Bhutan is believed that it is derived from the Sanskrit
'Bhotant', meaning 'the end of Tibet', or from 'Bhu-uttan',
meaning 'high land'. Historically the Bhutanese
have refered to their country as Druk Yul, 'land
of the thunder dragon'. Bhutanese refer to themselves
as Drukpa people.
Bhutan, tucked away in the depths of the Eastern
Himalayas, the 47,000 sq km small kingdom of Bhutan,
or Druk Yul, is little known and lesser visited.
A forbidden land for centuries. Still, the kingdom
maintains a policy of "low volume - high quality
tourism" and retains its exclusiveness in the world
of travel. From high mountain peaks to deep lush
valleys, from modern apartments in Thimphu to farmland
barns, from meditative monks deep in prayer to fluttering
prayers and vibrant, colorful festivals, Bhutan
is incomparably unique.
Over the last few centuries, difficult natural terrain
and a self-imposed policy of isolation saw to it
that life here stayed virtually unchanged. It was
only in the early 1960s that Bhutan opened up its
doors to the world beyond and plunged into a new
age of socio-economic development.
Wedged between China and India, the two most populous
countries in the world, and being disadvantaged
with little military or economic strength.
Religion is the other value system that holds the
Bhutanese people together. Tantric Mahayana Buddhism
of the Drukpa Kagyu sect has survived unblemished
here for centuries and continues to be the officially
adopted religion of the state.
Bhutan evolved one of the independent state and is one of the last Bastions
of Buddhist country. Thus, Bhutan today remains
one of the untouched virgin land with magnificent
scenic beauty, a paradise for the cultural tourist,
the trekkers and the mountaineer alike.
With more than 72% of the total area covered by forests and diverse flora
and fauna, the country has been declared as "One
of the Ten Global Hotspot" in the World. In cities
and hamlets across the kingdom, the people live
a way of life that is rich in tradition and steeped
in the age-old system of hospitality.
Outdated data place Bhutan's population at 600,000,
it is believed, though, that the actual figure is
closer to 700,000.The population consists predominantly
of three ethnic groups: the Ngalops of the western
and central region, the Sharchogpas of the east,
and the Lhotsampas along the southern belt. Collectively
called the Drukpas, the Bhutanese people generally
speak the official state language, Dzongkha, although
several dialects are also used. The Bhutanese are
also known to be fairly proficient speakers of English
as it is the medium of instruction in Bhutanese
Guru Rinpoche (Precious Master) is the father of
the Drukpa Kagyu school of Tantric Mahayana Buddhism
practiced in Bhutan. Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal,
a Tibetan lama of the Drukpa School, arrived in
Bhutan in 1616 CE. He introduced the present dual
system of religious and secular government, creating
and building the system of Dzongs throughout Bhutan.
Shabdrung unified the country, and established himself
as the country's supreme leader and vested civil
power in a high officer known as the Druk Desi.
Religious affairs were charged to another leader,
the Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot of Bhutan). For two centuries
following Shabdrung's demise, civil wars intermittently
broke out, and the regional Penlops (governors)
became increasingly more powerful. This ended when
an assembly of representatives of the monastic community,
civil servants and the people, elected the Penlop
of Trongsa, Ugyen Wangchuck, the First King of Bhutan
in 1907-1926. The monarchy has thrived ever since,
and the present Fourth King, His Majesty Jigme Singye
Wangchuck (1972 to present), commands the overwhelming
support for his people.
Bhutan is the only country in the world to retain the Tantric form of Mahayana
Buddhism (Drukpa Kagyu) as its official religion.
The Buddhist faith has played and continues to play
a fundamental role in the cultural, ethical and
sociological development of Bhutan and its people.
It permeates all strands of secular life, bringing
with it a reverence for the land and its well being.
