In Bhutan, heritage loss is not just a story, it’s a plea.
Take a look at some of our museums today. When they are supposed to be the repositories of the nation’s history, we have so little there going by the count of artefacts and their stories.
Anyway, how many museums do we have? Three. Four. Let us say five, counting in some private initiatives and management.
The real question is not about how many museums we have but what contents do we have in there to tell the Bhutanese story. Not a lot.
When fire engulfed the Taktsang Monastery in Paro on April 19, 1998, we lost a good chunk of history with it and, likewise, Paga Goemba in Chukha and Wandgue Dzong in 2012.
Every fire or disaster is a loss to Bhutan. We are not even counting the sale of precious and historical objects that happened in the later part of the last century. Reportedly, some museums abroad have more collections about Bhutan than Bhutan has.
But the point is not about which country has more collection of Bhutanese artefacts in their possession today. It is about the loss we suffered and the imminent danger of losing more.
We are now in the process of re-electrification of some of the important historical and heritage sites. The Wangdue Dzong, reportedly, is being modelled as a heritage site with all the modern amenities to address hazards such as fire. The idea is laudable. But the history of Bhutan is contained not only in the dzongs. Many monasteries, state-sponsored and private temples and monasteries are facing the same problem.
Because Bhutan’s history is preserved mostly in the country’s numerous religious institutions, protecting them is of utmost importance.
In Bhutan, most fire incidents happen due to short circuit. That is where we need to focus first. If short circuit is the main cause of fire, why is it still a major problem? But then, new technologies are always welcome for all their expedience.
In the meanwhile, focusing on the homespun ideas and simple method to safeguard would be a worthwhile effort, at a much affordable cost.
Museums everywhere are places of worship and celebration. If we invested genuinely in building a few state-of-the-art museums, we can achieve two things at the same time—preserve heritage and history.
That can be done. Easily. Protect Bhutan’s heritage and history.