Saturday, 29 January 2011

Bhutan - Writers visit Bhutan for inspiration

A group of writers, poets and publishers from the USA and Poland are in the country for a retreat. They call this journey a writer’s pilgrimage. They will stop and write as they travel.

On Tuesday, a group of writers and filmmakers from Alaska and Vietnam met with teachers, students and aspiring local writers. During the meeting, they shared experiences and tips on the art of writing.

As part of their journey, seven Bhutanese writers were invited to join them for a cross cultural writer’s retreat. They will meet in Bumthang for three-days and engage in writing to find a new dimension to their writings.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Bhutan - Man arrested for selling fake rhino horn

The Thimphu police have arrested a 32-year-old man from Wangduephodrang on suspicion of selling fake rhino horns. The suspect and an accomplice were arrested while on their way to a potential customer’s house in Changjiji on January 14.

Police told BBS that they have been following the man after getting a tip off. The suspect confessed that they bought the fake rhino horn from Lucky Bazaar in India for Nu.750.

He also admitted selling a similar horn to a Lobesa resident in November last year for Nu. 400, 000.

The suspect will be sent to the court for deceiving and cheating. Meanwhile, the rhino horn has been sent to the Department of Forests for verification.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Bhutan - Petrol price to skyrocket

The price of petrol is expected to increase by more than Nu.2 per litre. The hike will come into effect from tomorrow according to the Department of Trade. This is the second hike in a month and the fourth within a year.

With the increase, a liter of petrol will cost Nu. 54. The last price hike on December 16 saw an increase of about Nu. 3.

The rise in petrol price is mainly because of the price hike in India.

However, the price of diesel, kerosene and LPG cooking gas will remain the same.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Bhutan - Thimphu hit by a dearth of drugs

The Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital in the capital has been facing an acute shortage of drugs for quite some time now. The patients cannot get the required medicines. It is also difficult to get the prescribed medicines from the medical shops.

According to patients visiting the hospital, if the doctors prescribe four to five different medicines, only two or three are available from the dispensary counter. They have to buy the rest from the medical shops.

“We are asked to buy the medicines from the medical shops but we can’t find them in any of the medical shops,” said a frustrated patient.

Medical shop owners are required to register all the drugs they want to import with the Drug Regulatory Authority. According to pharmacists who run the medical shops, this is making it difficult for them to procure medicines.

P.S. Sada runs the City Pharmacy in the capital town. According to him “getting medicines registered with the authority is difficult. To do this, we have to submit a dossier produced by the company and each product will have a dossier consisting of no less than 200 pages.”

Ratna Samal, the proprietor of the Himalaya Medical Shop, said “previously we use to sell all the products but from March 2010, the Drug Regulatory Authority asked us to sell only the registered products.”

Sonam Dorji, a Drug Controller from the Drug Regulatory Authority, said medical shops have to register the drugs they want to sell with the authority so that they can ensure the quality of the medicines.

Meanwhile, the Media focal person of the Health Ministry Kado Zangpo said the shortage was caused mainly due to the changes in the procurement system.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Bhutan - Producers piqued by piracy

Thanks to modern gadgets and the internet, music lovers can download, copy, and share music easily but it is also promoting piracy. As a result, the sale of music CDs and cassettes has been decreasing rapidly causing a huge loss to the nascent music industry.

Jamtsho, an audio shop owner, blames piracy for the decreasing sale of music CDs.

“Earlier business was good but now with pen drives, mobile phones, and memory cards, the sale has plummeted. I can’t sell even 10 copies of audio cassettes and CDs,” he said.

“With DVD players, broadband, iPods, and mobile phones, it is not necessary to buy; you can download or share at no cost.”

According to singer, producer Nidup Dorji, Bhutanese musicians are struggling. As it is, the market is not lucrative.

“Our songs and movies are copied as soon as they are released. The government has to come up with plans and policies to stop this. We cannot fight this problem individually. We have to stop this together,” he said.

Piracy and digital downloading is not only happening locally. It is also happening across the border.

According to Sonam Dorji, another singer, producer, “All our songs are instantly copied and downloaded on pen drives and memory cards. We can find pirated versions of our cassettes and CDs all over Jaigaon, in India.

According to the Copyright Act, a person whose copyrights have been infringed upon can lodge a complaint with the police. The police can seize the pirated articles and store them to be produced as evidence in the court or even destroy them if necessary.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Bhutan - Preservation experts complete 3-year study

Bhutan’s Art Treasures 6 January, 2011 - Bhutan has paintings that are exquisite in quality and technically sophisticated, according to experts, who also said that the paintings that date back from the 16th to 19th centuries, were largely unknown and unrecorded in the west.

Specialists from the Courtauld Institute in London were given access to the rare paintings in an effort to preserve ancient wall paintings by the department of culture.

“The wall paintings are absolutely stunning. Some of the earlier examples, especially, are extraordinary,” Professor David Park, from the Courtauld, was quoted in The Observer, a leading daily newspaper in the UK.

The director, department of culture, Dorji Tshering, said that the three-year project, which ended in 2010, was initiated to preserve the ancient wall paintings. The experts studied what kind of material, coating and how many times they were repainted to preserve the art, according to Dorji Tshering.