Annual festivals (tshechus and dromchoes) are spiritual
occasions in each district. They bring together
the population and are dedicated to the Guru Rinpoche
or protective deities. Throughout Bhutan, chortens
or stupas (receptacle for offerings) line the roadside
commemorating places where Guru Rinpoche or another
high Lama may have stopped to meditate. Prayer flags
dot the hills, fluttering in the wind. They allow
Bhutanese people to maintain constant communication
with the heavens
NATIONAL SYMBOLS OF BHUTAN:
The rectangular national flag of Bhutan is divided
diagonally and depicts a white dragon (druk) across
the middle. The upper part of the flag is yellow,
representing the secular power of the king, while
the lower part is orange, symbolizing the Buddhist
The national emblem, contained in a circle, is composed
of a double diamond-thunderbolt (dorji) placed above
a lotus, surmounted by a jewel and framed be two
dragons. The thunderbolt represents the harmony
between secular and religious power. The lotus symbolizes
purity; the jewel expresses sovereign poer; and
the two dragons, male and female, stand for the
name of the country which they proclaim with their
great voice, the thunder.
National Day is celebrated on December 17 and commemorates
the ascension to the throne of Ugyen Wangchuck,
the first king of Bhutan.
The national flower is the blue
poppy, found in the high altitudes. The national
tree is the cypress, which is often associated with
religious places. The national bird is the raven,
which adorns the royal crown. It represents the
deity Gonpo Jarodonchen, one of the most important
guardian deities of Bhutan. The national animal
is the takin, an extremely rare bovid of the ovine-caprine
family. Found in heards in the very high altitudes
(13,000 ft and over), living on a diet of bamboo
More than 80 percent of the people lead agrarian
lives in villages of rough farming terrain. However,
they are not above enjoying the lighter moments
in life and are known to be a sporty lot. The Bhutanese
zealously celebrate religious festivals and holidays
with indigenous sports such as traditional archery,
dego, and khuru. These occasions always involve
social gathering, feasting and drinking.
Art and craft
Bhutanese art and craft, inevitably religious in
character, exists in 13 forms that are together
called the zorig chusum. These 13 forms include
textile weaving, wood and slate carving, painting,
blacksmithery, and pottery, all of which have elaborate
techniques and histories passed on through successive
Royal patronage as well as social and government
support for the zorig chusum have led to Bhutan
to being reputed as the last bastion of Himalayan
Buddhist art. In contrast to traditional artists
in places like Nepal and Darjeeling, Bhutanese artists
tend to value religious ethics and quality over
commercial gain and quantity. Sophisticated machinery
and mass production have no place in Bhutanese art.
Indigenous textiles, for one, are entirely hand-woven
over months or years and hence may be relatively
Certain religious festivals, called tsechus, held
annually in dzongs (fortresses) are the most popular
programme for tourists and for the locals who attend
them unfailingly in their best regalia. Tsechus
showcase the best of religious dances, all of which
are deep in spiritual meaning. Originally composed
before or during the Middle Ages the dances are
performed only once or twice a year by monks and
village leaders. They usually culminate in the unfurling
of an especially large and well-crafted thongdrel
Owing to their relative proximity to the airport,
the tsechus of Paro (in spring) and Thimphu (in
the fall) are well attended by foreigners.
Nature and wildlife
The Bhutanese people and their government are fiercely
conservative of their natural heritage. Small wonder
then that 72 percent of the total land area is topped
by forests. Bhutan has a number of protected reserves
and parks. All these areas are interconnected to
each other by natural "corridors" of forests and
serve as safe havens for innumerable species of
flora and fauna. As a matter of fact, Bhutan has
been designated as one of the 10 biodiversity hotspots
in the world.
Many plant and animal species are endemic to Bhutan
only. In 2000, researchers spotted an orchid species
that had last been seen only in the 19th century.
Meanwhile, the golden langur is a species of long-tailed
monkey that was and still remains unique to Bhutan.
Small as the country may be, Bhutan's diverse landscapes,
ranging from the sub-tropical and the temperate
to the alpine and the snowbound, are home to an
amazing variety of biological species. This is as
much the land of the blue sheep and the clouded
leopard as it is the land of the Royal Bengal Tiger.
Yaks, takin, and some rare butterfly and bird species
abound, as do wild rhododendron, blue poppies and