‘thangkas’, both ancient and modern, depicting Bhutan’s important saints and teachers, as well as fearsome festival masks grouped according to their tsechu dances. There’s a natural-history gallery with a 3D map of Bhutan, while the Heritage Gallery contains such oddities as an egg laid by a mule and a horse horn attributed to Guru Rinpoche, plus a few original iron links from the iron bridge at Tamchhog. An underground tunnel is said to lead from the watchtower to the water supply below.
Cameras are not allowed inside the museum, but you can photograph the ‘ta dzong’ and surrounding grounds. The museum closes an hour earlier in winter (November to February).
Driving to the museum involves a 4km loop into the Dop Shari valley. After visiting, you can walk down a path from the museum to the dzong and back to the town, enjoying good views of the valley and of the Ugyen Pelri Palace. Alternatively, you can start the excellent hike to Zuri Dzong from just about the museum.
The Museum has got every detail scripted on their god’s and ancestors with a display of traditional attire followed by display of various inhabitants.
The National Museum performs an essential role as a preserver and promoter of Bhutanese cultural values. Preserving culture and cultural values is one of the Nine Domains of Gross National Happiness, the Bhutanese philosophy for national development.
The Nine Domains are:
China’s building an all-weather road on Bhutan’s territory, one capable of sustaining heavy vehicles, was heavily disapproved by Bhutan and India. If Chinese claims the Doklam plateau, it would bring China within reach of India’s vulnerable ‘Chicken Neck’, the Siliguri Corridor. This has always been India’s ‘Achilles heel’ (a weakness or vulnerable point).
In 2007, India and Bhutan had made a Friendship Treaty. According to it, the two countries are committed to coordinate on issues concerning their national interests.
Neither side appears to be in a mood to cede (give up) ground. The Chinese side has laid down a condition that, India should withdraw its troops as a precondition, for essential peace talks. Implicit threats have already been exchanged.
Diplomacy should have been the way out, but no bilateral meeting took place between PM Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit. India’s friends are also unlikely to persuade China to step back.
India and China though are reluctant to engage in an open conflict, due to their own reasons. The Chinese economy is slowing down at present and it is also preparing for its 19th Party Congress, at which Xi Jinping hopes to establish full control.
If the situation is to be resolved, it would need the Special Representative Meeting (SRM) that was set up to deal with border issues. SRM has been used previously to deal with border matters. The Special Representatives should, hence, urgently establish contact and work out a modus vivendi (an arrangement allowing conflicting parties to coexist peacefully) that would ensure an efficient solution.