Development Philosophy of Bhutan

The Economists over the world claim that the key to happiness is receiving and relishing material development. Whereby Bhutan adheres to a completely different belief and advocates that developing material wealth doesn't essentially cause happiness. Bhutan is now trying to measure progress through Gross National Happiness rather than following the idea of Gross Domestic Product.

His Majesty the third Druk Gyalpo Jigme Dorji Wangchuck expressed his view on the goals of development as creating “the people prosperous and happy.” Keeping this strong view in mind, the importance of “prosperity and happiness,” was highlighted within the King’s address on the occasion of Bhutan’s admission to the United Nations in 1971.

Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck said that the rich ones are not always happy while the happy ones generally considered themselves rich. While conventional development models focus on economic growth as the vital objective, the concept of Gross National Happiness is based on the principle that true development of human society happens successfully when material and spiritual development occur side by side to complement and reinforce each other.

Both the prosperity and happiness are given preference, however, the happiness is considered as more significant. The fourth King emphasized that for Bhutan “The Gross National Happiness” is more essential than “The Gross National Product”. The philosophy of Gross National Happiness has lately received international recognition. And that the UN has implemented a determination “recognizing that the gross domestic product does not adequately reflect the happiness and well-being of people,” and that “the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal”.

The 4 Pillars of GNH


  1. Good Governance

  2. Sustainable Socio-economic Development

  3. Preservation and Promotion of Culture

  4. Environmental Conservation


Good Governance
Good Governance is a considered a pillar for happiness because it determines the conditions in which Bhutanese thrive. While policies and programs that are developed in Bhutan are generally in line with the values of GNH, there is also a number of tools and processes employed to ensure the values are indeed embedded in social policy.

Sustainable Socio-economic Development
A thriving GNH economy must value the social and economic contributions of households and families, free time and leisure given the roles of these factors in Happiness.

Preservation and Promotion of Culture
Happiness is believed to be contributed to by the preserving the Bhutanese culture. Developing cultural resilience, which can be understood as the culture’s capacity to maintain and develop cultural identity, knowledge, and practices, and able to overcome challenges and difficulties from other norms and ideals.

Environmental Conservation
Environmental Conservation is considered a key contribution to GNH because, in addition to providing critical services such as water and energy, the environment is believed to contribute to an aesthetic and another stimulus that can be directly healing to people who enjoy vivid colors and light, untainted breeze and silence in nature’s sound.

The 9 domains of GNH.

The four pillars are further elaborated into nine domains, which articulate the different elements of GNH in detail and form the basis of GNH measurement, indices, and screening tools.

  1. Living standards

  2. Education

  3. Health

  4. Environment

  5. Community Vitality

  6. Time-use

  7. Psychological well-being

  8. Good Governance

  9. Cultural resilience and promotion


These 9 domains, clearly demonstrate that from the perspective of GNH, many inter-related factors are important in creating the conditions for happiness.

For example, GNH counts the importance of material security as one of these – and assessing whether people enjoy sufficient and equitable living standards, is included in the GNH survey.  Similarly, the happiness of human beings is not seen as separate from the wellbeing of other life forms, and ecological diversity and resilience are included in the measure of GNH. The balance between material and non-material development and the multi-dimensional and interdependent nature of GNH are key features that distinguish GNH from GDP as a measure of a country’s progress.

In accordance with these 9 domains, Bhutan has developed 38 sub-indexes, 72 indicators and 151 variables that are used to define and analyses the happiness of the Bhutanese people.



Where is Bhutan?

Bhutan is a small landlocked country in Asia sandwiched between India in South with approximately 659 kilometers of borders and China in North with approximately 477 kilometers of border. It is located entirely within the Himalayan mountain range. It is an independent nation, with a total land area of 46,500 km² approximately and estimated population of 774,830. The Nepal to the west, the Bangladesh to the south, and the Myanmar to the southeast are other close neighbors.

Climate in Bhutan varies accordingly with its altitude. In the western Bhutan it is mostly affected by monsoons that bring between 60 and 90 percent of the region's rainfall. In the southern plains and foothills, it is humid and subtropical. The inner Himalayan valleys of the southern and central regions is temperate, and finally cold in the north with year-round snow on the main Himalayan submit.

Temperatures vary accordingly to its elevation. In Thimphu, located at 2,200 meters above sea level in west-central Bhutan, temperature range from approximately 15° C to 26° C during the monsoon season of June through September but drop to between about -4° C and 16° C in January. Most of the central parts of Bhutan experiences a cool, temperate climate year-round. And towards the south, a hot, humid climate helps maintain a fairly even temperature range of between 15° C and 30° C year-round (temperatures sometimes reach 40° C in the valleys during the summer in this region).

The annual precipitation in the north is only about forty millimeters with mostly snow. In the temperate central parts of Bhutan, average of about 1,000 millimeters is common yearly with about 7,800 millimeters per year in the humid, subtropical south, ensuring the thick tropical forest, or savanna.

There are four seasons in Bhutan:


  • Spring (March, April and May),

  • Summer (June, July and August),

  • Autumn (September, October and November) and

  • Winter (December, January and February).


 

The dry spring starts in early March and lasts until mid-April. Summer weather begins in mid-April with occasional showers which continues through the pre-monsoon rains of late June. The summer monsoon lasts from late June through late September with heavy rainfall from the southwest. The monsoon weather, brings heavy rainfall, high humidity, flash floods and landslides, and numerous misty, overcast days. Autumn starts from late September or early October to late November, following the rainy season. It is characterized by bright, sunny days and some early snowfalls at higher altitudes. From late November until March, winter season occurs, with frost throughout much of the country and snowfall common above 3,000 meters high. The winter northeast monsoon brings gale-force winds down through high mountain passes, giving Bhutan its name, Drukyul, which means Land of the Thunder Dragon in national language.

The best times to visit Bhutan are spring and autumn when the weather is warm, dry and sunny but always carry a couple of warm clothes while you travel to Bhutan regardless of the season

Bhutan is bounded by India in South and Tibetan autonomous region of China in the North. It has a total area of about 46,500 square kilometers and spreads between meridians 89°E and 93°E, and latitudes 27°N and 29°N. It features three major geographic regions


  • The high Himalayas of the north

  • The hills and valleys of the interior

  • The foothills and plains of the south


The Himalayan mountains of Bhutan dominate the north of the country, where peaks can easily reach 7,000 meters above the sea level. Jiwuchudraeky and Jomo Lhari are one of the best-known peaks in this region. Snow, glaciers and barren rocks are the main features of this zone. These lands are the sources for many of the rivers of Bhutan. At a little higher altitude, there is the tree line, the point where the vegetation changes from the forest into small bushes of juniper and rhododendrons.

