National EmblemThe National Emblem of Bhutan is a circle that projects double diamond thunderbolt, placed above the lotus. There is a jewel on all sides with two dragons on vertical sides. The thunderbolt represents harmony between secular and religious power while the lotus symbolizes purity. The jewel signifies sovereign power while the dragons (male and female) stands for name of the country Druk yul or the Land of the Dragon.
National FlagThe National flag is rectangle in shape that is divided into two parts diagonally. The upper yellow half signifies secular power and authority of the king, while the lower saffron-orange symbolizes the practice of religion and power of Buddhism, manifested in the tradition of Drukpa Kagyu. The dragon signifies name and purity of the country, while jewels in its claws stand for the wealth and perfection of the country.
National FlowerThe national flower is Blue Poppy (Meconopsis Grandis). It is a delicate blue or purple tinged blossom with a white filament. It grows to a height of 1 meter on the rocky mountain terrain found above the tree line of 3500-4500 meters. It was discovered in 1933 by a British Botanist, George Sherriff in a remote part of Sakteng in eastern Bhutan.
National TreeThe national tree is cypress (Cupressus torolusa). Cypresses are found in abundance and one may notice big cypresses near temples and monasteries. Cypress is found in the temperate climate zone, between 1800 and 3500 meters. Its capacity to survive on rugged harsh terrain is compared to bravery and simplicity.
National BirdThe national bird is raven. It ornaments the royal crown. Raven represents deity Gonpo Jarodongchen (raven headed Mahakala) one of the chief guardian deities of Bhutan.
National AnimalThe national animal is the Takin (burdorcas taxicolor) that is associated with religious history and mythology. It is a very rare mammal with a thick neck and short muscular legs. It lives in groups and is found in places above 4000 meters altitude, on the north-western and far north eastern parts of the country. They feed on bamboos. The adult takin can weigh over 200 kgs.
National languageBhutan is a multi-lingual society. Today about 18 languages and dialects are spoken all over the country. The state language is Dzongkha which in the olden days was spoken by people who worked in the Dzongs that was the seat of temporal and spiritual power. Later, Dzongkha was introduced as national language of Bhutan.
National AnthemThe national anthem was first composed in 1953 and became official in 1966. It is known as Druk Tshenden Kepay Gyalkhab Na (In the land of the Dragon Kingdom, where cypress grows).
National Day17th December is celebrated as National Day of the country that coincides with crowning ceremony of Gongsa Ugyen Wangchuck as the first hereditary king of Bhutan in Punakha Dzong on 17 December 1907. It is a national holiday, every Bhutanese celebrate the day with pomp and festivity throughout the country.
National LanguageBhutan is a multi-lingual society. There are 19 different languages and dialects spoken in the country. Dzongkha, meaning the language of the fort, is the national language of Bhutan. It is widely spoken in the western region.
National DishEma Datshi, a chili and cheese stew, is Bhutan’s national dish. Bhutanese either use dried red chilies or green chilies to make this dish. It is very simple and fast to cook.
National StadiumChanglimithang Stadium in Thimphu serves as the National Stadium. It is mostly used to celebrate national events, football and archery games. It was built in 1974 and refurbished in 2007. It can accommodate up to 25,000 people.
National MuseumThe Ta-dzong in Paro which was established in 1968 is the National Museum of Bhutan. It houses extensive collections of over 3,000 works of Bhutanese art covering more than 1,500 years of Bhutan’s cultural heritage.
National development philosophyBhutan believes in the philosophy of Gross National Happiness. Sustainable development and happiness are emphasized more than Gross Domestic Product. Each and every policy of Bhutan first has to go through a checklist that qualifies it to be passed as a Gross National Happiness policy.
