Houses of Bjoka and Ngangla Trong


Until recently, only the Khoche (Lords) families in Bjoka and in Ngangla had a house made of stone and wood in the Central Bhutanese style which they were built at the end of the 19th c. and beginning of the 20th c.

Villagers live in houses, Bachim, on stilts made from timber, woven bamboo (serding) and thatched roofs made out of wild herbaceous plants (Berpagpa) and banana leaves (Gangpagpa). Each house has a large porch/platform to carry out daily activities

The structure of a bachim consists of wooden columns (although bamboo posts are also used for reinforcement) braced with timber or bamboo girders with a thatched gable roof.

The leaves of Berpagpa and gangpagpa are the two main plants materials traditionally used for thatching of a bachim. They are held at the top by split bamboo poles neatly tied together and split into two.

The roof needs to be changed every two to three years, and even the whole house needs replacement within 15-20 years. It takes 15 days for 70-80 people to prepare the house structure and build it.

This very elegant roof has a purpose as it allows the strong winds to pass through without exerting hard pressure on the roofing material.

Villagers say that this bamboo architecture is much more suited for the humid and windy climate as it allows air to go through the house without blowing it away. The spaces under the eaves of the roof are used for storage and a simple ladder made of notched wood leads up to the doorway of the house. Both tools and domestic animals are kept under the houses.

The kitchen hearth is made of three stones set into the bamboo floor and plastered with mud, on which cooking pots are placed. In some houses, gas stoves are also seen. Above the hearth, there is a large bamboo rack which serves as a drying rack and is also used for storage. There is no chimney and the smoke filters through the bamboo walls. It is said that the insects do not attack the part of the house which has been “smoked”. Partitions are made of woven bamboos and the floor is made of loosely joined trips of bamboo through which the lower ground can be seen. There is no furniture but only some trunks to keep clothes away from the rodents and insects. Everybody sits on the floor on bamboo mats. Most villagers have a small shelf serving as an altar in their main room. Only the Khoche has an altar room.

Ruins are located far below Ngangla Trong in the north-east. They are the ruinsof Grepjam dzong not far from a place called Bangsikhar. The dzong belonged to the Bjoka Khoche but no dates are available. The first school in Ngangla was built on the ridge of Ngangla Trong with the stones taken from these ruins.

When the Ngangla Trong school was blown away by strong gale, just after its consecration, the stones were carried to Bjoka for the school to be built there. Stones from these ruins were also used in the construction of the Kagtong school.


Dechen Tshering and Choening Dorji. “Nganla vernacular architecture” in Karma Phuntsho (ed.), Twilight of Cultures. Tradition and Change in four Rural Communities in Bhutan, Thimphu: Helvetas, 2015. 51-87.

Pommaret, Françoise. “The Community of Ngangla Trong” in Karma Phuntsho (ed.), Twilight of Cultures. Tradition and Change in four Rural Communities in Bhutan, Thimphu: Helvetas, 2015. 13-49.


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