In the south, dropping sharply away from the Himalayas into the plain with large areas of semi-tropical forest, grasslands and bamboo jungle. And the four major river systems and their tributaries passing through the valleys of the country towards the south and finally drain to the Brahmaputra River in India. There are passes acting as the link between the various valleys in the country.

The Chele La (3,780 meters (12,402 ft)) between the Haa valley and Paro Valley which is the highest pass crossed by a Bhutanese highway. The Dochu La (3,116 meters (10,223 ft)) on the way from Thimphu to Punakha, which features 108 Chortens built to honor the expulsion of Assamese rebel. The Pele La (3,390 meters (11,122 ft)) towards the east of Wangdue Phodrang followed by the passes like Yotang La, Thrumshing La and Kori La (2,298 meters (7,539 ft) in the eastern highway.

Political Geography

Bhutan is a tiny country but it is a well-organized and a systemized country where people and government work together to retain its peaceful and happy nature in terms of people and place.

Basically, it is divided into 20 dzongkhags or districts, which is subdivided into 205 gewogs or village blocks. The Gewogs are further divided into several thromdes or municipalities for administration.

Natural Geography

The highest extremity of Bhutan is Gangkhar Puensum (7,570 meters / 24840 ft above sea level) which is said to be the highest unclimbed mountain in the world. In the mountain areas, the weather is extreme: the high peaks have everlasting snow, and the windy days in the lower mountains and cleaved valleys almost the entire year. The high blizzards in the north every winter.

Below the rock and ice of the higher peaks is the extensive arc of Eastern Himalayan alpine shrub and meadows which contain, grasslands and a wide variety of rhododendrons and herbaceous plants. The highlands are one of the most popular in the country. The capital Thimphu lies in the western region that is characterized by its many rivers, its isolated valleys containing most of the population there, and the extensive forests that cover almost seventy percent of the nation. Winters are cold, summers are hot; the rainy season is accompanied with frequent landslides.

Towards the extreme southern part of the country lies mostly Himalayan subtropical broadleaf forests. It is mainly the agricultural land, producing mostly rice. Only two percent of Bhutan is the arable land of which most are focused here.

Bhutan’s isolation for the centuries, a small population and geographical extremes have led to maintaining one of the intact ecosystems in the world. The country ranks among the top ten countries in the world in terms of species density. Over fifty-five hundred varieties of plants, including around three-hundred medicinal ones, exist. More than 770 species of avifauna and more than 165 species of mammals, including many rare and endangered species like the Red Panda, Snow Leopard, and Golden Langur exists.

Glaciers

Glaciers are the main views of Northern Bhutan. It covered almost 10 percent of the total surface area in the 1980s. Glaciers are an important renewable source of water in the rivers of the country, fed by fresh snow each winter and the melting of snow in the summer it brings millions of liters of fresh water. But at times also contributes to flooding due to glacial lake outburst floods(GOLF).

Lakes

The lakes of Bhutan include the glacial lakes and the natural mountain lakes. There are almost 59 natural mountain lakes and some 2,674 glacial lakes of which about 25 of these are potential GOLF hazards. Most of these are located above an altitude of 3500 meters and have no permanent human settlement nearby but are used for grazing Yaks and small temporary settlements are found.

River system

Basically, there are four major river system in Bhutan

  1. Drangme Chhu


It is the largest river system in Bhutan and flows in a southwest direction from India’s state of Arunachal Pradesh. It has three major branches: The Drangme Chhu, The Mangde Chhu, and The Bumthang Chhu.

  1. Puna Tsang Chhu(Sankosh)


It is about 320 km long and rises in the northwest side of Bhutan as Mo Chhu and Pho Chhu that are fed by the snows from the Greater Himalayan Range. And in the south towards Punakha where they join to form Puna Tshang Chhu that further flow towards West Bengal, India.

  1. Wang Chhu


It is about 370 km long that rise in the Tibet and flows in a southeast direction through west-center Bhutan and drain at Ha, Paro and Thimphu valleys. Continuous into the Duars and enters West Bengal as Raigye Chhu.

  1. Amo Chhu (Torsa Chhu)


It is the smallest river system in the country that flows from Tibet into the Chumbi valley and through western Bhutan before broadening near Phuntsholing and then flowing towards India.

Each of them flows from the Himalayas towards the south and finally join the river Brahmaputra in India. Then through Bangladesh where Brahmaputra (called as Jamuna in Bangladesh) joins river Ganga (called as the Padma in Bangladesh) and finally flow into the Bay of Bengal.

Bhutan, The Land of Thunder Dragon.

In the 12th century, it is said that at the time of construction of a Tibetan monastery, a roll of thunder was heard. And this was interpreted to be the voice of a Dragon. Since then Dragon became the national symbol of Bhutan and also reflected in the national flag.

Bhutan is believed to be inhabited as early as 200 BC due to the presence of early stone implements discovered in the region. In the past, Bhutan was originally known by many names such as Lho Jong (The Valley of the South), Lho Mon Kha Shi (The Southern Mon Country of Four Approaches), Lho Jong Men Jong (The Southern valleys of Medical Herbs) and Lho Jong Mon Tsheden Jong (The Southern Mon valleys where Sandalwood Grows). And later it was called as Druk Yul (The Land of Drukpas); It was referred to the Drukpa sect of Buddhism which was the dominant religion in the region since that period.

In the 17th Century, after the arrival of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel from Tibet to Bhutan, the country was first unified. He defeated three Tibetan invasions to the country and established a comprehensive system of law and governance. But after his death, his power crumbled and the country plunged into in-fights and civil wars between the various local leaders. This continued until the establishment of Bhutan’s hereditary King. In 1907, the Trongsa Penlop, Ugyen Wangchuck successfully gained the control over people and with their support he was enthroned as Bhutan's first hereditary King. His Majesty the King Ugyen Wangchuck became the first Druk Gyelpo (Dragon King) and set up the Wangchuck Dynasty that still rules today.

