Friday, 6 June 2008

Bhutan : Montage of monarchy at museum

5 June, 2008 - Marking a centenary of peace and prosperity under the dynamic leadership of successive monarchs of the Wangchuck dynasty, a special exhibition of royal imagery is open for both local and outside visitors at the National Museum in Paro.

Among the 105 p
hotographs of five monarchs on display - from between 1900 to May 17, 2008 - the main attractions are those of the first King, Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck, wearing the Raven Crown designed by Lama Jangchub Tsundrue, the signing of historic Genja in Punakha dzong on December 17, 1907, Gongsar Wangchuck with his first council of ministers, and a photograph of His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck near the door of a train during one of his state visits to India.

“Some of the photographs on display were rare and never seen before,” said a researcher from the Centre for Bhutan Studies (CBS), Dorji Penjore. “For instance, I saw for the first time the portrait of Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck wearing the Raven Crown with his unique coat although the date was not mentioned. I was so impressed,” he told Kuensel after visiting the special exhibition.

The other attractions were His Majesty Jigme Wangchuck, who was an ardent horse rider, standing near his favourite horse, Seerja, at Kuenga Rabten Palace in Trongsa, and His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck putting a shot at a Dantak sports festival.

“It personified the great achievements and happiness brought to our country and people through the selfless endeavours of our Monarchs,” said a Paro dzongkhag official.

Trashigang’s National Council member, Sonam Kinga, described the exhibition as a rare opportunity to acquire such rare royal photographs to enrich the museum’s collection.

Opened by His Royal Highness Dasho Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck on June 2, coinciding with the coronation anniversary of His Majesty the fourth Druk Gyalpo, and attended by the members of parliament, government and dzongkhag officials, the exhibition entitled “Royal photographs: Celebrating 100 years of Monarchy” will be open to the public till December 17, 2008.

According to the director of the National Museum, Khenpo Phuntsho Tashi, the exhibition is aimed at educating youth and the general public of Bhutan about the selfless contributions of the monarchs in ensuring that the country retains its unique cultural identity with the influx of changes in the name of modernization. “Through the exhibition we hope to educate and create awareness about the history of Bhutan’s evolution and legacy left behind by our Monarchs,” he said.

He said that it took the museum two years to collect more than 300 royal photographs. “However, we managed to display only 105 because of limited space,” Khenpo Phuntsho Tashi told Kuensel. Royal photographs were collected from the British Museum in the UK, Francesco Steward from USA, Kuensel Corporation, Rabsel Media Service and other private individuals. The latest was the photograph of His Majesty the King and the Indian prime minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, which was taken on May 17, 2008 during the prime minster’s visit to Bhutan.

The photograph of Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck wearing the Raven Crown was found in the house of Thimphu dzongpon Kinzang Thinley. A source told Kuensel that this particular photograph was printed in a magazine or newspaper, which was lying in the late dzongpon’s house. “The photograph might have taken by a foreigner between 1907 and 1910,” he said.

The home and culture minister, Lyonpo Minjur Dorji, said that the museum was organising exhibitions, colloquium and workshops on Bhutanese history, art, religion and culture. “But this exhibition is a special one since we are celebrating 100 years of monarchy,” he said, adding that the establishment of a hereditary monarchy in 1907 not only ended long years of instability in the country but also ensured a bright and prosperous future for its people.

It is the 12th exhibition after the museum began them as an annual activity in 1996 with the display of seventh century artifacts.

The National Museum was established in the renovated Ta-dzong (watchtower) located above Rinpung Dzong in 1968 by His Majesty the late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck with a vision to conserve and promote Bhutan’s distinct cultural heritage. The Ta-dzong was initially built in 1649 by Tenzin Drugdra, the first governor of Paro, as a watchtower for Rinpung dzong.

Khenpo Phunsho Tashi said that, in keeping with the vision and mission of the museum, more diversified forms of artwork and non-artwork with historical and cultural significance had been collected. The museum has over 3,000 antiquities consisting royal gifts, and purchases and donations from individuals and collectors. The national museum also faces a space crunch to accommodate such priceless collections. “The acquisition of art objects and their display from time to time to people on the art history and culture of the country is one of

the main objectives of the museum,” the director told Kuensel. “But when we acquire more objects, we need more space to keep them.”

However, it is expected that such problems would be solved by the end of this year as the museum is constructing a two-storied building with 12 units which, according to the museum director, will be used as a temporary exhibition hall.

A Nu 20 million project building, funded by the government of India, was supposed to be completed in the Ninth Plan period. But it was delayed by many years because ofa controversy between a government architect and the contractors, according to a source.

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