Category Archives: Bhutan

Technology saves rare artefacts in the Himalayas: Bhutan

Picture 1Here is an Indiegogo campaign page for a project created by preservation fine art specialist Anne Shaftel. The project aims to help protect Bhutanese artifacts, threatened by looting and environmental risks.

The campaign:

It is time for action! We need your help in protecting rare artefacts in Bhutan – with digital technology!

Antique hunters destroy precious Bhutanese heritage for money. In a time of a dramatic and alarming rise in the theft of art treasures from Himalayan Monasteries, the smartphone is a vital documentation tool to prove ownership. Art theft worldwide is a major criminal enterprise.


Fire, flood, earthquake and political upheaval destroy traditional treasures. Our vision is the documentation of cultural heritage treasures worldwide, through the training and empowerment of local treasure caretakers using low-cost, universally available technology (mobiles and tablets) and their existing skills (texting, email, video, and photography). Very few have access to highly complicated cataloging technology used by museums that require expensive computers.


Your donation:

• Trains cultural caretakers in digital documentation and preservation of monastery and town treasures Continue reading

Artful Contemplation: Collections of the National Museum of Bhutan


The National Museum of Bhutan announces its publication, Artful Contemplation: Collections of the National Museum of Bhutan, available only at the NMB gift shop.

Bhutan takes a second look at phallus worship

Religion News Service
Tara Limbu
March 4, 2014

Photo by  kartografia @ Flickr

THIMPHU, Bhutan — For centuries, Buddhists in this tiny landlocked Himalayan kingdom have had a special devotion to the most unusual of objects: the phallus.Painted on the walls of their homes, hanging from the eaves of their houses and seen in vehicles and on rooftops, images of the phallus are an essential part of Bhutan’s traditional ceremonies.

Bhutanese believe the “scandalous” yet integral image aids in fertility, offers protection from evil and dispels malicious gossip.Now, Bhutan’s phallic worship is getting a second look. The age-old tradition is being reconsidered — to preserve its rich narratives, as artistic inspiration and as a tool for religious belief. In fact, the phallic symbol is suddenly again in vogue, contrary to the popular belief that modern Bhutanese are discomfited by the graphic paintings of an erect penis. Continue reading

A sublime confluence

The Hindu
Kaavya Pradeep Kumar

Think Buddhist monk and among the first images to form might be of a person wrapped in crimson robes, meditating somewhere in the remote heights of the Himalayas.

Certainly not the sort of characters you would find hollering in front of a television, shaking their fists and completely removed of any ‘serenity’ that their stereotype conjures up to mind. But a director participating in the 18th International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) is a monk, a football fanatic, an accomplished writer, and film-maker all rolled into one.

A meaningful friendship

Khyentse Norbu is a Bhutanese lama and he persuaded noted Indian film producer Suresh Jindal to keep aside his Buddhism learning for a while and to return to film production.

Mr. Jindal, of Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi fame, is in the capital to attend the film festival and assess the reception to Mr. Norbu’s third film Vara a Blessing. It opened this year’s Busan International Film Festival before being screened at the International Film Festival of India in Goa.

“Rinpoche (as Mr. Jindal refers to him) has already warned all his students and acquaintances in the film fraternity that he will be unavailable during the Brazil Football World Cup next year.
Professional actors

In fact, his very first film called The Cup involves a group of young Buddhist monks desperately trying to find a television to watch a football world cup,” said Mr. Jindal. Vara a Blessing is the first film of the director in which he has worked with professional actors.

“That is how he is. One day he will be directing a wonderful film, the next day retreating into a cave, and then writing a book, then travelling across the world and teaching Lord Buddha’s teachings,” said the veteran producer.
Talented crew

Shot in Sri Lanka, Mr. Jindal says the visuals of the film are stunning particularly because the camera work has been done by award-winning cameraman and cinematographer Bradford Young from New York.

