The Country

Bhutan- The Land of Happiness

Area of Bhutan

38,394 sq km

Altitude

Varying from 590.55ft to 24,770.34ft above sea level

Population

750,125

Capital

Thimphu

Currency

Ngultrum

Local Time

6hrs ahead of GMT

Vegetation Cover

72%

Arable agricultural land

7.8% – 8%

Protected areas system

51.44% (19,676.57 sq km)

History

The first humans probably arrived sometime after the Ice Age, and little is known about Bhutan's prehistory. Historical records began with the arrival of Buddhism in the 7th century, when Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) visited Bhutan and established monasteries. In 1865, Britain and Bhutan signed the Treaty of Sinchulu, under which Bhutan would receive an annual subsidy in exchange for ceding some border land. A monarchy was set up in 1907, in December 2006, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck transferred power to his oldest son, the Crown Prince Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, bestowing upon him the title of the fifth Druk Gyalpo. The official coronation took place in November 2008. The Fifth King is Boston and Oxford educated and is held in high esteem throughout the country. Bhutan has been a constitutional monarchy since 18 July 2008. The King of Bhutan 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.

People

A majority of the Bhutanese are homogeneous groups divided linguistically into Sharchops, Ngalong and Lhotshampa. There are a number of smaller groups such as the Bumthap in Bumthang, Tshangla in the east, Layapa in the north-west, Brokpa in the north-east and Doya in the south-west.

Religion

Mahayana Buddhism in its Tantric Vajrayana form is the official religion of Bhutan. Buddhism came to Bhutan in 8th century during the visit of Guru Rinpoche and began to take form. Bhutan could be probably only country in the world where this form of Buddhism is practised and preserved. Drukpa Kagyupa is the state sponsored school of practise whereas Nyingmapa is also popularly practised in most parts of the kingdom. Bhutan is a country where Buddhism is still vibrant and alive. The dzongs, monasteries, stupas, prayer flags,and prayer wheels punctuate the Bhutanese landscape. The chime of ritual bells, sound of gongs, people circumambulating temples and stupas, fluttering prayer flags, red robed monks conducting ritual, among many others are all living case in point to reveal that Buddhism is an essential ingredient of Bhutanese life.

Birth

In Bhutan, the birth of a child is welcomed without any gender discrimination. The first three days after the birth is considered to be polluted by kaydrip (defilement by birth). Thus outsiders do not visit the child for three days. Outsiders come after a purification ritual (Lhabsang) is conducted in the house. Visitors bring gifts for both the mother and the child. In the rural places the gifts consists of rice and dairy product whereas in the urban places, visitors bring clothes and money. kye tsi- the horoscope of the baby is written based on the Bhutanese calendar. This Kye-tse details out the time and date of the birth, predicts the future of the child, rituals to be executed at different stages in the life of the child as remedy to possible illness, problems and misfortune. Celebrating birthday traditionally doesn’t exist; it has lately become popular especially amongst the urban populace.

Marriage

In the olden days, arranged marriages were popular. Mostly, people married among the relatives, particularly in eastern Bhutan, where cross-cousin marriage was a popular tradition. Today this tradition has become unpopular among the literate mass and most of the marriages take place based on their own choice. Although some rich people arrange dinner parties and receptions, marriages are conducted in simple ways. A small ritual is performed by a religious person. The parents, relatives and the friends present scarves (kha-dar) to the couple along with gifts in the form of cash and goods. Divorce is accepted in the Bhutanese society and carries no stigma. The divorced couple in most cases remarries with new partners.

Language

Dzongkha is the national language but Bhutan is linguistically rich with over nineteen dialects spoken in the country. Many people in Bhutan speak English, since it's the medium of instruction in the schools. All government documents and road signs are written in both English and Dzongkha.

Food

The favorite Bhutanese dishes features spicy red and green chillies, either dried or fresh. Ema Datsi (chili with cheese), Paa (sliced pork and beef) and red rice are the common recipes. No dish goes without chili. People also drink salted butter tea (suja) and alcohol. Doma (betel leaf and areca nut eaten with a dash of lime) is carried by many in their pouch. Offering of Doma to someone is an act of friendship, politeness and a mark of generosity. Ema-datsi, the national dish is today favourite among Bhutanese and a growing number of foreigners. For non-vegeterians, meat is available in most of the restaurants. Most of the restaurants have vegetarian options. The legal drinking age in Bhutan is 18 years and liquires are easily available in bars.

Dress

Bhutanese men wear Gho, a longish robe tied around the waist by a cloth belt, know as Kera. The women wear an ankle – length dress known as Kira, which is made of bright colored fine women fabric with traditional patterns. The national dress is worn mostly during office hours, formal events and during the festivals.