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6. Ritual Monument Batpalathang B3

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Function of Monument B3

As we could show in the part devoted to the structural description, the excavated and documented remains of B3 present far more complex features than initially expected.

Through the numerous intervention stages accomplished between April1999 and the end of July 2000, the interpretation of the site evolved gradually. The “flat stone pavement” visible initially was rapidly supposed to represent a house foundation (examples on Fig. 52 and Fig. 53) or to be the base platform of a chörten (the Tibetan stupa) (example on Fig. 54). In fact, we observed many other examples of platforms supporting different kinds of monuments (an example on Fig. 55), so that the idea of a platform foundation is easy to infer.

In our preliminary report, while the chamber was still intact, we stated that B3 was for sure a “monument” by itself, but probably not a simple and early form of chörten, since there are clear indications that the platform was buried under a massive sediment deposit. The burial grave hypothesis was also rejected with certainty, although one could find some similarities between the platform and burial monuments of the Mongolian and South Siberian steppes. The frequent presence of Mongolian troops assisting the Tibetan invaders in the first half of the 17th century could even ascertain this possible link. And the absence of any comparable structure in Bhutan makes the peculiar shape of the monument even more intriguing.

Fig. 52

Fig. 53

Fig. 54

Fig. 55

The rich investigation results we obtained in 2000 add supplementary dimensions to the interpretation problem. Today, we are sure that the central platform was not visible at the end of the construction process although it represents the monument core. It was rather hidden within and under a much larger (16 x 12 meter) superstructure made of stones and artificially accumulated soil deposits. The large areas featuring collapse signs, situated on three sides of the peripheral wall, indicate that the monument underwent a violent and destructive event – most probably an important earthquake. This event destabilized the highest parts of the peripheral wall which collapsed outwards to a major extent. The perfect preservation of the central platform itself is largely explained by the fact that it was sealed within the stable sediment mass.

Now that the major construction stages are explained, we are able to visualize what the monument could have looked like when all its elements were still standing. The discovery of seven postholes – probably representing as many prayer flags – enhanced the general picture of monument B3 and added as well a human and religious depths which can be linked directly with today’s deep anchored Buddhist traditions and beliefs.

Although we are sure that monument B3 was erected following definite architectural traditions and religious beliefs, and that it was intended to keep a peculiar event in memory, we have no definite indication about this event. The literary and architectural records of Bhutan have not yet been able to help us in this interpretative process. To try to go a step further, the only way is to gather information about stone monuments built elsewhere in the Himalayan region.

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Copyright 2001, Reto Blumer, Switzerland
Copyright 2001, SLFA Zürich, Switzerland

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Last updated: 29-05-2001.