Before we look into the Kings of Bhutan, let us look at some of the Legends first.

For about 1000 years, Bhutan had been remaining isolated considering its own policy. Conceivably this is the reason why most of Bhutan’s Legends remain clear and distinct.

Punakha Dzong, a monastic castle that was built at the meeting point of two rivers, that has been the winter capital of the nation over 300 years. It is said that Guru Rinpoche had blessed and predicted the construction of a fortress in this land. And when Rinpoche came to set up camp, he had a prophetic dream the same night that encouraged him to build the Dzong. There he stored a holy relic that he had brought with him from his monastery in Tibet. Due to this relocation of the relic, Tibetan attracted the monastery, however, Bhutanese successfully defeated it and this victory is now celebrated each year between February-March at the “sacred Victory Festival” in Punakha.

Chimi Lhakhang, a temple of pilgrimage for infertile women, is located in a hill of Punakha valley surrounded by paddy fields. It was built over an existing stupa created by the saint Drukpa Kunley.

Paro Taktshang, the Tigers Nest Monastery located in Paro valley at about 2950m above sea level, is one of the most remote monasteries in the world. It is the place where Guru Rinpoche landed jubilantly on the back of a flying tigress.

Kings of Bhutan

As the children inherit the goodness of their parent, Bhutan has always been blessed with the line of monarchs who were humble and ruled the nation with love like any parent’s love for their child. After the death of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel (who unified the nation), he recommended “dual system of government”. The Government control was divided into the civil administrative leader (Druk Desi) and religious leader (Je Khenpo).

However, this system ended after the Jigme Namgyel’s descendent Ugyen Wangchuck.

Sir Ugyen Wangchuck (Reign: 1907 to 1926)

Gongsa Ugyen Wangchuck ( born in 1862) succeeded his father Jigme Namgyel as the Penlop of Trongsa. His power base was in central Bhutan. He unified Bhutan by defeating political enemies through a period of civil wars and rebellions in the early 1880’s.

Under his rule, he developed a close relationship with the British by assisting with negotiations between British and Tibet.  As a respect, the British Knighted Gongsa Ugyen Wangchuck in 1904. He was also entitled as Knight Commander of the Indian Empire so he was often known as Sir Ugyen Wangchuck. The British and Indian governments continued to honor him for his ability to build diplomatic relations.

In 1907, he was elected to be the hereditary monarch of Bhutan thus Bhutan’s first King. And on December 1907 he was enthroned with the title Druk Gyelpo(Dragon King). Despite having relation with the British and Indian, Bhutan continued its isolation for the other parts of the world.

He passed away in 1926 and was succeeded by his eldest son Jigme Dorji Wangchuck.

Jigme Wangchuck (Reign: 1962 to 1952)

Jigme Wangchuck (born 1905) became the second king of Bhutan after ascending the throne in 1926 upon the death of his father. Since a child, he was raised to be the successor to the throne under strict education in English and Hindi and schooled in Buddhist principles.

Under his rule, some significant changes were brought, he implemented administrative reforms within the nation and placed a hierarchical system where he had complete power over religious as well as non-religious system and appointed a head, Je Khenpo, to set up a central religious administrative body. Bhutan still remained isolated from the world and focused on the centralization of power.

In 1952, he passed away and was succeeded by his son Jigme Dorji Wangchuck.

Jigme Dorji Wangchuck(Reign: 1952 to 1972)

Jigme Dorji Wangchuck(born in 1929), became the third king of Bhutan after ascending the throne. He is known as the Father of modern Bhutan. He was also educated in English, Hindi and Buddhist principles and also spent some months in England during his youth.

Under his rule, Bhutan ended the journey of isolation with the realization of the need for international relations for the world to recognize Bhutan as a country and to protect its sovereignty. The foreign nations involved in the development of Bhutan. In 1862, Bhutan received technical assistance for the infrastructure development and educational scholarship as he joined the Colombo Plan. And soon became the member of the United Nation.

He understood that he needed to implement socio-economic reforms so the country could develop further.  In 1956, he redistributed land to the landless while monasteries gave up land in exchange for financial support from the government and in 1961 drafted the countries first economic development plan. He also set up a modern judicial system with the countries first Council of Ministers. And established National Assembly who had the power to remove the king with the two-thirds majority thus towards the democratic nation.

He passed away in 1972 and was succeeded by his son Jigme Singye Wangchuck.

Jigme Singye Wangchuck(Reign: 1972 to 2006)

Jigme Singye Wangchuck(1955) became the fourth king of Bhutan by ascending the throne when he was just 17 years old(youngest monarch of Bhutan). He received the modern education system from India and the United Kingdom.

Under his rule, he continued to establish international relations. He also started the process of decentralizing his power and in 1998, the role of Prime Minister was created. In 2006, he announced the need for a democratic government and after a rigorous research, two years after the end of kings reign the Constitution was developed in 2008, the election was also held the same year which gave birth to the new system of government.

He also created a philosophy of GNH (Gross National Happiness) that emphasized how the development of the nation should be carried out taking into consideration the happiness of the people. During his reign, the country’s economic process also accelerated. Industries in raw, agriculture and hydropower were established, schools and roads were built to various places in the country, sent students to pursue overseas and also the first airline, Drukair became operational.

He created the history when he became the first king in Bhutan to abdicate his throne to his son, Jigme Kheser Namgyel Wangchuck in 2006.

Jigme Kheser Namgyel Wangchuck (Reign:2006 to present)

Jigme Kheser Namgyel Wangchuck (born in 1980) became the fifth king of Bhutan, coronated in a ceremony on November 1, 2008.

Exploring the people and the society of Bhutan.

People

Bhutan is a place where people live with motivation to smile each day. Though there are several groups of people divided by the way they live, people stay together as a nation.

Generally, Bhutanese people can be categorized into three main ethnic groups. The Tshanglas, the Ngalops, and the Lhotshampas.

Tshanglas

The Tshanglas (commonly known as Sharchops) are considered the native inhabitants of eastern Bhutan. As per the historians, Tshanglas are the descendants of Lord Brahma and speak Tshanglakha. They are commonly found in the eastern part of the country covering Mongar, Trashigang, Trashiyangtse, Pema Gasthel, and Samdrup Jongkhar. Occupations include cultivation of maize, rice, wheat, barley and vegetables and rearing of domestic animals. The women also produce beautiful fabrics mainly of silk and raw silk by weaving.