Tradition & Cultures
BirthBirth of new born baby is always celebrated in Bhutan. Mothers are cared and looked after very well. A small purification ritual is performed on the 3rd day after which guests & outsiders are allowed to meet mother & child, offer them gifts which include clothes, money and even dairy products. A highly religious figure (lama) gives name to the child. New born baby with mother also visit the local religious temple to receive blessings. A horoscope predicting future of the baby is drawn out with the help of time and date of birth based on the Bhutanese calendar
MarriageMarriage in Bhutan is extremely simple affair. Bride as well as the bride groom has to perform a number of traditional rituals. At the end of marriage ceremony, friends, relatives and parents offer scarves, gifts including cash and gold to the newlywed couple. As in case of divorce, the husband and wife can freely choose to go with their new partners after divorce without any disgrace or shame.
FuneralIn Bhutan, people believe that death is the route to rebirth or new life. To ensure that the deceased person gets a good rebirth a lot many rituals are performed at the time of funeral. On the 7th, 14th, 21st and 49th day, several rituals are performed and prayer flags erected in memory of the diseased family member. Normally, the dead bodies are cremated, but some community in Southern Bhutan bury, while brokpas of eastern Bhutan prefer to chop off the dead body and feed the vultures. On every death anniversary of the deceased person, a lot of rituals are performed. Family members, relatives and people offer rice, alcohol and other items while attending such ceremonies.
Bhutanese DressDress that the men wear is known as Gho reaches up to their knees while the dress that the ladies wear is known as Kira reaches up to their ankles. The men’s dress Gho is folded and tightly tied to the waist by Kera (belt). The pouch so formed is used to carry wallet, mobiles, beetle nuts and other such small items. Traditionally, the pouch was used to carry bowls and dagger. In the Bhutanese tradition, wearing scarves is a must for everybody while visiting religious places like Dzongs and other religious and administrative places. Kabney is the scarf that the men-wear while Rachu is the scarf worn by the women.
Eating habitsThe traditional Bhutanese people eat with hands. All members of the family sit with their legs crossed on the wooden floorings. Food is served first to the head member of the family generally by women members of the family. People offer short prayers before eating and place a small morsel on the floor to offer food to the spirits. But now everything has changed with the modernization, people in urban areas prefer to eat with forks and spoons siting on dining tables. Dishes were traditionally prepared in earthenware, but now pans and pots have replaced the earthenware. Meal usually consists of rice, Ema Datshi- a dish made with chilly and cheese and pork or beef.
FestivalsTshechu is the traditional festival, which is celebrated in all the districts of Bhutan. People in their traditional dresses meet at the temples and religious monasteries to celebrate the festival. Tshechus are held to celebrate the main events in Guru Rinpoche’s life, master of Indian Tantric and also considered as the Second Buddha. Mask dances along with folk songs and dance can be witnessed in the three days long festival. People meet friends, relatives and share their meals together (Rice, Ema Datshi and Traditional wine Ara).
About LanguageBhutan is linguistically rich with over eighteen dialects spoken all over the country. National language is Dzongkha, the native language of the Ngalops of western Bhutan. Dzongkha literally means the language spoken in the Dzongs and administrative centres of Bhutan. The other major languages are Tshanglakha and the Lhotshamkha. Tshanglakha is the native language of the Tshanglas of eastern Bhutan while Lhotshamkha is spoken by the southern Bhutanese of Nepali origin.
About GNHLately these four pillars have been further classified into nine domains to create widespread understanding of GNH and to reflect the holistic range of GNH values. These nine domains are:
- Psychological wellbeing,
- Time use,
- Cultural diversity and resilience,
- Good governance,
- Community vitality,
- Ecological diversity and resilience,
- Living standards.
The domains represent each components of wellbeing for the Bhutanese people. The term ‘wellbeing’ here refers to fulfilling conditions of a ‘good life’ as per the values and principles laid down by the concept of Gross National Happiness. Gross National Happiness survey was carried out in 2010 with representative samples taken at the districts and regional level. This survey was administered using GNH questionnaire which gathered data on a comprehensive picture of the wellbeing of Bhutanese. The survey gathered data from 7142 respondents; 6476or 90.7% of the respondents had sufficient data to be included in the GNH Index.
