Tradition and Culture

The Kingdom of Bhutan has its own rich and unique culture and tradition.

Eating Habits

Traditional Bhutanese eat with the family members with crossed legs sitting on the wooden floor with food first being served to the head of the household. They usually eat their food with hands and short prayer is offered with a small morsel placed on the floor as an offering to the local spirits and deities before eating. But, with the modernization, eating habits have changed following the western style, people nowadays usually eat with cutlery, while sitting in dining table.

Funeral

Long rituals are performed after the death of the person. The 7th, 14th, 21st, and 49th days are considered important after a person’s death and are recognized by erecting prayer flags in the name of the deceased performing specific religious rituals. The rituals vary among the southern Bhutanese and the nomadic Brokpas of northern Bhutan.
Southern Bhutanese bury their dead while the Brokpas carry out “Sky Burials”, a process in which the deceased is placed on a mountaintop to decompose while exposed to the elements or to be eaten vy scavenging animals, especially carrion birds.

Birth

The visitors are not allowed to witness the child and the mother before the short purification ritual which is performed on the 3rd day of the birth and various gifts are offered to the child ranging from dairy products to cloth and money. The naming of the child is entrusted to the head lama (Buddhist priest) of the local temple.

Marriage

Arranged marriages were common in Bhutan before some times and the marriage took place among their relatives, but these practices are now less practiced among the literate masses as most marriages are based on the choice of the individuals.
Marriages in Bhutan are simple, however long rituals are also performed, and choice varies from family to family. The newlywed couples are gifted with traditional offering of scarves along with gifts in form of cash and goods.

Bhutanese Dress:

Bhutan has got the unique and traditional touch on their dresses and garments which have evolved over thousands of years.
Men wear the Gho, a knee-length robe that is tied at the waist by traditional belt known as Kera. Whereas, the women wear Kira, a long, ankle-length dress accompanied by a light outer jacket known as a Tego with an inner layer known as a Wonju.

Festivals:

Bhutan celebrates wide variety of elaborate and colorful religious festivals that are celebrated throughout the country. The most widely known festival in Bhutan is the annual Tshechu, a religious festival. Tshechu is one of the biggest festivals of Bhutan and is celebrated and enjoyed by abundant number of participants and audiences. Tshechus are religious festivals o the Drukpa Lineage of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism.
Tshechu(festivals) are one of the best ways to experience the ancient living culture of Bhutan as it feature dances performed by trained monks and laymen in amazing masks and costumes.

Politics of Bhutan

The constitutional Monarchy is practiced by the Government of Bhutan since 18 July 2008. The King is the head of state. The executive power is exercised by the Lhengye Zhungtshog or council of ministers, headed by the Prime Minister. Legislative power is vested in the bicameral Parliament, both the upper house, National Council, and the lower house, National Assembly. A royal edict issued on April 22, 2007 lifted the previous ban on political parties, ordering that they be created, in anticipation of National Assembly elections to be held the following year. In 2008, Bhutan adopted its first modern Constitution, codifying the institutions of government and the legal framework for a democratic multi-party system.

People and Religion of Bhutan

People

Bhutanese people can be categorized into three main ethnic groups as follows:

Tshanglas The Tshanglas commonly known as Sharchops are considered as the aboriginal inhabitants of eastern Bhutan. They are commonly inhabitants of Mongar, Trashigang, Trashiyangtse, Pema Gasthel and Samdrup Jongkhar and speak Tshanglakha. They cultivate maize, rice, wheat, barley and vegetables, and also rear animals for their living. The women in this region are engaged in weaving and produce beautiful fabrics of silk and raw silk.

Ngalops: The Ngalops are of Tibetan origin and are settled mostly in the six region of Western Bhutan and speaks Ngalopkha, a polished version of Dzongkha, the natural language of Bhutan. The people in this region are mainly engaged in agriculture and cultivate cereals such as rice, wheat, barley and maize along with a variety of other crops. Apples are cultivated as the cash crop in the regions of Paro and Thimphu.

Lhotshampas: The Lhotshampas are believed to migrate from Nepal and are settled in the southern foothills of the country. They speak Lhotshamkha (Nepali) and practice Hinduism. Their society consist various ethnic groups such Brahmins, Chhetris, Rais, Limbus, Tamnags, Gurungs. They are mainly engaged in agriculture and cultivate cash crops like ginger, cardamom and oranges.

