Bhutan

About Bhutan

Bhutan is a small Himalayan country lies between the two giant nations of the world- India to the south and China to the north. Bhutan is popularly known to outside world by name - The Last Shangrila or the Land of Happiness. In this 21 Century, Bhutan has been one of the top tour destinations for the tourist from all over the world because of several unique and beautiful features of Bhutanese. 

History

The traditional name of the country (Bhutan) since the 17th century has been Drukgyel, Land of the Drukpa (Dragon People), and a reference to the dominant branch of Tibetan Buddhism that is still practiced in the Himalayan kingdom.

For centuries, Bhutan was made up of feuding regions until it was unified under the King Ugyen Wang chuck in 1907. The British exerted some control over Bhutan's affairs, but never colonized it. Until the 1960s, Bhutan was largely isolated from the rest of the world, and its people carried on a tranquil, traditional way of life, farming and trading, which had remained intact for centuries. New roads and other connections to India began to end its isolation. In the 1960s, Bhutan also undertook social modernization, abolishing slavery and the caste system, emancipating women, and enacting land reform. In 1985, Bhutan made its first diplomatic links with non-Asian countries.

In 1998, King Jigme Singye Wangchuk, who is Bhutan's fourth hereditary ruler, voluntarily curtailed his absolute monarchy, and in March 2005 released a draft constitution (not yet put to a referendum) that outlined plans for the country to shift to a two-party democracy. In Dec. 2006, he abdicated in favor of his son, and Crown Prince Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuk in became king.

Parliamentary elections, Bhutan's first national election, were held in March 2008, with turnout at about 80%. The pro-monarchy Druk Phuensum Tshogpa, translated as the Bhutan Peace and Prosperity Party, won 44 out of 47 seats in Parliament, trouncing the People’s Democratic Party. The election marked Bhutan's transition from an absolute monarchy to a democracy. In April, Lyonpo Jigme Thinley, of the Peace and Prosperity Party, became prime minister. A new constitution went into effect in July. Universal suffrage was implemented under the new constitution. Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wang chuck was crowned king in November. At age 28, he is the world's youngest monarch.

In 2013, the second parliamentary election was held. Unlike in first election, there were five political parties participating in the election. The parties were: Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT), People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Druk Nymrup Tshogpa (DNT), Druk Chirwang Tshogpa (DCT) and Bhutan Kingyum Party (BKP). In the first round of general election, the PDP and DPT won and went for final election. In the final election, PDP won the 32 seat out of 47 seats. Thereby, PDP is ruling party while DPT is opposition party in the parliament of Bhutan. Tshering Tobgay, is the current and second Prime Minister of Bhutan.

 

Geography

Mountainous Bhutan, half the size of Indiana, is situated on the southeast slope of the Himalayas, bordered on the north and east by Tibet and on the south and west and east by India. The landscape consists of a succession of lofty and rugged mountains and deep valleys. In the north, towering peaks reach a height of 24,000 ft (7,315 m).

Bhutan Climate- When to visit Bhutan

Though Bhutan is a year round destination with so many attractions, climate plays a very crucial role in planning the tour. The climate of Bhutan varies with altitude and can be quite unpredictable, even within a day or from one day to another. The wide geographical variation gives Bhutan its varied climatic character with four distinct seasons (spring, summer, autumn and winter).

Spring (March, April and May) 

Is considered the best time to visit Bhutan for touring and trekking when magnificent wildflowers are in bloom and birdlife is abundant. It is also a perfect time for kayaking, rafting and trekking in moderate altitudes. The most popular religious dance festival Paro tshechu takes place in spring.

Summer monsoon season (June, July and August)

You may experience occasional heavy falls of rain during the afternoons however to see Bhutan so green and full of clear streams and waterfalls is worth it. While you may not experience grand Himalayan vistas at this time, you will enjoy the warmer weather and a noticeable reduction in tourist numbers. It is a beautiful time to visit

Autumn (September, October and November)

Are the most popular times to visit with generally clear, mild weather, excellent scenery, lower rainfall and a range of festivals called Tshechus and Dromchoe. It is also a time to harvest rice which would give a superb picturesque landscape of rice terraces and its golden color.

Winter (December, January and February)

Brings snow to the higher regions however the southern regions and main valleys where visitors generally travel are considerably warmer. Paro and Thimphu normally experience only light dustings of snow so still well worth a visit with mid-December to mid-January normally offering cool, pleasant days and clear skies although temperatures fall below zero at night. It is also one of the best time for bird lovers especially the black –necked crane at Phobjikha.