Ngalops 

The Ngalops (Tibetan origin) who migrated to Bhutan as early as the ninth century. They have settled mostly in the six regions of western Bhutan. Their spoken language is Ngalopkha, a polished version of Dzongkha, the national language of Bhutan. Agriculture is their main livelihood. The main cultivations include cereals such as rice, wheat, barley and maize along with a variety of other crops. They are popular for their Lozeys, or ornamental speech and for Zheys, dances that are unique to the Ngalops.

Lhotshampas

The Lhotshampas are mostly found in the southern foothills of the country. Their spoken language is Lhotshamkha (Nepali) and they practice Hinduism. Their society can be broken into various lineages such as the Bhawan’s, Chhetri’s, Rai’s, Limbu’s, Tamang’s, Gurung’s, and the Lepcha’s. Nowadays they are mainly focused on agriculture, raise domestic animals and cultivate cash crops like ginger, cardamom, and oranges.

The Bumthaps, Mangdeps, and Khengpas

The people of central Bhutan who speak Bumtapkha, Mangdepkha, and khengkha respectively. The Bumthaps focus on the cultivation of buckwheat, potatoes, and vegetables and also rear yaks and sheep and produce fabrics of wool and yak hair. The Mangdeps focus on the cultivation of rice, wheat, maize, vegetables, besides rearing domestic animals. The khengpas are also focused on agriculture much like the Mangdeps, however, they are also popular for the bamboo and cane craft.

Kurtoeps

The Kurtoeps are mostly settled in the eastern part of the country, specifically at Lhuentse and the villages are found spread along the banks of Kurichu. Women of Khoma are expert weavers and are known for their skill in weaving the grandiose Kushithara.

The Brokpas and the Bramis

The Brokpas and the Bramis are some kinds of a semi-nomadic community. They are inhabited in the two villages of Merak and Sakteng in eastern Bhutan. For the livelihood, they mainly depend on herding of yaks and sheep. They do not grow crops due to the high altitude zones where they inhabit. They have their own way of speech and unique dress that is made of Yak’s hair and Sheep’s wool. They are also good at cane and bamboo crafts.

The Layaps

The Layaps are settled towards the extreme north of the country and they speak layapkha. Similar to the Brokpas, they are also semi-nomadic and their livelihood is dependent upon Yaks and Sheep. They follow the barter system where they use the products of their herd animals in exchange for rice, salt and other consumables with the people of WangduePhodrang and Punakha.

The Doyas

The Doyaps are settled mostly in southern Bhutan. They are considered to be the native inhabitants of western and central Bhutan. They are the ones who over the years migrated and settled in the present areas in Dorokha. They also follow their own unique way of life with their own unique dialect and style of dress.

Monpas

The Monpas of Rukha under Wangdue Phodrang are a small community who together with the Doyas is also considered the original settlers of central Bhutan. They have their own unique dialect but it is unfortunately slowly fading as they are now being immersed into the mainstream Bhutanese society.

Society

Bhutan has a society free of class or a caste system. In the early 1950s, the Third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck abolished slavery through a royal edict. Some organizations were established in the past to empower women but overall Bhutanese society has always maintained gender equality. Generally, Bhutan is an open and a good-spirited society.

To live in Bhutanese society, one must understand some of the accepted norms such as Driglam Namzha, the traditional code of etiquette which basically teaches people a code of conduct to adhere to as a member of respectful society.

The Bhutanese are kind of fun-loving people fond of songs and dances, friendly contests of archery, stone pitching, traditional darts, basketball, and football. The people are social who enjoy weddings, religious holidays and other events as the perfect opportunities to gather with friends and family and celebrate together.

Religion

Bhutan is a Buddhist country where most of its people practice Buddhism but apart from that Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam are also present. The Bhutanese constitution guarantees freedom of religion and citizens and visitors are free to practice any form of worship as long as it does not cause any issues on the rights of others.

Buddhism

Bhutan is a Buddhist country, its people are often referred to as the last stronghold of Vajrayana Buddhism. Actually, in the past, people followed Bonism, a religion that worshiped all forms of nature, remnants of which are still evident in some remote villages in the country and it was only in the 8th century, that Buddhism was first introduced by the Indian Tantric Master Guru Padmasambhava. With the visit of Guru Padmasambhava, Buddhism commenced by taking firm roots within the country which led to the propagation of the Nyingmapa (the ancient or the older) school of Buddhism.

CULTURAL HERITAGE

Bhutanese culture is associated with Buddhist influence. The influence of religion is a major reason for Bhutan’s spiritual and cultural heritage. We can see the hundreds of monasteries, stupas, religious institutions, prayer flags and prayer wheels that makes Buddhism a creed that is still alive and will always be in the nation.  This makes Bhutan a very pukka country (it is also because of the traditional woven apparel worn by the people), the typically refined architecture and the impressive cultural festivals, all of these together makes Bhutan into a unique cultural locale.

The people perform all the religious ceremonies and rituals regularly, they go on a pilgrimage on auspicious days, offering prayers and butter lamps to the god that they worship. Every year, the National and regional festivals that coincide with the seasons are conducted around the nation. And this cultural heritage is strongly promoted by the Bhutanese government.

With the development of the country, modernization is also being propelled generating Urban settlements, introduction of technologies. Yet we find most of the people living in the small villages practicing the traditional lifestyle, raring animals and farming for livelihood.

FESTIVALS 

Bhutan is enhanced by a wide variety of elegant and colorful religious festivals celebrated throughout the country. These festivals leave an impression on all of the visitors that witness it. Every village has its own unique festival, known as annual Tshechu (religious festival). All of the festivals are a holy event where the attendees gain merit for their next life, and also they are joyful event drinking local alcohol arra lavishly.

Some of the common festivals in Bhutan are:

Tshechus

It was established during the 17th century with certain religious background. The monks and the village elders perform sword dances and other religious rites, wearing the most astoundingly bright and symbolical costumes and masks. Every form of dances has its own spiritual importance. They are meant to teach the visitors about the Buddhist teachings, the Dharma. It is believed to be freeing them from evil and protecting them from accidents on performing this.

The tshechus are conducted each year at the dzongs accordingly with the lunar calendar that last for about three to five days where everyone can attend it. The festival is remarked with music, color and dances, watched by people in their elegant Gho’s and Kira’s (national dress). It not only teaches the people but also serves as a form of social garhering and communication amongst people.