The other minority grops in Bhutan includes Bumthaps and the Khengpas of Central Bhutan, the Kurtoeps in Lhuentse, the Brokpas and the Bramis of Merak and Sakteng in eastern Bhutan, the Doyas of Samtse nd finally the Monpas of Rukha villages in Wangdue Phodrang.

Religion of Bhutan

The Bhutanese people are allowed to follow any religions by their constitution. Buddhism is the official religion of Bhutan as majority of people living in Bhutan follows the Buddhism as their religion. It is only Mahayana (tantric) Buddhist Kingdom in the world. Approximately 70 percentages of the population of Bhutan practice Drukpa Kagyupa or Ningmapa Buddhism; both are the disciplines of Mahayana Buddhism. There are substantial numbers of people who practice Hinduism in the country. Approximately 28 percent of the population practice in Hinduism as their religion. Likewise, five percent people practice Islam and very minor population practice Christianity.

National Symbols

National Symbols of Bhutan are listed below:

National Flag

The National Flag is divided diagonally into two halves. The upper yellow half signifies the secular power and authority of the king while the lower saffron-orange symbolizes the practice and authority of the king while the lower saffron-orange symbolizes the practice of religion and the power of Buddhism. The dragon in the flag symbolizes the name of the purity of the country while he jewels in the claws stand for the wealth and perfection of the country.

National Sport

Archery (Dha) is the national sport of Bhutan in 1971. The bow and arrow play a significant role in many Bhutanese myths and legends, images of the gods holding a bow and arrows are considered especially favorable.

National Emblem

The National Emblem of Bhutan is a circle that projects a double diamond thunderbolt place above the lotus with a jewel on all sides along with two dragons on the vertical sides. The thunderbolt signifies the harmony between secular and religious power while the lotus represents purity and the jewel symbolizes the sovereign power while the dragons represents the name of the country DrukYul or the Land of the Dragon.

National Bird

Raven is the National Bird of Bhutan which adorns the royal crown ad represents the deity Gonpo Jarodongchen (raven headed Mahakala), one of the chief guardian deities of Bhutan.

National Animal

The National Animal of Bhutan is Takin (Burdorcas taxicolor), a rare mammal which is associated with religious history and mythology.

National Flower

Blue Poppy (Meconopsis Grandis) is the National Flower of Bhutan which grows to a height of 1 meter and is found above the tree line (3500-4500meters).

National Tree

The National Tree of Bhutan is Cypress (Cupressus Torolusa) and are found abundantly in temperate climate zone between 1800 and 3500 meters.

Location of Bhutan

Bhutan is a landlocked country tucked between the sovereign territories of two nations: the People’s Republic of China in the north and northwest and the Republic of India on the south, southwest, and east. The sovereign nation is situated on the southern slopes of the eastern Himalayas. The estimated population of Bhutan is 774,830 with approximated total land area of 46,500 kilometer square.

Language of Bhutan

Dzongkha is the national language of Bhutan and is the native language of the Ngalops of western Bhutan. Other two major languages in Bhutan are the Tshanglakha and the Lhotshamkha. Tshanglakha is the native language of the Tshanglas of eastern Bhutan while Lhotshamkha is spoken by the southern Bhutanese of Nepali origin.

Some other languages of Bhutan are Khengkha and Bumthapkha spoken by the Khengpas and Bumthap people of Central Bhutan. Mangdepkah is spoken by the inhabitants of Trongsa and the Cho Cha Nga Chang Kha spoken by the Kurtoeps.

History of Bhutan

The archeological evidences in Bhutan indicates that the settlements in Bhutan dated back to 2000-1500BC. Influenced by its religious history Bhutan’s political development started during the tenth century. It is believed that Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) made his way in Bhutan and started spreading Buddhism.

Initially Bhutan practiced Bonism and was the dominant religion in the region. Later Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo introduced Buddhism in the 7th century and was further extended by the arrival of Guru Rinpoche, a Buddhist Master that is widely considered to be the second Buddha.
The development started to flourish in Bhutan after Jigme Singye Wangchuk took over the regime. Airport, roads and national system of health care was initiated. The country picked up on the pace of modernization but still maintained polices of careful and controlled growth in an effect to preserve the national identity.

Bhutan was first unified by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel in 17th century. After his arrival in Bhutan from Tibet he consolidated his power, defeated three Tibetan invasions and established a comprehensive system of law and governance. After his demise the country fell into in-fighting and cicil war between the various local rulers and continued until the Trongsa Penlop Ugyen Wangchuck was able to gain control and establish himself as Bhutan’s first hereditary King in 1907.