 

 Biodiversity

Bhutan, as located in the Himalayan Region has rich biodiversity. To the south, the plains of Indian and to the north, the snow capped Himalayan region makes Bhutan, one of the hottest spot for the bio diversity.

Forest ecosystem is the most dominant ecosystem in the Bhutan with 70.46 percent of the total area under forest cover. The temperate zone lying between 2000m to 4000m contains the temperate conifer and broad leaf forest. The subtropical zone, which lies between 150m to 2000m, contains the sub-tropical and tropical vegetation. Mixed conifer and broadleaf forests are the two dominant forest types, constituting 62.43 and 22.69 percent of the total forest cover respectively.

 

Bhutan has following ecosystem

Alpine Ecosystem: The alpine ecosystem in Bhutan is found in areas above 4000m. It is rich in many species of grasses and herbs with over 200 medicinal plants used for traditional medicine found in this region. It is also the habitat of the famous Chinese caterpillafungus (Ophiocordyceps sinensis), and a haven for wild fauna, such as the snow leopard, blue sheep and takin.

Aquatic Ecosystem: Bhutan has different forms of aquatic habitats scattered throughout the country, ranging from rivers, lakes, marshlands to hot springs. Agricultural Ecosystem: The country is has six major agro-ecological zones corresponding with altitude range and climatic conditions. The agricultural ecosystem in the country extends from as low as 600m to about 4500m above sea level.

 
Economy

Bhutan has one of the world’s smallest and least-developed economies. Until a few decades ago, it was agrarian with few roads, little electricity, and no modern hospitals. Recent interregional economic cooperation, particularly involving trade with Bangladesh and India, is helping to encourage economic growth. Connections to global markets are limited and dominated significantly by India.

Bhutan’s economic development is guided by the concept of Gross National Happiness. Literally, according to GNH concept of economic development, all development should bring happiness to the general public. Bhutan believes in sustainability.

Culture

Bhutanese believe that happiness is contributed by the preservation of cultural and traditional value. 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. Cultural expression in Bhutan is as unique and sacred as the holy kingdom. Culture is preserved in formal ways through the requirement to wear the traditional clothing during work hours; for all buildings to adhere to the national architecture standards; and mandatory mindfulness training in schools.

Festivals or “Tshechu” are an important colorful social annual event in Bhutan: displaying a rich culture and heritage through dance, song and performance. Tshechu are held in each district or Dzongkhag of Bhutan. No country in the world has as unique culture and tradition as Bhutan, and Bhutanese are very conscious in preserving, upholding and promoting these culture and tradition as their identity.

 

Religion

MAHAYAN BUDDHISM is the state religion of Bhutan. The introduction of Buddhism occurred in the seventh century A.D., when Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo (reigned A.D. 627-49), a convert to Buddhism, ordered the construction of two Buddhist temples, at Bumthang in central Bhutan and at Kyichu in the Paro Valley. It was Buddhist literature and chronicles that began the recorded history of Bhutan.

In A.D. 747, a Buddhist saint, Padmasambhava (known in Bhutan as Guru Rimpoche and sometimes referred to as the Second Buddha), came to Bhutan from India at the invitation of one of the numerous local kings. After reportedly subduing eight classes of demons and converting the king, Guru Rimpoche moved on to Tibet.

Upon his return from Tibet, he oversaw the construction of new monasteries in the Paro Valley and set up his headquarters in Bumthang. According to tradition, he founded the Nyingma sect--also known as the "old sect" or Red Hat sect--of Mahayana Buddhism, which became for a time the dominant religion of Bhutan. Guru Rimpoche plays a great historical and religious role as the national patron saint who revealed the tantras--manuals describing forms of devotion to natural energy--to Bhutan. Therefore, the Mahayana Buddhism became the state religion of Bhutan.