Dromchoes 

The dromchoes are conducted at the early spring at the Punakha dzong in honor of Mahakala (the protecting spirit of Punakha) and are dedicated to the protecting deities of Bhutan’s different drukpas (districts). With the Combat cantos, songs and dances, the Marching Ceremony are also performed, and are executed by the traditional military called Pazaps.

Festival dates

Festivals in Bhutan are preset but in some places that may change, for the confirmation it’s better to consult with the authorities of the different dzongs or dzongkhags or the Bhutan Tourism Corporation Limited.

EATING HABITS

Bhutanese follow simple traditional eating habits. The people generally eat with hands directly. All the family members sit on the wooden floor for dinning and the head of the household is served first and usually the women (especially the mother) serve the food. Before every meal certain prayer is offered and a small morsel placed on the floor as an offering to the local spirits and deities. With the change in time, people in the urban areas have started to use dining tables and the cutlery.

Traditionally earthenware’s were used for cooking, but with the change in time, easy availability of modern goods, pots and pans have largely replaced their use. Typically, a Bhutanese meal includes red rice, Ema Datshi (a curry made of chilli and cheese), pork, beef curry or lentils.

BIRTH

In Bhutan the birth of a child is considered as a blessing and the child is valued as progenitors of the future thus do not discriminate on the child’s gender. The extended family and guests are not allowed to visit during the first three days after the birth and on the third day, a short purification ritual is performed. Only after this, the visitors are welcomed to visit the new born child and mother. Traditionally various gifts ranging from dairy products to cloth and money are offered.

For naming the child, it’s usually entrusted to the head lama (Buddhist priest) of the local temple. The mother and the child receive blessings from the local deity (natal deity) and traditionally the child is named in association with the deity. Some are named after the day that they are born at.

In accordance to the Bhutanese calendar, a horoscope is written based on the time and date of the birth.

MARRIAGE 

In the past, arranged marriages were common and many married among their relatives. In eastern Bhutan the cross-cousin marriages were most common but this practice is now decreasing amongst the literate masses and most marriages depend on the choice of the individuals. Marriages are simple and usually kept low-key. However, some rituals are performed for lasting unions between the bride and the bridegroom. And in the end, they are offered with traditional offerings of scarves along with gifts in the form of cash and goods by their parent and the relatives.

Generally, in the Western Bhutan the husband goes to live in his wife’s house after marriage while the practice in Eastern Bhutan is for the wife to move into the husband’s home. Or they may also choose to live on their own.

NATIONAL SYMBOLS

Bhutan’s mythology is expressed in many different ways around the country. Most remarkable is the name its inhabitants have for the kingdom, Druk Yul, that literally means ‘land of the thunder dragon’ in Bhutanese mythology. The fierce white dragon can be found in the national flag and weapon and during the Tsechus (Bhutan’s most important festivals) – there are many expressions of and references to the dragon. And Bhutan’s leaders are known as the Druk Gyalpo: the dragon kings.

Every part of the national flag of Bhutan is symbolic for the country’s general features. The flag is divided diagonally with a white dragon across the middle. The white color is an expression of purity and loyalty and also represents the diverse ethnic and linguistic groups. The dragon’s growling mouth, that is an expression of the strength of many deities, protects the jewels which are hold in his paws which represent prosperity, wealth and perfection. The upper division with yellow color of the flag represents the king’s secular power and fruitful action in both religious and state affairs. The lower division with orange color represents the spiritual power and religious practice of Bhutan’s Mahayana (tantric) Buddhist religion.

Bhutan’s national emblem is a double diamond thunderbolt (dorji) placed above a lotus (lotus symbolize purity, and sovereign power is expressed by the jewel), which is framed by two dragons (a male and a female dragon that represent Bhutan’s name, which is proclaimed with their great voice of thunder) and overcome by a jewel. The congruence between religious and secular power is symbolized by the double diamond thunderbolt. And is contained within a circle.

In Bhutan 17th December is celebrated as the national day. on this date in 1907, Ugyen Wangchuck was enthroned to be the Bhutans first King.

To look into:

National flower: Blue poppy

National tree: Cypres

National bird: Raven

National animal: The takin

National sport: Archery

TRADITIONAL DRESS

Bhutan is rich in terms of its tradition that has been well preserved since centaury. Its people wear some unique dresses that is mostly hand-woven. Some machine-made dresses are also available for the daily use but on special occations they wear their best hand-woven clothes.

The women wear Kira, an ankle length dress made of finely woven fabrics with traditional and beautifully colored patterns. Kira is worn with a combination of a wonju (blouse) and a tego. Wonju is worn under the kira held in place with koma (silver buckle) on shoulder. Finally, tego is worn from outside and some jewelries to make it complete.

Man wear Gho, tied in place on waist by kera (hand-woven belt). As a result, a large pouch is formed where man can carry their items like betel nut and a bowl. On the foot, covered with a long socks and shoe or traditional hand-made boots.

Bhutan is a mountainous place, and thus contain a variety of species habituated in the forest of Bhutan. It is one of the last remaining biodiversity hotspots in the world, forest cover has now increased to over 72% of the country, with 60% of the country under protection.

The availability of flora and fauna in Bhutan is incomparable due to conservation and its wide altitudinal and climatic range. Basically, the country can be divided into three zones:


  1. The Alpine Zone (4000m and above).


In this zone there are no forest cover with short and cool summers and cold winters with significant snowfall. The region has tundra vegetation, Alpine meadows with snow covered peaks, and glaciers.

  1. The Temperate Zone (2000 to 4000m) with conifer or broadleaf forests;


In this zone the climate is more moderate, with cold winters, hot summers, and more moderate rains. On the dry slopes and the valleys, we can find coniferous forests.

  1. The Subtropical Zone (150m to 2000m) with Tropical or Subtropical vegetation.


This region lies between the foothills along the Indo-Bhutan border and the mid-Montana ranges. Here the winters are warm and the summers are hot and humid with heavy rainfall.

Forest types in Bhutan are

Fir forest

The Fir forests are found on the highest summit, between 2,700 m and 3,800 m. It requires relatively high precipitation. This forest broadly comprises of a thick layer of moss with rhododendron, sub-alpine bamboo, primula, and Bryocarpum. And also some hemlocks (Tsuga dumosa) and birches.