Bhutan is a county with a strong ancient Buddhist cultures. The country did not have any foreign influence as no tourists were allowed in the countries for many centuries. However, slowly Bhutan thought of promoting the country through tourism so it opened up its borders to the outsiders in the 1970s. Still, no tourists are allowed to venture the country on their own rather they have to be associated with a pre-arranged packages tour or with a registered travel agency.

Geography of Bhutan

Bhutan is sandwiched between the Tibet Autonomous Region to the north and the Indian states of Sikkim, West Bengal, Assam, and Arunachal Pradesh to the west and south. Bhutan lies between latitudes 260N and 290N, and longitudes 880E and 930E. Bhutan elevation rises from 200m (660ft) in the southern foothills to more than 7,000m (23,000ft).

The northern region of Bhutan houses Eastern Himalayan alpine shrub and meadows extended to the glaciated mountain peaks with and extremely cold climate. The peaks in this region are over 7,000m (23,000ft).

The central region of Bhutan houses the Black Mountains which forms a watershed between two major river systems: the Mo Chhu and the Drangme Chhu. The peaks in this region range from 1,500m (4,921 ) to 4,925m (16,158 ft).

The southern region of Bhutan houses the Shiwalik Hills which are covered with dense Himalayan subtropical broadleaf forests, alluvial lowland river valleys, and mountains up to around 1,500m (4,900 ft) above sea level.

Foods in Bhutan

Some of the popular Bhutanese dish includes:

Ema Datshi

Ema Datshi serves as the National Dish of Bhutan and is a spicy mix of chilies and the delicious local cheese known as Datshi. The dish is a staple of nearly every meal and can be found throughout the country. Variations on Ema Datshi include adding green beans, ferns, potatoes, mushrooms of swapping the regular cheese for yak cheese.

Momos

These Tibetan-style dumplings are stuffed with pork, beef or cabbaged and cheese. Traditionally eaten during special occasions, these tasty treats are a Bhutanese favorite.

Phaksha Paa

Pork cooked with spicy red chilies, Radishes or Spinach. A popular variation uses sun-dried (known as Sicaam). Hoentoe: Aromatic buckwheat dumplings stuffed with turnip greens, datshi(cheese), spinach and other ingredients.

Jasha Maru

It is a spicy minced chicken cooked with tomatoes and other ingredients that is usually served with rice.

Red Rice

This rice is similar to brown rice and is extremely nutritious and filling. When cooked it is pale pink, soft and slightly sticky.

Goep (Tripe)

Though the popularity of tripe has diminished in many countries it is still enjoyed in Bhutan. Like most other meat dishes, it us cooked with plenty of spicy chilies and chili powder.

Flora and Fauna in Bhutan

Bhutan covers over 72 percent of the forest land out of which 60 percent is under protection. The forest houses different varieties of floras and faunas found in the kingdom.
There are around 500 species of medicinal plant ranging from magnolias, junipers, orchids and varied hues, gentian, daphne, and giant rhubarb. Fir, pine and oaks are the most commonly found trees in Bhutan. The dragon kingdom also houses the 46 different species of rhododendrons, 5400 kinds of vascular plants, 360 species of orchids. The Himalayan blue poppy is the national flower of Bhutan which blooms all over the place during the spring.
The dense forest in Bhutan acts as the wild habitat for a wide range of rare and endangered animals like snow leopards, Bengal Tigers, Red Panda, Gorals, Langurs, Himalayan Black Bear, Sambars, Wild pigs, barking Bear, Blue Sheep, Musk deer and many more are found in Bhutan. Takin, a goat-antelope is the national animal of Bhutan which is found throughout the country.
There are 221 global endemic birds are in Bhutan. Bhutan houses above 670 species of birds. Buntings, Waders, Ducks, Thrushes, Cuckoos, Bee-Eaters, Fly Catchers, and Warblers are among the commonly found birds in Bhutan. Bhutan consists of around 16 different endangered bird species that include White Bellied Heron, Pallas Fish Eagle and Blyth’s Kingfisher. Raven is the national bird of Bhutan which is spotted in southern regions.

Some of the renowned national park and sanctuaries in the country are:

  • Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park
  • Trumshingla National Park
  • Royal Manas National Park
  • Jigme Dorji National Park
  • Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary
  •  Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary