Heritage: The Institute of Language and Culture Studies (ILCS) presented the outcome of its first phase of “The Bhutan Culture Atlas” yesterday in a workshop held at the Royal University of Bhutan.

The project, which began from Bumthang around five years ago, has also covered Trongsa. In its next phase the culture mapping would be shifted to Zhemgang.

“Zhemgang is full of potential. Much of it still unexplored,” ILCS adjunct professor and director of research of CNRS, Francoise Pommaret (PhD) said.

‘The Bhutan culture atlas aims at documenting tangible and intangible heritage across dzongkhags to help preserve culture. The project also aims in providing informed database for policy makers, the department of culture, institutions, tourism, national and international audiences.

“The culture mapping is a modest attempt towards ensuring the fulfillment of one of the aspirations of Gross National Happiness as its realisation lies in the honest unwavering pursuit of every Bhutanese and institution indiscriminate of big or small,” ILCS director, Lungtaen Gyatso said.

Five years after the project, the institute organised a workshop yesterday at Royal University of Bhutan to basically share the experience of the initial leg of its journey. Till now ILCS has documented numerous local festivals, lhakhangs, monuments, museums and dzongs.

In Bumthang, the culture mapping has covered the Tharpaling and Kunzangdra goenpas, and the Sumthrang and Kurje lhakhangs. It has also documented local festivals like Prakar Durchoe.

It has also documented Trongsa dzong, Taa dzong and Yundrucholing palace in Trongsa, among other monuments. The project has also studied pottery in Langthel.

“Our ultimate aim is to showcase to the world outside rich and vibrant cultural diversity by making all the relevant information on culture and history, which are of significance to Bhutan,” Lungtaen Gyatso said.

Lecturers from the college conducted the researches. They have been engaged in research in oral history and anthropology. In college a research centre for history and cultural studies has been established.

“The project serves as a research opportunity to interested lecturers trained in qualitative research methods and audio-visual techniques,” Francoise Pommaret (PhD) said.

“Such projects would also reinforce human resource in the institute and university in survey and documentation of culture and heritage data management.”

Besides this the project will enhance research component in the institute for its newly established centre for history and culture. It will help furnish the college’s curriculum.

“The culture mapping by involving in field studies would help create interest among the professors and students of history, archeology and architecture,” she said.

The project will also create awareness among the communities and officials in localities.

“These in turn are expected to contribute in improving national development policy in harmony with heritage values,” Francoise Pommaret (PhD) said.

The institute also discussed challenges and the way forward.

A website (www.bhutanculturalatlas.org) and a booklet on the Bhutan Cultural Atlas were also launched.

Foreign affairs minister Damcho Dorji, delegates, members of parliament and officials from the Royal University of Bhutan attended the day-long workshop.

The project is funded by UNESCO-Delhi and UNESCO World Heritage Centre and oriental cultural heritage sites protection alliance, France.

Tempa Wangdi