Sensitisation Programme Held To Train Caretakers On Proper Techniques In The Conservation Of Bhutan’s Cultural Relics

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Even after 14 years of establishing the regulations, people are still unaware of the procedures required during the handing and taking over of the lhakhangs.

Chimi Lhakhang, also known as The Fertility Temple, is a Buddhist temple in the Punakha District of Bhutan, idyllically located on a rotund hill. Renowned throughout Bhutan as a 'fertility' temple, couples who wish to conceive seek help here. There have been some success stories so far. (Source: Flickr/Loveleen De)

 

By Rinchen Zangmo Kuensel

To create awareness among Kuenyers (caretakers of lhakhangs, chortens and dratshangs) about the procedures and systems regarding the care of religious relics and antiques in Bhutan, a sensitisation programme was conducted in Tsirang on 1 March.

Necessity of conducting the sensitisation programme

The Department of Culture’s Chief Cultural Property Officer, Phendey Lekshey Wangchuk said that most knowledgeable caretakers no longer worked as Kuenyers nowadays which was why the training was conducted for the newcomers.

“However, the training is happening in Tsirang for the first time.”

Currently, there are over 2,360 lhakhangs (temples) registered with the department across the country, of which about 32 are found in Tsirang. 

 

The 16th Druk Desi Zhidhar and the 13th Je Khenpo Yonten Thaye built Tashichhodzong, the summer residence of the Zhung Dratshang (HQ of the Central Monk Body) in 1771 after the Thimphu Dongoen Dzong was gutted by fire for the second time. In 1961, the Third King, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck renovated and extended the Dzong to the present stature.

The Dzong houses many precious artefacts such as the Golden Throne of His Majesty the King and several sacred relics, including the tooth relic of Buddha Khasapa. 

Photo: Zhung Dratshang

 

He divulged that even after 14 years of establishing the regulations, people are still unaware of the procedures required during the handing and taking over of the lhakhangs. 

As many people offered to renovate and maintain the country’s lhakhangs, there are certain procedures that need to be followed, he said.

“Many people in the past were confused about such things. There are also procedures related to offering private lhakhangs to dratshangs (Commission for the Monastic Affairs) of Bhutan, among others. ”

What is a chorten?

A chorten (stupa) is a religious monument representing Buddha's enlightened mind. It was the first Buddhist art form, symbolic of Buddha rather than representative of him in human form.

 

 

The Memorial Chorten (Stupa), also known as Thimphu Chorten or National Memorial Chorten, is one of the most iconic religious landmarks of Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan.

Photo: Druk Asia

 

It is believed that visiting and circum-ambulating round a stupa will bring the believer merits. Buddhists in Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan often make pilgrimages to the sites of great stupas.

However, of more than 10,000 chortens in the country, most have been vandalised. To compound the problem, most of the chortens are located in remote areas, making it difficult to protect them. 

“We want to help our Kuenyers be extra careful and vigilant while taking care of the lhakhangs.”

During the programme, Tsirang’s dzongdag, Pema said that it was important to reflect on why such programmes were being held.

“Tsirang, as part of southern Bhutan needs to take care of its lhakhangs well.

Kuenyers must religiously fulfil their duties and maintain the decorum.

Preserving Bhutan’s cultural heritage

”It is through these things that we uphold our culture, and pass it on to future generations, he said. 

 

 

The 108 Chortens White-Washing Project is one of the major projects of Kuenphen (Let’s Help). The Project Coordinator, Tob Gyel said that the project was initially started to commemorate the 60th Birth Anniversary of the Fourth King Druk Gyalpo. It usually involves the Dzongdas, gups, youth and the local communities.

Photo: Facebook/Kuenphen (Let's Help)

 

Phendey Lekshey Wangchuk mentioned that the department had also initiated the registration of religious antiques and relics.

“It is being done to ensure that the precious pieces which are of immense importance to our culture remain within the country.” 

He said that in the past there were a few records with the government but people did not understand the benefits of registering it.

“If in case the items are lost, the department with other institutions will work towards finding them back.” 

 

This article first appeared in Kuensel and has been edited for Daily Bhutan.

 


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