clcs is committed to conducting research that aims to preserve and promote unique, and often endangered, aspects of Bhutanese language and culture.
Two centres are run through the institute for the purposes of conducting research, facilitating external linkages and promoting dissemination of information that results from academic inquiry regarding Bhutanese religion, culture and heritage:
The Centre for Buddhist Studies
The Centre of History and Culture
Additionally, the following descriptions of research and projects represent but a few of the research activities that regularly take place at clcs:
The Institute of Language and Culture Studies coordinated and implemented a project, in consultation with the Monastery of Drametse, to ensure the safeguarding of the Drametse Ngacham of Drametse and to support the preservation and promotion of this cultural expression. The project, funded by the Japanese Funds-in-Trust for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage, through UNESCO, seeked to provide sustainable foundations for the transmission of skills to the younger generations, document the choreography and to promote awareness of the value as well as of the importance to safeguard this intangible cultural heritage. It was proclaimed a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO’s Paris Headquarters in November, 2005.
The Drametse Ngacham is a sacred cultural and religious mask dance performed during the Drametse festival (Drametse Tshechu). Drametse is a small community in Mongar district, Eastern Bhutan, located on a plateau that overlooks many of the communities of the neighbouring Trashigang district. Drametse Ngacham can be translated as “The Dance of the drums from Drametse.” The dance is considered as the manifestation of the supra-mundane deities. The festival takes place twice a year; the first time in the 5th month of the Bhutanese calendar and the second time in the 10th month.
Deeply rooted in Tantric Buddhist concepts, it is the most sacred dance based on the pure vision of the religious master Khedrup Kuenga Gyeltshen (16th century) in the paradise of Guru Rinpoche. The gesture and spirituality involved in the Drametse Ngacham in general is a method to re-connect ourselves to our own nature, since every aspect of the dance is intrinsically pure. The powerful deities are visualized as a method to undermine the pathetic projection of ourselves and of our universe as ordinary and flawed. Therefore, the physical world is visualized as the Buddha realm of magnificent glory and all beings are visualized as gods and goddesses embodying the Buddha qualities. A constant spiritual contact is established with the audience through the visualization of the deities by the dancers. This is the most meaningful purpose for attending the Drametse Ngacham of Drametse. The dance is not only a beautiful performance, it is a mystical experience for the dancers and public alike.
Implementation of the project ended in 2009, and one of the most visible outcomes was the publication of a beautiful bilingual book and DVD:
clcs & Drametse Monastery. (2009) Drametse Ngacham. clcs, RUB: Thimphu. ISBN 978-99936-771-0-9
Bhutan Cultural Atlas
Since September, 2006, The Institute of Language and Culture Studies (clcs), in cooperation with UNESCO’s New Delhi office, has developed a pilot web-based database on the Cultural Mapping of Bhutan. This database aims to holistically inventory the existing cultural resources of the country by administrative district. The area of survey includes: sites and structures; intangible heritage; cultural institutions; and contemporary arts.
While the scope of the current survey is limited to the Bumthang region, the project endeavors to be extended to all other districts of Bhutan. Accordingly, the website has been designed so as to enable searches for the cultural resources of Bhutan, either by district/ dzonkhag or by topic, using the following classifications (each with additional subdivisions): historic sites and structures, intangible heritage, contemporary art and cultural facilities.
A website has been designed and launched in April 2007:
4th SSEASR Conference
The Institute of Language and Culture Studies hosted the 4th South and South East Asian Association for the Study of Culture and Religion (SSEASR) Conference from 30th June to 3rd July, 2011. The conference had the theme of “Mountains in the Religions of South Asia: Place, Culture and Power” and was held at the Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management in upper Motithang, Thimphu.
Mountains are significant features of several many religious cultures and traditions, and researchers from a broad range of contexts disseminated their research on related topics from around the world. 199 scholars from 39 countries participated in the conference, including twelve Bhutanese scholars (two of which were clcs Lecturers).