The Observer reported that the experts were astonished by the unexpected rich, jewel-like quality of some of the paintings in such remote settings. One of the experts described their techniques in the west and spoke of being overawed by the miniaturist detail, achieved through a unique layering of colours and coatings.

The spectacular paintings seen by the British experts include paintings from dzongs, the most important of which includes the Tamshing monastery.

“Its wall paintings are among the earliest in Bhutan, and are intimately associated with one of the most revered figures in Bhutanese Buddhism, the saint Pema Lingpa. The paintings can be dated precisely to his time at Tamshing, between 1501 and 1506, and they include his portrait,” according to The Observer.

Another site the expert were given access was the rich selection of paintings in the Tango monastery, dedicated to Tenzin Rabgye, whose personal chamber was painted with rich pigments and gold by the finest artists.

“Although the paintings are largely sacred in subject and are restricted to religious worship, the Bhutanese have looked to the Courtauld’s expertise to ensure the paintings’ preservation for posterity,” the experts were quoted in the newspaper. “Some of the buildings in which they have survived have been damaged over the centuries by fires and floods. In a harsh natural environment, gradual deterioration takes its toll on the susceptible materials that constitute the paintings.”

The Courtauld study will lead to an understanding of how the art deteriorates and how it can be preserved. “An alarming number of Buddhist wall paintings in India and Tibet have been irreversibly damaged by well-meaning but disastrous cleaning,” One of the researchers, Rickerby, told The Observer. “Bhutan’s isolationist past protected its cultural heritage from such dangers, but the opening up of the country means that such risks cannot now be ignored.”

Until now, no one had a clear idea of how many paintings existed, let alone their condition, date or significance Rickerby said: “Their significance and quality deserve far wider recognition.”

The research was collaboration between the Courtauld and the Bhutan department of culture, through funding from an anonymous US benefactor. The last stage of fieldwork and scientific analysis has just ended.

The team will publish a report as a benchmark for future study and conservation. The department will also discuss extending the collaboration period.

Compiled by Chimi Om

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Bhutan : Of 16th century provenance

Drapham Dzong 2 January, 2011 - Drapham dzong in the Chokor-toe valley in Bumthang could belong to the second half of the 16th century with its upper castle built between 1550-1700, according to radiocarbon data of the country’s first archaeology excavations on the ruins of the dzong.

The dzong was built by the then ruler Chokhor-Deb, a contemporary of Pema Lingpa. The ruins sit at a strategic location in the centre of the Chokor-toe valley and has monitored the trade routes between Bhutan and Tibet, according to the report of the three-year excavation that ended last month.

The excavated dzong site has an approximate area coverage of about 200m by 60m in width, making it as large as the Wangdue or Trongsa dzong structures. The defense functions of the dzong are comprehensible, which is indicated by the use of bows and arrows and light-calibre firearms, according to the findings. The two baileys and the fortified valley settlement indicate the dzong to be a vast and impressive fortress, which might have needed a garrison of 2,000 men, in case of a war.

The team also unearthed skeleton parts like skull and jaw fragments of sheep, pigs and cattle. “The animal bones certify that domestic animals were slaughtered within,” states the report.

Samples of iron arrowheads and non-ferrous metal bangle were also dug out by the excavators. Considerable ceramic fragments were also found, indicating trade relations with China. However, since they were in small number, ceramics could have been a luxury, confined to the wealthy, said Nagtsho Dorji, head of division of conservation of heritage sites (DCHS) of the department of culture.

Wood remains, rocks, sediments and wall materials were also collected as samples for analyses. The excavation site near Nag Lhakhgang, approximately 400m north-east of the dzong show clear traces of past iron mining.

“An iron slag, which was discovered in 2009, proves that the ruins could have been the organisational and stately centre of a mining establishment that might have provided the economic foundation for the fortress in the barren high valley,” states the report.

The base of the fort has a cellar, which resembles a horse shed indicatng that sheds must have been used by the traders, as a halting ground to feed their horses and pay taxes, said Nagtsho Dorji. “It is clear that the collapse of the upper fort is due to fire, but we must determine what caused the fire,” said Nagtsho Dorji. The collapse of the entire dzong is yet to be determined and is being annalysed.

The three-year project, which began in 2008, was supported by Helvetas, the Zurich-based Swiss-Liechtenstien foundation for archaeological research abroad (SLSA) and the royal government of Bhutan.

Dr Werner Meyer, a fort archaeologist from the university of Basel, led the excavation, which was carried out together with the department of culture. Local villagers were also recruited to work at the project.

The project received an annual budget of 60,000 Swiss francs from two international donors and another one million from the government.

“Bhutan has very little recorded history and this research resource help us revalidate and provide historic evidences for the oral traditions,” said Nagtsho Dorji, adding that since it was a huge site, only the top part was excavated. All the collections and findings were sent to Switzerland for further analyses.

The scientific analyses on the ruins of the Darpham dzong will be published at the end of 2013. “In-depth analyses are being done in Switzerland, such as scraping the ceramics to determine the basic food crops back then,” she said.

The on-site excavations, which began in 2008, was done only during the dry months of October and December every year. The ruin was chosen because of its unique features and it was the largest structure that predates Zhabdrung.

Nagtsho Dorji said the end of the three year project does not mean it is the end of the excavations. “It’s just the end of a certain phase of the excavations.”

By Sonam Lhamo