There were times when monks from Chizhi goenpa in Thimphu travelled all the way to Dekiling in Dagana to perform tsechu every year. The monks, carrying dung (trumpet), also went to perform local tsechus in Dawakha and Matalongchu in Punakha and Hebisa in Wangduephodrang.

Punakha’s National Council (NC) member, Rinzin Dorji, said that people in Punakha believe that the blowing of the dung by lay monks of Chizhi goenpa bring peace and prosperity to their area.

But the culture, he said, has stopped for the last 13 years in Dagana and for few years in Punakha and Wangduephodrang. Rinzin Dorji said civil servants from Dawakha and Matalongchu have contributed money and revived the tradition.

He recommended the government to allocate some budget to preserve the culture.

The NC’s social and cultural affairs committee reported that there are 397 local festivals in the country but with the decline in rural population, younger generations showing less interest into such arts and lack of financial support, some local festivals are no longer performed. “Others are at risk of being discontinued,” the report stated.

The committee reported that dzongkhags are facing difficulty in finding dancers and mask dancers during annual tsechus.

It was mentioned that dzongkhags like Lhuntse, Zhemgang, Trongsa and Trashiyangtse have discontinued local festivals because of lack of dancers.

The committee also pointed out that although the government has allocated budget for the preservation of culture, most of the budget was allocated for construction and renovation of dzongs, lhakhangs and other religious and historical sites. “There is no separate budget allocated for the preservation of intangible cultural heritage,” the report stated.

Thimphu NC member Nima Gyeltshen and Trongsa NC member Tharchen raised the need for Bhutan Broadcasting Service Corporation (BBSC) and local television operators to broadcast local tsechus instead of school variety shows.

Paro NC member Kaka Tshering said it is important to empower Department of Culture (DoC) to improve performing arts by collaborating with schools and tourism council.

While the committee recommended appointment of trained artists from institutions like Royal Academy of Performing Arts (RAPA), who are certified by labour ministry as performing arts instructors in schools and educational institutions, Gasa NC member Sangay Khandu pointed out that local people should also be recruited as performing arts instructors.

He also suggested that urban dwellers, who already formed tshogpas to help each other in times of need, should initiate some of their village’s arts in Thimphu so that people can come together.

NC chairperson, Sonam Kinga (PhD), said instead of relying on the government to allocate budget to promote local tsechus, it is important to look for alternative funding mechanism by the local government officials. “When a tshechu is nearing in a locality, local government officials should inform all the people from those areas and ask for funding.”

The committee recommended that the government should prioritise maintenance of an inventory of different festivals and performing arts in different communities and support documentation and archival efforts of agencies like BBSC, College of Language and Cultural Studies in Taktse, Trongsa and other government and private entities.

NC members also deliberated on the concerns raised on dilution of performing arts in drayangs and luyangs.

Sonam Wangchuk said that while Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority (BICMA) issues license to drayangs and luyangs, it is important to find out who monitors whether  they are promoting culture.

“While we understand drayangs and luyangs are commercial, it is important that it is in line with our culture,” the Mongar NC said.

He said that while Drametse ngacham, a mask dance, which originated in Drametse, Mongar, is performed by 16 men, some luyangs are now performing the dance with just eight men.

Chukha NC member Pema Tenzin said police claim that most crimes occur in drayangs.

He said it is important to revisit whether drayangs are really needed. “If it is deemed necessary, it should be monitored and relocated to places away from town. “There are 10 dzongkhags where there is no drayang. We shouldn’t encourage it.”

Trongsa NC member Tharchen said he conducted a study on drayangs in Phuentsholing and questioned whether drayang is providing the intended job opportunities. “We questioned the criteria for the employees and the criteria is disheartening.”

He said that while drayang owners are making money and young girls get employment, it affects families of people who visit the drayangs.

Wangduephodrang NC member Tashi Dorji, who is a committee member, said the committee members looked into drayang issue and its effect on culture and not the social aspect.

Chairperson Sonam Kinga (PhD) said it is important to make drayang and luyang employees feel proud of their work.

The house, while deliberating on vernacular languages, mentioned that except for Dzongkha, the national language, Tsangla, which is commonly referred as Sharchopkha and Lhotsamkha, 16 languages are endangered.

Zhemgang NC member Pema Dakpa said people in Kheng Bjoka speak a different language and it is important to note that people in the locality should preserve their language.

People of Bjoka speak a language that is a mix of Sharchop and Khengkha.

Tsirang NC member Kamal Gurung said Doyaps, Tamang, Sherpa and Lepcha speak different dialects.

Sonam Wangchuk said schools encourage students to speak in English and punish students who talk in their local dialects. “Students should be encouraged to speak in their own language.”

The house, while deliberating on driglam namzha, informed that there are about 30 government and corporate organisations that procure and issue western attires to their employees.

The committee reported that the government must review the proliferation of western attire as standard institutional uniforms so that appropriate remedial measure and advisory directives could be provided.

Sonam Wangchuk said that law has to be uniform and it should be studied why the offices use western attires. “I don’t see why people feel inconvenient wearing the national dress. I feel comfortable in gho.”

He said field and technical employees should take their trousers and shirts, change into it when they work and again wear national dress.

Sangay Khandu said it is important to understand why offices use the uniforms and cited examples of how it is necessary for field staff to wear it.

Meanwhile, the committee will discuss the recommendations made during the deliberation before forwarding it to the government and DoC.

Tashi Dema