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The Passing of Phuntchok Dawa, King of Padum

The Passing of Phuntchok Dawa, King of Padum

It is with great sadness that we pass on the news of the death of Phuntchok Dawa, gyalpo (precious ruler) of Padum in the Himalayan kingdom of Zanskar, Ladakh. Phuntchok actually died on 28th May 2023 but the news has only now reached us.

Zanskar is a remote Buddhist kingdom cut off by high passes in the winter months, and in fact has two kings. The other king lives in the village of Zangla not so very far from the main township of Padum. Phuntchok’s ancestors have a long and fascinating history. They are direct descendants of the early kings of Tibet, and strangely had long ago adopted the same sect of Buddhism as Bhutan. Indeed, there were strong connections between the first ruler of Bhutan and Phuntchok’s forebears dating back to the 17th century.

Our MD, Steve Berry first met Phuntchok in 1987 when he trekked through Zanskar en route to climb a mountain in Ladakh called Stok Kangri. Since then he remained in touch and met Phunchok on a number of visits. Eventually they shook hands on a project to build a traditional Zanskari bridge made of intertwined willow twig branches. Steve raised the money, and Phunchok built the bridge taking five years to complete the project. In 2014 Steve and a friend trekked from Kashmir to Zanskar and there was an opening ceremony in Padum to bless the completed bridge. Steve and Phuntchok are pictured together here on that trip.

We had many clients who enjoyed meeting Phuntchok and sampled his butter / salt tea at his wonderful ancient house in Padum. We are indeed sorry to impart this news, but if any of our clients wish to send condolences please send them to Steve who will forward them on to Phuntchok’s son.

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