…𝒇𝒓𝒐𝒎 𝒓𝒐𝒚𝒂𝒍 𝒉𝒐𝒏𝒐𝒓𝒔 𝒕𝒐 𝒓𝒆𝒍𝒊𝒈𝒊𝒐𝒖𝒔 𝒓𝒆𝒗𝒆𝒓𝒆𝒏𝒄𝒆, 𝒓𝒆𝒔𝒑𝒐𝒏𝒔𝒊𝒃𝒍𝒆 𝒅𝒊𝒔𝒑𝒐𝒔𝒂𝒍 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒔𝒖𝒔𝒕𝒂𝒊𝒏𝒂𝒃𝒍𝒆 𝒑𝒓𝒂𝒄𝒕𝒊𝒄𝒆𝒔 𝒊𝒏 𝒂 𝒎𝒐𝒅𝒆𝒓𝒏𝒊𝒛𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒔𝒐𝒄𝒊𝒆𝒕𝒚
By Ngawang Jamphel
The yearly ritual unfolds as tens of thousands of calendars, adorned with Royal and religious portraits, are printed. As the pages of time turn and these calendars fulfill their primary function of marking dates, it prompts a reflection on the destiny of these portraits – are they reverently preserved, or do they meet a careless demise? While the cultural and environmental aspects of their disposal are explored, a critical evaluation leads to questioning the very need for printing such images on calendars.
Beyond the mere role of calendars in marking dates, they carry profound cultural significance by featuring images of significant personalities. This connection to history is not merely a matter of remembering dates; rather, it becomes a tangible link between our present lives and something sacred. In religious contexts, these images often depict saints, prophets, or gods, serving as reminders of deeply ingrained spiritual beliefs. On the contrary, in other traditions, they showcase esteemed images of Kings, symbolizing respect and reverence.
However, as these calendars near the end of their life cycle, the treatment they receive becomes a matter of ethical consideration. The various disposal practices, from burning to burying, all rooted in cultural traditions and respect for the sacred images. Notably, the waste management company, Greener Way, plays a crucial role in responsibly handling discarded calendars, advocating for recycling and promoting environmental sustainability. This reflects a commendable approach that aligns with both cultural preservation and ecological consciousness.
A representative from Greener Way, a Thimphu-based waste management company, shared valuable insights into the disposal of calendars. She explained, “Calendars are not a common item in our waste stream, but when they do come in, people typically remove the pictures before discarding them. We responsibly send the remaining parts to recycling facilities, contributing to paper recycling efforts in Bhutan and neighboring countries.”
In cases where calendars still contain pictures, Greener Way collaborates with skilled local experts who handle them with care, underlining a thoughtful approach to waste management aligned with environmental sustainability. The spokesperson extended a friendly request to the public, encouraging them to consider repurposing calendar pictures. This not only aligns with waste reduction initiatives but also demonstrates a commendable respect for cultural heritage.
Thimphu resident Ugyen Tshomo shared her distinctive approach to calendar disposal. While most calendars are burned, those featuring portraits receive special treatment through careful framing. Ugyen questioned the relevance of printed calendars in the digital age, advocating for the widespread adoption of digital alternatives, especially considering the prevalence of smartphone ownership. This interplay of perspectives highlights the evolving dynamics between tradition and modernity in Bhutanese society.
Sonam Dorji, a businessman from Paro, expressed, “Calendars with Royal pictures are special because they honor the history and achievements of our Kings and Queens. The images on these calendars represent leadership, tradition, and reverence that hold a special place in the hearts of the Bhutanese. When it’s time to part with them, it’s essential to do so in a way that respects the importance of these Royal figures.”
According to Thubten Norbu, a monk at Tingzin Drawa Goenpa under Samdrup Jongkhar Dzongkhag, who shared his opinion, calendars should serve the purpose of reading dates and not be used for decorative purposes. He added, “It would be better if institutions or companies printing calendars without any portraits followed the example of Kuensel-Simple and efficient.”