“It was an international band of players that worked on the film, with the editor hailing from China – William Chung – music director from London – Nitin Sawney – and actors from India,” said Mr. Jindal. This film is based on a multi-layered short story written by Bengali novelist Sunil Gangopadhyay.
Winning formula

Mr. Jindal seems to have a knack for picking scripts that have been long ignored, which then rise to international fame. Aside from Gandhi, he also produced Satyajit Ray’s Shatranj Ke Khilari and his very first film released in 1974 — Rajnigandha.

With his films winning three national awards, four Filmfare awards, and eight Oscars, Mr. Jindal says he was planning to devote his energies to Buddhist teaching, when ‘Rinpoche’ came along and this film was made after a 10-year hiatus.


Lhabab Duchen – the Day Buddha Descended from Tushita Heavens

Buddha Shakyamuni Descending from Tushita Heavens to the Earth

Buddha Shakyamuni Descending from Tushita Heavens to the Earth

This article from Bhutan Journals describes the iconography of the Buddha Shakyamuni Descending from Tushita Heavens to the Earth. I insert below to a  larger image of the same painted theme, for easier reference to the detailed description that follows. – Buddhist art news

Buddha Shakyamuni Descending from Tushita Heavens to the Earth

Lha-Bab Duchen is celebrated on the 22nd day in the ninth lunar month of the Bhutanese calendar (which coincided with 29 October in 2010), and marks the anniversary of the Buddha’s descent from the heavenly realm to the earth. It is on this day that Buddha Shakyamuni descended to The Heaven of Thirty-Three Trayastrimsa in order to give teachings to benefit the gods in the desire realms, and to repay the kindness of his mother by liberating her from Samsara. This is considered to be one of the great deeds of the Buddha among eight great deeds. It is part of the Buddhist tradition to engage in virtuous activities and prayer on this day.

When Shakyamuni’s mother dies, she is reborn as a deva in the Trayastrimsha heaven which is presided over by the Brahmanical god, Indra. After the Buddha attains enlightenment, he goes to Trayastrimsha to teach the Abhidharma to his mother and other celestial beings. After three months of teaching in Trayastrimsha, the Buddha decides to return to his disciples and lay followers. His descent from the heaven takes place at Sankashya in modern Uttar Pradesh, India.

The Dharmapada-Atthakatha records that when the Buddha is ready to return, Indra makes three ladders for the Buddha’s descent. The ladders connect the summit of Mount Meru, where the Trayastrimsha heaven is located, and the earthly human sphere, near Sankashya city. The ladder, made of jewels, in the middle is used by the Buddha; the right ladder of gold is used by Indra; and the left ladder of silver is used by Brahma. Indra and Brahma are depicted as the Buddha’s attendants.

The most important message that the Descent from the Trayastrimsha has come to represent occurs with the Buddha’s arrival at Sankashya. Crowds of people gather there eagerly awaiting the Buddha’s return. Everyone wants to greet the great teacher. According to Chinese narratives there is a nun called Utpali, who vows that she would be the first person to greet the Buddha when he descends from the heaven. However, a simple nun cannot compete against the powerful kings and princes with their elaborate entourages occupying the best spots near the ladders. Yet, as a result of Utpali’s devotion, she is transformed into a universal monarch, accompanied by seven treasures and the most elaborate troops, and thus she is able to secure the best position to fulfill her vow. She is the first to greet the Buddha, upon which she reverts back to her original appearance. Recognizing Utpali’s devotion, the Buddha predicts her future enlightenment . As such, the event represents the archetypal prediction of one’s enlightenment by the Buddha.

