Archaeology investigation of Sorey Dzong under Thimphu Dzongkhag

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  1. Site Location

The Sorey Dzong ruin under Kabesa gewog, Thimphu Dzongkhag located on a ridge overlooking Kabesa village at a walking distance of 15-20 minutes from the main road point. The site approximately covers two acres of land.

Exact Location (Site coordinates)

E 89° 39’28.17

N 27°32’08.79

Altitude 2682 m.s.l

2. History

There are different oral and written traditions that conflict and overlap about the origin of the Bonbji Choje lineage, which traces back to the Yarlung Dynasty in Central Tibet during the reign of King Trisong Deutsen in the 8th century.

Bonbji Choje’s lineage produced some eminent Buddhist masters, such as the 2nd Ganteng Trulku, Tendzin Legpai Dondup (1645–1727), who was born to Bonbji Choje Thinley Wangchen and Buthri Lhamo (who was herself a descendant of the 13th century Drukpa Kagyu master Phajo Drugom Zhigpo). The lineage also produced the 6th Gangteng Tulku, Tenpai Nyima (1838–1874); and the 9th Gangteng Tulku, Kunzang Rigdzin Pema Namgyal (b. 1955).

Other great personalities from the Bonbji Choje lineage who held important positions and ruled Bhutan were:

  • 10th Druk Desi Mipham Wangpo (1709–1738): 1st incarnation of Gyaltse Tenzin Rabgye, who became Desi in 1729 at the age of 21
  • 11th Desi Khuwo Paljor (1736–1739)
  • Lama Nyentsen Tshering Wangchuck (1729–1740): representative of Bhutan to Tibet during the reign of the 10th Desi
  • 18th Desi Jigme Singye (1742–1788): 2nd incarnation of Gyaltse Tenzin Rabgye; Desi from 1776–1788
  • 26th Desi Tsultrim Drakpa (1790–1810)
  • 50th Desi Kishelpa Dorji Namgyal (1873–1879)

The Sorey Dzong site is said to have been founded by 18th Desi Jigme Singye in 18th Century.

3. Preliminary archaeological investigation ( fiscal year 2018-2019)

The preliminary archaeological investigation of the main fortress complex of Sorey Dzong was carried out in the fiscal year 2018-2019 (fig.2) by the Archaeology Section under the Division for Conservation of Heritage Sites, Department of Culture by deploying the workers of Wangditse, Tango and Chargri Restoration Project during the weekends. The preliminary survey was carried out to study and understand the on surface archaeological features and remains of the Sorey Dzong by removing the debris and vegetation on site.

The preliminary investigation clearly revealed that the overall layout of the Dzong complex clearly shows the courtyard concept plan with the main central tower ‘Utse’ surrounded by the Shabkhor structure (fig 3), revealing the continuity of plan form typology of Dzong architecture that endures to this day. On the eastern site of the fortress complex, there is a remains of the Chukhor mani. The Utse is rectangular in shape measuring 21.5 meters X 14.5 with the wall thickness of 1.95 meters. (fig 3). It was learnt that central tower (Utse) was about three to four storied building from the amount (approx. six truckloads of stone) of collapsed debris of walls removed from the external part of walls of Utse. The remains of the entrance steps to the utse (fig 4) and fire place (fig 5) was discovered while removing the debris. The main entrance to the structure is from the southern side having spacious courtyard space.

4. Archaeology excavation (fiscal year 2019-2020)

In continuation to the preliminary survey carried out in the fiscal year 2018-2019, an archaeological excavation of the main fortress complex and Chukhor mani is currently being undertaken. The works on site was started from 9th April, 2020 to further study, understand and analyze the internal layout and remains of the main fortress complex. Till date, archaeological excavation/investigation of the main fortress complex are being excavated and removed layer by layer. The detailed analysis and documentation of the site is currently being undertaken by the Archaeology section under the Division for Conservation of Heritage Sites, Department of Culture.

During the course of excavation, following finds were discovered (fig 7,8,9,10,11 and 12) from the layers of collapsed walls and earth deposits as of now.