Mixed conifer forest

The Mixed Conifer forests takes the largest portion of the sub-alpine regions of the country with an area coverage of about 486,710 ha. Species like spruce (Picea spinulosa), hemlock and larch are mainly found in this forest.

Blue pine (Pinus wallichiana) forest

The blue pine forests are found in the temperate regions between 1,800 m and 3,000 m. In the west, taking the Ha, Paro and Thimphu valleys and towards the central Bhutan, taking Bumthang and Gyetsa valleys thus covering an area of about 128,570 ha.

Chir pine (Pinus roxburghii) forest

The Chir forests are found at lower altitude (900-1 800 m) regions of the Sankosh, Kuri Chu and Kulong/Dangmechu river systems covering 100,870 ha. This area experiences a long dry season and the annual precipitation falls primarily during the summer monsoon. The biotic activities such as resin tapping, tree felling, and frequent ground fires are prompt in this area which are intentionally set to produce fresh grazing for livestock and to stimulate the growth of new lemon grass for essential oil production.

Broadleaved mixed with conifer

This forest type covers about 135,770 ha which generally consists of oak mixed with blue pine or upper hill forest mixed with spruce or hemlock.

Broadleaved hardwood forest

This type of forest covers about 1,512,160 ha. It can be divided into three subcategories;

Upland (Temperate) Hardwood

It occurs between 2000 and 2900m altitudes. Mainly includes two main forest sub-types:

Evergreen oak forests: Commonly found in the dry areas, especially in Trongsa and Mongar.

Cool broad-leaved forests: They are found on the wetter hills and richer species.

Lowland Hardwood

This occupies the sub-tropical hills between 1,000-2,000m altitudes and are rich in species.

Tropical Hardwood.

They are found on the low hills below 700m and are also rich in species diversity. They are basically classified as semi-green but also varies.

A wide range of animals can also be found in the forest of Bhutan. Ranging from high altitude species like snow leopards, the Bengal tigers, the red panda, the gorals and the langur, the Himalayan black bear and sambars, the wild pigs and the barking deer, the blue sheep and the musk deer to the species found in the tropical forests of Bhutan like the clouded leopards, the one horned rhinoceros, elephants, golden langur (unique to Bhutan), the water buffaloes and the swamp deer.  And various bird specious are also found in Bhutan. They migrate from place to place depending on the seasons and the weater. There are almost 50 species that are winter migrant of which are buntings, waders and ducks, thrushes and the birds of prey. Over 40 specious are partial migrants which includes species such as swifts, cuckoos, the bee-eaters, fly catchers and the warblers. About 16 species that are endangered worldwide including White bellied heron, Pallas Fish eagle, Blyth’s King fisher are found in Bhutan. The Phobjikha valley in Wangduephodrang and Bomdeling in Trashi Yantse is visited by the Vulnerable Blacked-necked Crane.

Takin

The takin or cattle chamois or gnu goat, is a goat-antelope found in the eastern Himalayas.



 

Bharal

The bharal or the Himalayan blue sheep or naur, is found in the high Himalayas of India, Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet, and Pakistan. Its native names in Bhutan includes na or gnao.



Golden langur

Gee's golden langur or the golden langur, is an Old World monkey found in a small region of western Assam, India and in the neighboring foothills of the Black Mountains of Bhutan.



Snow leopard



Black-necked crane

The black-necked crane is a medium-sized crane that breeds on the Tibetan Plateau and visits some parts of Bhutan seasonally. It is 139 cm long and its wingspan about 235 cm weighing 5.5 kg. Basically it is whitish-gray colored bird with a black head, red crown patch, black upper neck and legs, and white patch to the rear of the eye.



Satyr tragopan

The satyr tragopan or the crimson horned pheasant, is a pheasant found in the Himalayan reaches of India, Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan. They live in moist oak and rhododendron forests with dense undergrowth and bamboo clumps.

Despite being a small country with small population, Bhutan has seen much economic development in recent years and the economy is growing rapidly.

Some number of Bhutanese population is still illiterate and settled in the remote areas with almost 1 in 5 living in poverty line while the majority of them have shelter and are self-sufficient. With the rapid modernization, the living standard of the people have also improved, the villagers have access to all the basic amenities such as education, running water, basic healthcare, electricity, telecommunication network and are connected by roads.

The Bhutanese economy is primarily agricultural. The income of farmers is supplemented through the sale of animal products such as cheese, butter and milk. All over the country farmers market are common, where farmers bring their products for sale. Thus the people get fresh, organic, local products that contribute towards healthy way of living.

Basically, staple crops include rice, maize, wheat and buckwheat while cash crops are potatoes, apples, oranges, cardamom, ginger, and chilies. In the capital, a fruit based industry has been built where nearby farmers can sell their products and earn additional revenue.

Cottage Industries

The rich biodiversity of Bhutan provides the country with abundant forest resources and this has brought about the development of a vast cane and bamboo handicraft industry. Craftsmen weave a number of beautiful and creative items out of bamboo and cane such as hats, backpacks, floor mats and traditional bowls.

Tourism

The Bhutanese Tourism Industry began from 1974 which, with time, has grown to become, a major contributing factor to the Bhutanese economy creating enormous employment opportunities and generating additional revenue for the government.

Hydroelectricity

Due to its fast flowing, glacier-fed rivers, Bhutan has massive potential to produce hydroelectricity. With the construction of several major dams, the power sector has been the biggest contributor of the economy of Bhutanese. some of the of the existing mega projects in the country are the Chukha Hydro Power Corporation, the Tala Hydro Power Corporation, the Baso Chu Hydro Power Corporation and the Kurichu Hydro Power Corporation, under the authority of Druk Green Power Corporation. They generate 1500 MW of power, most of which is exported to our neighboring country India With its verdant water resources, Bhutan still has the capability to come up with another 30,000 MW of electricity. However, the government is proceeding cautiously with new construction projects in order to minimize the impact upon the surrounding areas.

Manufacturing

Another major contributor to national revenue is the manufacturing industries. With the industrial sector established in Pasakha, small scale industries such as cement plants, calcium and carbide, steel and Ferro silicon, Coca Cola and also wood based industries has started to develop.

