On November 24 Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan, saw inauguration of “Buddhism in Russia”, the first ever Russian exposition displayed in the Himalayan Kingdom, traditionally known as the Thunder Dragon Land.
The grand opening ceremony at the Nehru-Vangchuk Cultural Centre of the Indian Embassy saw a number of dignitaries, namely H.E. Mr L.M.Dordji, Bhutan’s Home Minister; Mr Oleg Neretin, Director of the Education and Development Department, Russian Ministry of Culture, who led the Russian delegation; Mr A.Sysoenko, Director of the All-Russia Decorative and Applied Arts Museum; Mr V.Grusman, Director of the Russian Ethnography Museum; Dr N.Zhukovskaya, prominent Russian Buddhologist; H.E. Mr Pawan Varma, well-known Indian writer and Ambassador of India to Bhutan, and Mr Sergey Karmalito, Senior Counsellor of the Russian Embassy in New Delhi.
The vast, well-structured and elegantly designed exhibition divides into several sections, namely “Cosmology and Pantheon”, “Life of Buddhist Monasteries”, “Popular Buddhism”, “Contemporary Buddhism” and “Buddhists’ Gifts to the Russian Royal Family”. Here one can see 3D holograms of the Buddhist relics presented to the Emperor Nicholas II; numerous XIX century archival photos as well as contemporary pictures portraying Buddhist monasteries in Kalmykia, Buryatia, Tuva and other regions. It is worth noting that the exhibits include day-to-day Buddhist household items, and particularly birch-made Lama figurines as well as traditional costume elements with Buddhist symbols. This all will be presented as a gift to the Bhutan Nation Museum at Paro.
The speakers noted the event’s uniqueness, which exposed deep, centuries-old history of Russian-Bhutanese ties, closeness of cultural and spiritual traditions as well as religious beliefs of our two nations. Mr Oleg Neretin, the head of the Russian delegation, expressed his conviction that this very special exhibition – first in the history of friendly mutual contacts – would “spark lively interest among the Bhutanese and serve as a symbolic bridge between our two nations”.
“The exhibition’s main theme had been chosen on purpose. Buddhism, the state religion of Bhutan, has not only been well-known in Russia since the times immemorial, but acquired an official status during the reign of Empress Elizaveta Petrovna in 1741”, emphasized Professor N.Zhukovskaya. “Today Buddhist communities are found in Buryatia, Tuva, Kalmykia, Altai, Transbaikalia and Irkutsk regions, as well as in Moscow, Saint-Petersburg and other Russian cities”. “This unique exhibition is a great chance to demonstrate the similarities of cultural and religious traditions of the two countries, which undoubtedly will encourage further strengthening of relations between Russia and Bhutan”, pointed out Mr S.V.Karmalito, Senior Counselor of the Russian Embassy in India.
H.E. Mr Pawan Varma, Director of the Nehru-Wangchuk Cultural Center, famous writer and Ambassador of India to Bhutan who spent a bulk of his diplomatic career in the USSR and Russia, shared his profound knowledge about Russian rich cultural heritage – museums, monuments, libraries. “It is heartening that now the Bhutanese have also an opportunity to learn about this treasury,” he stressed. “We hope that cultural cooperation between two nations as well as India will continue to develop in the future”.
H.E. Mr L.M.Dordji, Home and Cultural Affairs Minister of Bhutan, said that Russia was well-known in the Kingdom as one of globally recognized leaders in science and technology. “The exhibition is a genuine discovery for us,” he acknowledged. “Educated Bhutanese are well acquainted with and fascinated by the oeuvres of Russian writers, painters, actors, sculptors and cinematographers. However, it is the first time we got evidence that despite long distance between our countries we are very close spiritually with common cultural and religious sources. We cannot abandon the past and do hope that cooperation in holding this exhibition will break new ground for further fruitful cultural exchanges”. In conclusion he expressed warm gratitude for “a genuine kingly gesture” from the Russian Side – the decision to donate the exhibition to the Bhutan National Museum.
Friendly contacts between Russia and Bhutan have recently acquired a noticeable boost. H.E. Mr A.M.Kadakin, Ambassador of Russia in New Delhi, represented the Russian Federation at the solemn wedding of Bhutanese King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk and Queen Jetsun Pema in October this year.