Kingdom of Bhutan – The last Shangri La

Bhutan– popularly known as the land of thunder dragon is a country blessed with nonparallel serenity of nature. The mysterious mountains, the green delicacy, and the blend of traditional Buddhism with modern lifestyle have definitely made Bhutan a destination to discover.

Bhutan, The land of thunder Dragon

Bhutan, The land of thunder Dragon

 

Geographical Location: This princely Kingdom, in the South Asia is a landlocked country located at the eastern end of the Himalayas. The graceful land encompasses an area of about 46,500 square kilometers (length: 300 km, width: 150 km) with India at its south and south-west, while Tibetan region of China lying at its north and north-west. Indian states of Sikkim and West Bengal separates Bhutan’s territory from Nepal (to the west) and Bangladesh (to the south) respectively. The capital of Bhutan is Thimphu.

History: Bhutan is one of those few countries which have been sovereign throughout their history, there is no evidence of this land being conquered by external dominance. But its origin still lies in mythology. According to some sources the Tibetan Buddhism was introduced here in the 9th century when many monks from Tibet fled here during a chaos.
In 1616 the first union of Bhutan occurred after Ngawanag Namgyal, a lama from western Tibet, defeated three Tibetan invasions,after his death there were few civil wars continuing for about 200 years. But in 1805 Ugyen Wangchuck took control of the situation and started building up greater bonds with the British in the subcontinent. In 1907 Ugyen Wangchuck was elected and installed as the head of the state, The Dragon King. That’s how monarchy was initiated here and is continued till today. The present dragon King is Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck who is in power since 2006.

Physiography of Bhutan: Bhutan is indeed a land of captivating natural and magical beauty. It’s a hilly country with Himalayas on the north. Gangkhar Puensome (24836 ft.) is the highest point of Bhutan and the lowest point is Drangme chhu (318 ft.).
The weather at the mountains remains extreme throughout the year and high wind prevails in the lower mountainous regions.
The valleys of Bhutan houses most of its population, these valleys are linked by a series of passes. Between the Haa valley and Paro Valley is the Chele La (3,780 metres). It is the highest pass crossed by a Bhutanese highway. The road from Thimphu to Punakha crosses the Dochu La (3,116m) which features 108 chortens built to commemorate the expulsion of Assamese guerrillas.
Bhutan has a number of rivers flowing through the country, producing hydroelectricity that drives the national economy and made lands fertile. The major river systems are:

  • Drangme Chhu
  • Puna Tsang Chhu or Sankosh
  • Wang Chhu
  • Torsa Chhu
  • Am-mo-chhu
  • Paro Chhu

Population and Religion: The current population of Bhutan is about 790000 (according to United Nations estimation of 2017) with a density of 21 people per square kilometers. Out of this 319211 is the urban population. Of the total population 53.0% is male and 47.0% is female.
Bhutan’s Culture at a glance:
Bhutan being a small country, every aspect of its culture is greatly driven by Buddhism. This gave a fresh and unconventional dimension. The religious rituals together with the year round seasonal, national and local festivals contributed immensely to the rich cultural heritage of the kingdom.
Let’s take a look at these elements:

1. Language: Language is the tool for expressing culture and Bhutan definitely has a huge variety of dialects and language all over the country. There are about 24 languages spoken by the people of this country.
DZONGKHA where ‘kha’ stands for language and ‘dzong’ stands for district is the national and official language of the country spoken by about 5 million people and is mostly used in the west.
The Easterns are mostly speakers of Tshala language which is the main language of the Sharchops.
People in the south prefers speaking in Nepali language which is the only Indo-Aryan language used by native Bhutanese.
But for keeping pace with the modern world, English is now used for better communication and is taught in schools.

2. National attire: Flavors of Bhutan’s vibrant and colorful culture is also expressed through the clothing of Bhutanese that have developed over past thousand years.
Though in the recent days machine made clothes are worn on daily basis but the demand of hand woven traditional dresses are still preferred for all formal occasions.
Women wear ‘kira’ – the traditional wear, which is a long ankle-length attire having a light outer layer called ‘Tego’ and a inner layer called ‘Wonju’.
Men wear ‘Gho’ – a knee-length robe having a belt called ‘kera’ in the waist.
On formal occasion men wear ‘Kabney’ along with ‘Gho’, whose color defines the rank.

Rank Kabney color
King Yellow/Saffron
Head Abbot Yellow
Minister Orange
Judge Green
District Administrator Red with small white stripe
Commoner White
female-dress-of-bhutan-traditional

female-dress-of-bhutan-traditional

male-dress-of-bhutan-traditional

male-dress-of-bhutan-traditional

 

3. National Symbol: The national emblem of Bhutan was included legally as a national symbol in the Constitution in 2008.
According to the Constitution of Bhutan the description of the national symbol is given below:
“Within the circle of the national emblem, two crossed vajras are placed over a lotus. They are flanked on either side by a male and female white dragon. A wish-fulfilling jewel is located above them. There are four other jewels inside the circle where the two vajras intersect. They symbolize the spiritual and secular traditions of the Kingdom based on the four spiritual undertakings of Vajrayana Buddhism. The lotus symbolizes absence of defilements; the wish-fulfilling jewel, the sovereign power of the people; and the two dragons, the name of the Kingdom.”

national-symbol-of-bhutan

national-symbol-of-bhutan

4. National Sports: The national sport of Bhutan is Archery- a sport inspired by arrows and bows that are widely mentioned in all Bhutanese myths. Archery was declared as a national sport in 1971 and is played all over the country between regions on different occasions. Presently the country has an Olympic Archery team.

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