Highlights on GNH index
Men are happier than women on average. Of the nine domains, Bhutanese have highest sufficiency in health, then ecology, psychological wellbeing, and community vitality. In urban areas 50% of the people are happy; in rural areas it is 37%. Urban areas do better in health, living standards and education. Rural areas do better in community vitality, cultural resilience and good governance. Happiness is higher among people with primary education or above, than those with no formal education, but higher education does not affect GNH very much. The happiest people by occupation include civil servants, monks/anim, and GT/DT members. Interestingly, the unemployed are happier than corporate employees, housewives, farmers or the national work force. Unmarried people and young people are among the happiest. Survey result indicates equality across Dzongkhags, so there is no strict ranking among them. The happiest Dzongkhags include Paro, Sarpang, Dagana, Haa, Thimphu, Gasa, Tsirang, Punakha, Zhemgang, and Chukha. The least happy Dzongkhag was SamdrupJonkhar. Ranking of dzongkhags by GNH differs significantly from their ranking by income per capita. Sarpang, Dagana, and even Zhemgang for example, do far better in GNH than in income. In terms of numbers, the highest number of happy people lives in Thimphu and Chukha – as do the highest number of unhappy people! Thimphu is better in education and living standards than other Dzongkhags, but worse in community vitality.
Arts & Crafts in BhutanThe thirteen arts and crafts are categorized as follows:
The women and some men in Bhutan mainly from eastern side of the country are expert in weaving, some of the most highly prized textiles. These textiles are woven from cotton, raw cotton and silk with intricate motifs woven into cloths. Most of the textile comes to market from Lhuentse, Pemagatshel, Wangdue Phodrang, Bhumthang, Trongsa districts. There are four types of loom used by Bhutanese weavers, black strap loom, the horizontal fixed loom, horizontal-framed loom and the card loom.
Tsha means bamboo. Bhutanese people have mastered the skill of weaving cane and bamboo products. People produce baskets, winnowers, mats, container known as Palangs and bangchungs.
Crafting wooden cups and bowls traditionally known as dapas and phobs. These wooden bowls are made of special wooden knots known as zaa. It was highly priced till the advent of steel and brass plates.
Paintings capture the imagery of Bhutanese landscape. The master painters are known as Lha Rips. The painters are believed to accumulate good deeds and merits. Huge scroll of thankha or thondgrols that depicts during religious festivals are some classic works. A mere sight of these huge scrolls is believed to deliver us nirvana. Thus, it brings merit not only to the believers but to the painters as well.
Do zo as it is widely known is an old craft that is still practiced today by the Bhutanese people. DO means stone. Bhutanese temples, Dzongs, Chortens or the stupas and farm houses are all built of stones. Indeed no construction ever takes place without the use of stones. Classic examples of stone work are those of Chorten Kora in Tashiyangtse in eastern Bhutan and Chendebji chorten in central Bhutan.
Carvings are done on stone, wood and slate. The traditional designs crafted on these materials create some distinctive art works. Woodcarving is seen in a variety of forms. The wooden masks that feature during the annual religious festivals are all carved out of wood besides many traditional motifs that are engraved on the Bhutanese houses and Dzongs. Another important art widely practiced is the art of slate carving. The master craftsman is known as Do Nag Lopen and the material used is slate. The other important craft that has survived in Bhutan is stone carving.
Jim zo or clay work has been practiced and passed on over the centuries. Statues of deities, gods & goddesses and other prominent religious figures in fact exemplify clay work in Bhutan. The master craftsmen are known as Jim zo lopen and the skill is imparted to the young novices through vigorous trainings spread over the years. Besides the clay statues, the tradition of clay potteries is still alive though much of the potteries are now being used as show pieces and flower vases.