In Bhutan, art remains as an important part of life that retains the purity and handcraft of ancient times. Each piece that they create represents the religious experience, that connects them with something that enlightens them creatively. The traditional arts of Bhutan are known as zorig chusum where ‘zo’ is for the ability to make, ‘rig’ is for the science or craft and ‘chusum’ means thirteen.

Let us look at these thirteen traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan.

THAG-ZO (Weaving)

In Bhutan, the textile industry is an integral part of life and the culture. Bhutanese weaving tradition is rich in mythology. The tales and songs describe the art of weaving which is widely practiced by the people especially the women of eastern Bhutan as an alternative source of income. They are skilled at weaving clothes and some of the most highly prized textiles from cotton, raw cotton, and silk with some complex themes or pattern woven into the cloth. Earlier, textiles were paid as a form of tax to the government instead of cash. The people from the western part of the country traveled all the way down to Samdrup Jongkhar for the sale of their products (basically barter system, where people exchange their products with the products of their need).

In the eastern district of Lhuntse specifically Khoma village the women are the ones that earn for their household as they are said to be the best weavers in Bhutan. Bumthang also weaves Yathra from the hair of domestic animals. And the men, they help their women in spinning yak hair and sheep wool into thread. Bhutanese weavers use four types of looms:


  • The back-strap loom

  • The horizontal-fixed loom

  • The horizontal-framed loom

  • The card loom


The most used type is the indigenous back-strap loom. The horizontal frame loom and the card loom were brought from Tibet.

TSHA-ZO (bamboo work)  

Bhutan being a mountainous country, there are ample of bamboos and canes of various species found in most of the forests. This abundant natural resource let the people come up with various bamboo and cane products such as baskets, winnowers, mats, containers called Palangs and bangchungs. The people of Kangpara in eastern Bhutan and the Bjokaps of Central Bhutan are the masters of this craft and these products are now sold to tourists earning them with some additional income and keeping this craft alive.

SHAG-ZO (wood turning)

It is traditionally practiced by the people of Trashiyangtse in eastern Bhutan. The master craftsmen of this vivacious art are known as Shag Zopa and they are famed for the creation of wooden cups and bowls traditionally known as dapas and phobs. These wooden bowls are made of Zaa (special wooden knots) and are highly valued. They were widely by the Bhutanese before the steels and brass were introduced. Today they are typically sold at craft markets and offered as gifts to the people.

A small village in eastern Bhutan known as Khengkhar where well known for producing traditional wooden wine containers known as Jandup.

LHA-ZO (Painting)

Bhutanese paintings basically are the portrait of human beings, their interaction with nature and their beliefs that had ruled their way of life for decades. They are the visual reflection of the inner self which depicts spirituality, the significance of Buddhism, happiness and all things that are sacred to them and that proudly represent Bhutanese identity.

SHING-ZO (Carpentry)

Shing-zo or carpentry is the skeletons of Bhutan and they play a major role in the construction of Bhutan’s majestic fortresses or dzongs, temples, houses, palaces, and bridges.  The master carpenters are called Zow chen, they are the architects of the country and they are good in creating the masterpieces.

DO-ZO(Masonry) 

Do-Zo is the ancient craft of masonry which is still practiced today. they work with the carpenters with a different kind of artistry and design. The structures are built using the stone and wood. Stones are mainly used to construct the Dzongs, temples, and Chorten including the walls of the houses. One of the best examples of stonework could be Chorten Kora in Tashiyangtse and the Chendebji Chorten in central Bhutan.

PAR-ZO (Carving)

Par zo is the art of carving. A traditional Bhutanese art form that has been perfected over generations. The carving works are carried out using the stones, wood and slate. The Mantras, deities and cultural motifs are carved into some traditional masks, phalluses which is used in religious festivals, windows, doors and every other possible surface.

With the blessing of forest with variety of trees, it has been an advantage over production of different forms of woodcarving. The wooden masks featured during the Tsechus (annual religious festivals) as well as the traditional motifs found on the Bhutanese houses and on Dzongs are all carved out of wood.

JIM-ZO (Sculpting)

Jim zo is an ancient craft practiced and passed down over the centuries. The delicate and beautiful sculpting on clays, and bronze and metals. Statues of deities, gods and goddesses and other prominent religious figures illustrate clay work in Bhutan. Every monastery, temple and Dzong has intricately shaped clay statues from where pilgrims and devout Buddhists draw their inspiration.

Master sculptors are known as Jim zo Lopens who pass this skill to the young learners of interest over several years of rigorous training. With the clay work it also includes the pottery out of it. The men are confined to the art of modeling statues and the art of pottery is normally done by the women. There are three distinctive types of clayware:

Earthenware,

Stoneware

China-clay-ware

But in Bhutan, we find only earthenware.

LUG-ZO (Casting)

Lug-Zo, the art of casting was first introduced in the 17th century by Nepalese artisans. It includes the creation of kitchen utensils, pinnacles, statues, musical instruments, pottery, tools and the ornaments. For Casting basically one must be skilled in two techniques: wax and sand.

Apart from that bronze was also used to cast containers such as cups, pots, and vases and also to shaped bronze into weapons and armor such as battle-axes, helmets, knives, swords and shields.

GAR-ZO (blacksmith) 

Gar-Zo is the art of iron work or the blacksmithing. Tt began sometime in the late 14th century and is believed that it was introduced by a Tibetan saint, Dupthob Thangtong Gyalpo. He is honored by the Bhutanese people as a master engineer for his skill. It is said that he has built eight suspension bridges in Bhutan.

Blacksmith is almost a fading art, but the original Tibetan settlers in Trashigang still practice this skill.

TROE-KO (silversmith)

Troe-Ko is the vivacious craft of traditional ornament making. These products are widely used by Bhutanese women. A master craftsman skilled in shaping beautiful ornaments is called as Tro Ko Lopen. They create different tppes of ornaments and implements including necklaces, bangles, earrings, rings, brooches, amulets to contain ritual objects, traditional containers to carry the beetle nut, ritual objects and much more using precious stones and metals such as corals, turquoise, silver and gold.

DE-ZO (paper-making)

The origins of paper-making is deeply rooted in Bhutan where sacred scripts are written on them using traditional Bhutanese ink or occasionally in gold. The people engaged in producing the De-zo are known as Dezop. They are made from the bark of the Daphne tree. But now a days the presence of readily available modern paper has surpassed the market.