The story (represented in the painting), begins from the right top corner. The Buddha is shown here preaching in Trayastrimsha heaven. He is seated in a cross-legged manner, with his right hand in the varada, or bestowal, gesture while his left hand is in the vitarka, or teaching, gesture. There are four figures kneeling before him, listening to his teachings. Continue reading

The monk who asked Shah Rukh Khan to help him sell his movie

Times of India
Gauree Malkarnekar
Nov 30, 2013

PANAJI: Draped in maroon robes, Khyentse Norbu, a Bhutanese monk, cuts an odd figure among filmmakers as the maker of the already critically acclaimed film ‘Vara – A Blessing’, at the ongoing 44th international film festival of India (Iffi) in Goa. Considered among one of the highest Buddhist masters with monasteries in Bhutan, Tibet and India, Norbu ventured into filmmaking when he gave into to his love for art cinema, though as a Buddhist monk he can never become a full-time filmmaker.

When Norbu’s film ‘Vara – A Blessing’ was chosen to open the 2013Busan film festival and executive producer Suresh Jindal was representing the film alongwith team members, the film’s writer and director Norbu was travelling by foot for a retreat at the foothills of the Himalayas.

“When I was studying in London, trying to earn a master’s degree, I did not manage it because I was watching an array of classic films and encountered filmmakers Japanese masters andSatyajit Ray then,” said Norbu, speaking at his hotel in Goa, on the night after the screening of his latest film at Iffi 2013. Continue reading

Explore Bhutan’s Buddhism at the Center for Tibetan Qigong-Napa Valley

Napa Vally Register
13 October, 2013


Coming to Napa Valley on Oct. 25-27 is a rare opportunity to experience the rich culture and traditions of Bhutan, a tiny Buddhist country tucked away in the Himalayas. In a series of events sponsored by the Center for Tibetan Qigong-Napa Valley, Lama Karma Namgyel Rinpoche will give a Dharma teaching, conduct an outdoor Buddha of Compassion blessing ceremony, and perform a traditional Bhutanese Black Hat Dance. Continue reading

Movie by Bhutan lama to open the Busan International Film Festival
3 September, 2013

Busan1 Lee Yong-Kwan, director of the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF), speaks in Seoul on September 3, 2013. A feature film made by a Bhutanese lama will open Asia’s top movie festival next month, organisers said, adding it would underline the goal of discovering new movies and directors.

AFP – A feature film made by a Bhutanese lama will open Asia’s top movie festival next month, organisers said Tuesday, adding it would underline the goal of discovering new movies and directors.

The October 3-12 festival in the southern city of Busan will feature 301 movies from 70 countries, including 95 having their world premiere. Continue reading

Bhutanese Exposition to Dance to open Busan Film Festival [Oct 2013]

Korean Herald
2013-09-04 20:24

Lee Yong-kwan, director of the Busan International Film Festival, speaks during a press conference promoting the upcoming edition of BIFF on Tuesday. (Yonhap News)

A Bhutanese film directed by a Buddhist monk has been selected as the opener of the upcoming 18th Busan International Film Festival.

It is the first time for a Bhutanese movie to be screened as an opening film at an international film festival, according to the organizers.

Directed by Khyentse Norbu, the film features Bharata Natyam, a classical Indian dance. Norbu is unable to attend the film festival, as he is currently occupied with his religious training.

A total of 301 films, including 95 world premieres, from 70 countries will be screened during the upcoming edition of BIFF. Continue reading

Film: Thunder from down under, and Bhutan

The Age
Garry Maddox
August 29, 2013

A former Buddhist monk who's made a new Australian film in Bhutan.

Greg Sneddon: Monk turned filmmaker. Photo: Tim Swallow

As a former Buddhist monk, Greg Sneddon had a mantra while making a new Australian film in Bhutan: ”Do the best you can with what you have.”

It proved valuable many times while shooting a self-funded drama in the mountains, villages, monasteries and fortresses of the tiny Himalayan nation.

Instead of organising auditions, for example, his novice Bhutanese co-producer delivered just six actors for the six main roles the day before an astrologer had decreed that filming must start.

Sneddon quickly modified the script and, after blessings from the high lama, began shooting Arrows Of The Thunder Dragon, a story about a brother and sister with a talent for archery. Continue reading