The period in history between the Stone Age and Iron Age is known as the Bronze Age because bronze was commonly used to cast containers such as cups, urns, and vases. People also shaped bronze into battle-axes, helmets, knives, shields, and swords. They also made it into ornaments, and sometime even into primitive stoves. Bronze was developed about 3500 BC by the ancient Sumerians in the Tigris-Euphrates valley. Bronze casting in Bhutan was introduced only in the 17th century. The Newars of Nepal were first invited by Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyal to cast bronze statues and religious items such as bells and water offering bowls. It was through these artisans that the art was introduced and today, a lot of Bhutanese people are into bronze casting.
Black smithy in Bhutan began sometime in the late 14th century and it is believed that it was introduced by a Tibetan saint known as Dupthob Thangtong Gyalpo. He has been revered as the master engineer for his skill in casting iron chains and erecting them as bridges over gorges. In Bhutan, he is supposed to have built about eight suspension bridges and one can still come across a bridge over Paro Chu linking the highway to the famous Tachog lhakhang in Paro.
Master craftsmen having skills in shaping beautiful ornaments are regarded as Tro Ko Lopen. Using precious stones such as corals, turquoise, silver and gold, these master craftsmen shape out ornaments such as necklaces, bangles, earrings, rings worn on fingers, brooches, amulets to contain ritual objects, traditional containers to carry the much chewed beetle nuts, ritual objects and many more.
People engaged in producing the traditional Bhutanese paper or De zo are known as Dezop. Traditional papers were widely used in the past. Most of the religious scriptures and texts were written on Dezho’s using traditional Bhutanese ink, at times in gold. People still produce Deshos which is used as carrying bags, wrappers for gifts and even used as envelopes. The art still continues in Trashiyangtse where the raw material is readily available.
The art of tailoring is popular tradition amongst the Bhutanese. This art can be broadly classified as Tshem drup or the art of embroidery, lhem drup or the art of appliqué and Tsho lham or the art of traditional Bhutanese boots. The art of embroidery and appliqué are normally practiced by the monks. Using this art they produce large religious scrolls known as Thangkas that depict Gods and Goddesses, deities and saints.
The Bhutanese still practice this ancient art termed shingzo. The master craftsman known locally as Zow chen and Zows are instrumental in fashioning intricate designs that goes into the construction of our fortresses- Dzongs, palaces, temples, monasteries and the traditional Bhutanese farm houses. Dzongs that have origin in the 17th century feature some of the most elaborate wood works and designs that draw appreciation not only from the Bhutanese populace but from outside visitors as well.
Flora & Fauna
Physically, Bhutan can be divided into three zones: Alpine Zone (4000m and above) with no forest cover; the Temperate Zone (2000 to 4000m) with conifer or broadleaf forests; and the Subtropical Zone (150m to 2000m) with Tropical or Subtropical vegetation. Forest types in Bhutan are Fir Forest, Mixed Conifer Forest, Blue Pine Forest, Chirpine Forest, Broadleaf mixed with Conifer, Upland Hardwood Forest, Lowland Hardwood Forest, and Tropical Lowland Forests. 300 species of medicinal plants and about 46 species of rhododendrons can be found in Bhutan. A wide range of animal are also found frequenting the jungles of Bhutan. Some high altitude species are snow leopards, Bengal tigers that are found at the altitude ranging between 3000 to 4000 meters besides red panda, gorals, langurs, Himalayan black bear, sambars, wild pigs,barking deer, blue sheep and musk deer. In the tropical forests of Southern Bhutan one can come across clouded leopards,one horned rhinoceros, elephants, golden langur that is unique to Bhutan, water buffaloes and swamp deer. Bhutan also has a great variety of bird species. The recorded number of bird species is over 670 and there are chances that this number could still go up. Bhutan is also home to about 16 bird species that are in endangered list worldwide. These include White bellied heron, Pallas Fish eagle, Blyth’s King fisher to name a few of them. Phobjikha valley in Wangdue Phodrang and Bomdeling in Trashi Yangtse are also two important places in Bhutan that is visited by the endangered Black Necked Cranes every year.