The people mostly from Tashiyangtse still produce and use Desho as carry bags, wrapping for gifts and envelopes.

TSHEM-ZO (tailoring, embroidering and applique)

Tzhem-zo is an art of tailoring and is a popular art among the Bhutanese.

This art can be generally classified as:

Tshem drup (is the art of embroidery)

Lhem drup (is the art of applique)

Tsho lham (is the art of making traditional Bhutanese boot)

The monks normally practice art of embroidery and applique to produce large religious scrolls known as Thangkas that depicts Gods and Goddesses, deities and saints.

The Bhutanese laymen make traditional boots worn by officials during special functions and gatherings that are made of leather and cloth. The villagers also make simple boots from uncured leather. However, this practice is a vanishing now a day but with the government’s support it has seem a recent revival in the kingdom’s urban centers.

The tailoring, done by the craftsmen that are skilled at sewing the traditional Bhutanese garments known as Gho and Kira.

The political system of Bhutan has evolved over time together with its tradition and culture. It has developed from a fragmented and a disoriented rule of the different regions by local chieftains, lords and clans into the parliamentary democracy we have in place today.

The first move towards a systematic scheme of governance came in 1616 with the arrival of Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyal from Tibet. He introduced the dual system of governance with the Je Khenpo as the spiritual head of the nation and the Desis, as the head of the temporal aspects.

But a major breakthrough came about in 1907 when the people unanimously enthroned Ugyen Wangchuck as the fist hereditary King of Bhutan. He was the man who had proven his mettle by banding together the different Dzongpons and Penlops (governors of fortress), ending centuries of strife and bringing much needed stability and peace to the country. Since then, the country has been ruled by successive monarchs of the Wangchuck dynasty.

In a move to ensure a more democratic governance of the country, the Third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck instituted the National Assembly (Tshogdu) in 1953. Every gewog has an elected member representing it in the National assembly. It became a platform where the people’s representatives enacted laws and discussed issues of national importance.

The establishment of the Royal Advisory Council (Lodoe Tshogde) in 1963 as a link between the king, council of ministers and the people was another move towards democratization. It also advised the king and the council of ministers on important issues and ensured that projects were implemented successfully.

The institution of Dzongkhag Yargay Tshogdu (District Development Assembly) in 1981 and Gewog Yargay Tshogchung (County Development Assembly) in 1991 by the Fourth King Jigme Singye Wangchuck was another move towards decentralization.

But the devolution of the power of the King in 1998 to the cabinet ministers was the highest form of decentralization. The King, thereafter, began to serve as the Head of the State while the government was managed by the Prime Minister.

In November 2001, on the advice of the Fourth king, a committee chaired by the Chief Justice of Bhutan, was formed to draft the constitution of Bhutan. The constitution was launched in 2008 and with it a parliamentary democracy introduced. The progression from Hereditary Monarchy to that of a Parliamentary Democracy has been a carefully managed process that culminated in 2008 when Bhutan held its first elections country wide. The Druk Phunsum Tshogpa was mandated by the people to head the new government with a major victory with 45 elected members, Lyonchen Jigme Y Thinley steered the government with just two opposition members from the People’s Democratic Party in 2008.The term of DPT (Druk Phuensum Tshogpa) has ended and people have chosen PDP (People’s Democratic Party) on 13th July 2013 as the new government.

The organs of the Bhutanese government comprise of the Legislature, Judiciary and the Executive. The ruling political party, the opposition and the National Council now forms the legislative body.

Dzongkha is used as the official language in Bhutan which literally means ‘the language spoken in the dzongs and administrative centers in all the districts of Bhutan’. Rooted from the Old-Tibetan language, spoken by the people of Western Bhutan. The first edition of a book was published in 1992, that described the grammar of Dzongkha. Besides Dzongkha there are two major languages spoken by Bhutanese: Sharchokpa that is spoken in Eastern Bhutan and Nepali that is spoken in Southern Bhutan.

Bhutan is linguistically rich due to the geographical location of the country which forced the inhabitants of the country to live in isolation but also contributed to their survival. There are 19 dialects and languages spoken throughout the country. In the current years, English is used as the instruction language in schools and therefore widely spoken.

We the Bhutan Dyang Advanture team comprise of various groups of people with the knowledge of different languages and we make sure that the travelers do not face difficulties while communicating with the people of Bhutan. Our guides are well trained translators, who responsibly make sure the travelers understand what they want to.

Travel around the country and not only gain the visual experience but also get to know various forms of dialect that the people of Bhutan practice in day to day life.

Every region in Bhutan has its own specialty in terms of food and type of meal they serve. The dairy foods especially butter and cheese made from cow and yaks milk are most common. Bhutan has a combination of vegetarian and non-vegetarian population. A wide variety of fresh vegetables are made available in the market by the farmers. Meat like pork, beef, goat, mutton and yak, fish and the poultry like chicken is consumed in the form of curry (tshoem). Every meal is accompanied by steamed or boiled white rice or the red rice (eue chum). Besides rice, buckwheat and maize are also used sometimes.

Typically, Bhutanese cuisine are spicy, chilies are not added as a seasoning rather considered as a valuable vegetable. Thus Bhutanese dishes are extravagantly spiced with the dried or fresh green and red chilies. And this being the favorite ingredient of Bhutanese the national dish comprises of chilies cooked in cheese which is commonly called as ema datsi (ema=chilli; datsi=cheese). Everyone has their own interpretations of this recipe and it will definitely grip the consumer.

The professional chef of Bhutan focus on a variety of western less spicy dishes thus if you prefer non spicy dishes a variety ranging from Continental to Chinese, and from Bhutanese to Tibetan and Indian cuisine is available. Most of the hotel follow buffet style of serving meals.

The people don’t drink water from the direct source, rather prefer drinking mineral water or the boiled water. Tea is one of the most popular beverage amongst the Bhutanese, despite people also prefer suja (salted butter tea) at the social occations. The chang (local beer) and arra (a spirit distilled from rice, maize, wheat or barley) are the common alcohol in Bhutan. Except for Tuesday (i.e the dry day) they are easily available in bars and the legal drinking age is 18 years and above. Generally, Doma (betel nut) is offered as a customary gesture of greeting. Bhutan is the world’s only country where public smoking is prohibited since 2004. It is allowed to import tobacco for indoor use but with the tax of 100%.