Freeze on new religious structure constructions

The idea is to focus on existing edifices, given limited manpower and other resources

Circular: Construction of new religious structures, including lhakhangs, temples, choekhangs, tshokhangs, chortens, tshamkhangs and drashas, is frozen for the next two years.

The home ministry issued a circular last month, notifying all ministries, dzongkhags, religious organisations, corporations, private agencies and individuals not to accept applications for new constructions.

The decision was made after the department of culture (DoC) faced difficulties in managing and maintaining the existing religious structures, which are more significant, when compared to the newly constructed ones.

Chief architect with the department, Nagtsho Dorji, said it was necessary for the department to take stock of the needs for new constructions and reconstructions in existing religious structures.

“We have to get a clear idea on how many religious structures need reconstruction,” she said. “Over the years, we’ve seen a rise in new lhakhangs and chorten constructions,” she said.

According to the circular, there was a need to carry out a thorough assessment and review of the existing situation on the requirement of constructing new religious structures.

Ground assessment and review was required, because there are already thousands of religious structures that required huge resources in terms of manpower, time and finance, for maintaining it in terms of renovation and reconstruction of the existing structures.

“The maintenance work has been exacerbated by the earthquake in 2009 and 2011,” the circular stated. “Securing financial support has also been an issue with the dzongkhag as well as the department.”

Nagtsho Dorji said the government funds 90 percent of the constructions.

In the last five years, the department of culture approved construction of 88 new lhakhangs and 22 choekhangs.  Another 69 approvals were given for reconstruction.

“This is a huge number and every application cited “damage by earthquake” as a reason for the reconstruction or renovation,” an official of the heritage conservation division said.

The department does not have a record of the total number of religious structures, but officials estimate that there could be over 2,000 lhakhangs and 10,000 chortens across the country.

While the heritage conservation division encourages renovation, it receives at least six applications a day for renovation of various religious structures.  Officials said the stress is more on heritage point of view and its preservation, which is possible through renovation.

Culture department officials said it was crucial for the department to properly assess and review the need of new religious structures.  It expects that a review will be done in another two years.

However, Nagtsho Dorji said that, if there were any genuine constructions to be carried out, the department would verify and approve them.

The department has also notified all dzongkhags to not  accept any budget proposal for religious structure construction for the financial year 2015-16 and 2016-17.  The finance ministry will also be informed about it.

While freezing new constructions for the time being, the department encourages investments in the maintenance of existing lhakhangs.  The freeze is expected to help secure financial support for maintaining old lhakhangs.

By Nirmala Pokhrel

8 replies
  1. Bongkharang
    Bongkharang says:

    Logical is right that we don’t need GNH pillar and Buddha Dharma for happiness. There are lots of human beings in the world with happiness without GNH pillar and Buddha Dharma but I think our Kingdom of Bhutan is special than other country which recognize as happiness country in the world. I think there is some special background whether you believe or not.

  2. logical
    logical says:

    Sensitive
    Do you really buy that cake of GNH pillar and Buddha Dharma to make tasty meal for your soul? Either you need to upgrade your education or come out of the cocoon of prejudices by which you show favour to the BEGGARLY CULT for lack of sense of justice.

    Buddha Dharma teaches to renounce desires/wants in life and the life itself in succeeding steps in order to be detached from material. When you talk about HAPPINESS, who will understand that you mean for something that has no association in life? For whom does that (happiness) mean since you also profess to deny the comfort of life in following Buddhism? The matter gets more complicated when you demand government permission and helps to continue building RELIGIOUS STRUCTURES which in your opinion bear much HAPPINESS as fruits. NUTS!

  3. Sensitive
    Sensitive says:

    It’s really sad that the govt will not allow the construction of religious structures in our Buddhist nation. It’s just a small excuse that the govt is unable to take care of the old ones. There should be different offices for looking after the old ones and looking after the new constructions. What a bad policy is this against our GNH pillar and Buddha Dharma?

  4. Bongkharang
    Bongkharang says:

    I feel very sad that how the Ministry of Home & Culture Affairs decided of freezing of construction of new religious structures. By changing the time, I think the way of living of the religion must also change. As we all know that only few young people becoming monk, nun, Gomchen and etc. according to the religion. I think that the time has been changed and young generation cannot follow the old system. Dharma cannot be change but the way of living the Dharma is changing every second. If we just repairing the old one and don’t allow to build the new system of living the Buddha Dharma in Bhutan, Slowly it may disappear. King Asoka built 10 millions of stupa but now we can see only few ruins these days. According to that, I think 10,000 is nothing. As all of us young generation living with new equipment as same as every year nearly changing the hand phone and no one is sending the messenger these days. We cannot just repair old things and depends on that. Example, when the old cars or houses became very old, we must buy new car or build the new houses. Of course, this new thing will also become old because it is the nature of impermanent. I think it will be very benefit to everyone if the Government release from freezing the construction of new religious structure. No one can stop the nature disaster like earth quake and etc. I don’t think that it is very necessary to renovate by the government if there is no budget. I think who ever going to build the new things must make agreement with government that they will not get anything from government if they want to build the new structure. Anyway, I wish that the Buddha Dharma may remain forever in the Country of Bhutan. Sarva Mangalam.

  5. logical
    logical says:

    Monasteries and temples anywhere in the world that cannot justify the cause for being in place on the ground are PRISON HOUSES for the souls of the deceived votaries and devotees of unknown causes. Rather than just freezing the new for few years, it is appropriate to consider if any of all the OLD have justification to be standing and removed to clear the ground if no satisfactory reason exists. A WILLOW tree may produce more output for the living than grand monastery in many cases.

    RELIGIONS anywhere have proved to be TOOLS for manipulating the mass of simple psychologically and using the force to achieve feat that would be difficult with just and fair means.

  6. Lha Gyelo
    Lha Gyelo says:

    We supports Govt decisions but we wish that Govt don’t freeze for two years,, it will hamper and dishearten some committed people who tirelessly worked hard in many ways to build spiritual temples, stupa and religious institutions for the longevity of our beloved Kings, country and people.

    At this current juncture Drasha for monks are in dire need to approve,, individuals cannot afford to stay in building,, how can the Followers of Almighty Buddha affords to stay in ramshackle room.

    Lord Bless Us All.

  7. joker
    joker says:

    Why should the Govt freeze new constructions of religious strucvtures? Construction of new ones and repair work of old ones should go simultaneously. Bad news for those who want to contribute to religious and cultural promotion.

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