The land of Myanmar, metaphorically known as “Golden Land”has possessed the scenic beauty of nature , pagodas of different ages and styles, interesting fine arts and cultural heritage attracting and enthralling all the visitors and tourists. Shwedagon of Yangon is also one of the most important attractions that all the tourists and visitors never miss to visit.
It is none other than the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Cultures that always engages in the relentless effort in managing the religious and cultural affairs including the tasks to put the most revered and frequented pagodas such as the Shwedagon Pagoda into its highest glory and magnificence. During a year since the advent of incumbent government, the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture formed a new Board of Trustee, revised the rules and regulations to cope with the current situation and carried out the all -round development at Shwedagon Pagoda.
At the Shwedagon, up to the present time, donation money has amounted to US$ 20millions and carried out all-round development works ranging from paving the heat-proof tiles, planning to introduce the system to take free care of the foot wears at all the roofed pathways.
The ministry has supervised the work of putting the gold plate of specified quality to the pagoda in the open season of this year. Moreover, Measures have been taken to prevent self-flying drone has been launched to the air above the Shwedagon precincts for the safety of the pagoda.
Board of Trustee has also seen the possibility of using the drone with evil intentions. “The drone carrying the explosives flies over the Shewdagon and may threaten the safety of the Pagoda. As the preventive measure, the Board of Trustee bought the Anti-Drone, installed more CCTV and also more lighting around the base of Shwedagon”,said the deputy permanent secretary U Zar Ni Win.
Besides, during one year ruling of the new government, the ministry has undertaken the development works at Thiri Minglar Kaba Aye Pagoda, including the dredging and maintenance works of the shallow pond, a fish sanctuary existed since 1952 in the premises of State Pariyatti Sasana University, renovation of roofed pathways and replacing the tiles.
At Sandawshin Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda of Kyaikto, Mon State which is said to be a wonder among Myanamar Pagodas, Ministry has done the necessary changes in response to the critical review of the State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee on the works of Board of Trustees.
According to deputy permanent Secretary U Zar Ni Win, the donation boxes were all under contract between Board of
Trustee and individuals and it became much nuisance to the pilgrims. Other commercial works relating to the Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda were also assigned to individuals or organisations under long-term contracts. Actually, those individuals or organisations are not entitled to sign official contracts. At the coordination meeting chaired by Union Minister, all the contracts were revoked. Free accommodation or accommodation at the least reasonable rate was also arranged for the convenience of the pilgrims.
The donation money collected within four months of the previous year amounted to K 4,893 lakhs and this year under the new government, within the same time span K 15,400 lakhs were collected. The difference is about K 10,564 lakhs. The fact was also publicised through the media.
So also, Mahamuni of Mandalay is the most revered and frequented by foreign tourists and local piligrims as well. The new Board of Trustee was elected and new rules and regulations were also put in place. Those works were done by joint team comprising the personnel from Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture and Mandalay Regional Government.
During the reign of the new government, residence for the Rector of State Pariyatti Sasana University was built with the combined effort of ministry personnel and other donors. State Sangha Nayaka Website was launched on 25 August of the previous year so as to be able to give real time information to the world.
In relation to the activities of inter-faith committee, 11 committees of region and state level, 39 district level, 76 township level totalling 127 committees were formed and 66 activities were passed off at region and state level, district level and township level.
The law on the protection of hate speech was drafted by inter-faith committee, then reviewed by legal professionals and sent to the Attorney General office, and after acquiring the international assessments through Ministry of Foreign Affairs redrafted the law and is now making an arrangement to submit it to the Security, Peace and Stability and the Rule of Law Committee.
With an unrelenting dedication to the protection of Myanmar Cultural heritage from fading out and disappearing, Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture has renovated the national museum in Nay Pyi Taw and displayed the interesting things. National Museum of Yangon was also renovated and upgraded during one year period of new government.
Some of the religious edifices in Bagan had been damaged by Richter 6.8 earthquake. According to deputy permanent Secretary U Aung Myint (Culture) of Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture. 389 pagodas were damaged and the ministry could manage to repair the pagodas to the original form with the assistance of Myanmar people and international organisations. The damaged pagodas were categorised into 36 pagodas of first priority, 53 pagodas of second priority and 300 pagodas of third priority and they were repaired under the supervision of the departments concerned, with aids and suggestions from international organisations. Out of 300 pagodas of third category, 224 pagodas to be repaired by local donors.
Besides, the fund to renovate and conserve the pagodas in Bagan have been set up, K5.3 billion contributed by people at home and US$1.2million by foreign countries including US$1 million from the government of China so far.
The fund would be spent on renovating and conservation of the quake-hit pagodas in Bagan without losing ancient artistic value.
Meanwhile, as part of efforts for conservation of the country’s traditional fine arts, the Fine Arts Department of the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture has conducted the traditional theatrical plays and passed down the arts to the new generation.
“ The ministry produced the film on the Thiri Wuntha theatrical play which tells life of people under the landlord and service men during the time of Kongbaung era and attracted the peoples. Other achievements can be seen at the state-level ceremonies in which our ministry entertained the dignitaries with traditional performances. Our efforts could attract the foreign dignitaries,” said Deputy Permanent Secretary U Aung Myint.
To uplift the culture of ethnic peoples, the traditional performing arts of the ethnic people was included in the 22nd Myanmar Traditional Performing
National University of Art and Culture in Yangon and Mandalay has conducted diploma courses and master-degree courses with the aim of conservation and propagation of Myanmar traditional arts.
“The two universities conducted the exchange programs with foreign universities, said U Aung Myint, “ our artistes and foreign artistes jointly conducted performances.”
The Department of Archaeology, National Museum and Library published nine research books on history of Myanmar and two journals on history in 2016.
The department also made field trips to historic places in Magway and Sagaing regions and recorded the findings in the places. Meanwhile, the Myanmar Historical Commission was reformed at the end of 2016, with more members, and plans were laid down to put the history in periods on record.
The National Library of Myanmar also hosted in 2016.
The 17th Congress of Southeast Asian Librarians hosted by the National Library of Myanmar, the 2016 Korean-Myanmar Connectivity Forum jointly organized by the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture and the Busan University of Foreign Studies and the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community forum can be seen as achievements of the ministry in 2016.
The Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture also opened the National Library in Nay Pyi Taw to assist those who want to find records and gather knowledge.
The Ministry has planned to move the National Library in Yangon from an isolated area in Yankin township to the historic building belonging to Burma Oil Corporation (BOC) during the colonial era near downtown Yangon.The National Library has a large collection of books, periodicals, manuscripts and other rare books, holding 172,556 books, 435,580 periodicals, 12,323 palm-leaf manuscripts, 345 hand-written letters, 25,468 rare books and other literary materials.