Language

The National language of Bhutan is Dzongkha and literally Dzongkha means the language spoken in the Dzongs and administrative centers in all the districts of Bhutan. But the Dzongkha was the language spoken by the people of Western Bhutan.
Besides these, there are two major languages spoken by the people of Bhutan. They are Sharchokpa, language spoken in the eastern Bhutan and the Nepali, language spoken in the southern Bhutan. There are also as many as nineteen major dialects or languages which have survived in the country, in the isolated villages and valleys which are cut off from neighboring areas by high mountains barriers

Food and Drinks

Traditional Bhutanese food always features spicy red and green chillies, either dried or fresh. Most Bhutanese love eating spicy food. The national dish, ema datsi, a dish of ema (chilli) cooked in datsi (cheese), is a favourite among Bhutanese and a growing number of foreigners. For meat lovers, meat is easily available in most restaurants. For vegetarians, there are restaurants who serve vegetarian meals and almost all the restaurants have a vegetarian option in their menu. Liquor is easily available in bars with the exception of Tuesday (dry day). The legal drinking age is 18 years and above. If you have not tasted red rice, make sure that you ask for red rice. A bonus for Indian travellers is that Indian meals are easily available in most eating places.

 

The Bhutanese society

The Bhutanese society is free of class or caste system. In general ours is an open and a good-spirited society.
As is the case elsewhere, living in a Bhutanese society generally means understanding some basic norms like Driglam Namzha, the traditional etiquette. This is a norm which desires that the members of the society conduct themselves in harmony and in a similar manner. For instance, wearing a scarf when visiting a Dzong (fortress), letting the elders and the monks serve themselves first, offering felicitation scarves when someone gets a promotion, greeting the elders or senior officials before they wish you, etc. are some simple manners that synchronizes the society.
In the Bhutanese society, the head is considered sacred and legs impure. So it is wrong to touch anyone’s head or stretch your feet in public. Visiting friends and relatives at any hour of the day without any advance notice or appointment clearly depicts the openness of the Bhutanese society.

Bhutanese Dress

The traditional dress of Bhutan is one of the most unique in the world. Men wear gho, a long robe that is raised till knee, folded backwards and then tied around the waist by kera, a belt. But the dress for the tribal and semi nomadic people like the Brokpas of eastern Bhutan and the Layaps of western Bhutan have a unique dress of their own and do not wear the gho and Kera. The Brokpas wear a dress made of yak hair and sheep wool with an animal skin over it and a hat with five fringes hanging from the sides. While the Layap men dress Gho the women dress differently with a loose outfit that reaches their calves. The dress is again made of yak hair. On the head they put on a conical bamboo hat. On formal visits to a Dzong or an office, Bhutanese men wear a scarf called kabney. Wearing of kabney is an important part of the Bhutanese decorum and should be put on in a right manner. The kabney also identifies the rank of a person. For instance, the King wears the yellow scarf, minister’s orange, judge’s green, and district administrator’s red with a white band going lengthwise and common people white with fringes etc. Women on the other hand wear a rectangular shaped cloth piece called kira. It is tied by belt. However women wear their kira long till their ankle. Women also wear the scarf called rachu. They hang it over their shoulder and it is beautifully hand woven with fringes at the end. It is smaller than a kabney.

 Gross National Happiness

If there is one thing Bhutan is known for outside country, it is Gross National Happiness. With his famous declaration in the 1970s, the former King of Bhutan (His Majesty King Jigme Singye Wang chuck) challenged conventional, narrow and materialistic notions of human progress. He realized and declared that the existing development paradigm – GNP (or GDP) – did not consider the ultimate goal of every human being: happiness.

Perhaps inspired by age-old wisdom in the ancient Kingdom of Bhutan, the fourth King concluded that GDP was neither an equitable nor a meaningful measurement for human happiness, nor should it be the primary focus for governance; and thus the philosophy of Gross National Happiness: GNH is born.

Since that time this pioneering vision of GNH has guided Bhutan’s development and policy formation. Unique among the community of nations, it is a balanced ‘middle path’ in which equitable socio-economic development is integrated with environmental conservation, cultural promotion and good governance.

Bhutan remained largely isolated from the world; GNH remained largely an intuitive insight and guiding light. It reminded the government and people alike that material progress was not the only, and not even, the most important contributor to well-being.Therefore, the GNH (Gross National Happiness) is the guiding philosophy for the developmental activities.

 

 Current Status

1

Name of Country

Bhutan

2

King (Monarch)

His Majest – King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk

3

Present Government

People Democratic Party

4

Prime Minister

HE Lynchen Tshering Tobgay

5

Total Area

 38394 km2

6

Total Population

 779666

7

Currency

Ngultrum (Nu)

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Economic per Capita income

 

9

National Flower

Blue Poppy

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National Animal

Takin

11

National Bird

Raven

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National Sport

Archery

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National Language

Dzongkha

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National

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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