The Kingdom of Bhutan (In Dzongkha “Druk Yul” “The Land of the Thunder Dragon.”) is a small but lively and happy country in high in the South Asian Himalayas. It is landlocked with 738, 267 people and sits right on the Himalaya Mountain Range. The capital, Thimphu, located on a hill next to the banks of a vibrant Chhu River, is the smallest capital in the world. The country has an amazing history with unique and traditional festivals. Dzongs and buildings are filled with beautiful designs and patterns. One thing that has kept Bhutans culture safe is because the country had for many years kept away from foreign relations and cut off its borders from settlers and tourists until 1974. Even now the only way in to explore Bhutanese life is by arranged tours. Let me tell you, there are hundreds of those tour guide companies. Dzongkha is the national language. There are dialects in the east and west. English classes are taught. Tibetan culture, religion and language overlaps in some places but mostly Bhutan is unique in their foods, architecture, language, religious traditions and clothing. First, it can be extremely hard to differentiate foods between Nepal, Tibet, India and Bhutan because of the similarities and the confusion created by Western cooks. They either mixed up ingredients or substituted in the wrong ingredients and made the recipes have no Bhutanese resemblance at all. Adding to this is that no Bhutanese cookbook has ever been translated into English. Some eating habits in Bhutan are sitting on the floor. Although in more urban places tables and chairs are used. Eating food in Bhutan is usually done with your fingers. Food is served three times a day. Bhutans time zone is 12 hours ahead of CT. They do not have daylight savings time. The female, usually the mother, hands out the dishes and the first goes to the head of the house. Before eating prayers are made. Rice and chilies are the main ingredients in Bhutanese cuisine. It is accompanied by vegetables or meat; sometimes both. Pork, beef, and chicken are the meats. Popular vegetables are spinach, radishes, turnips, pumpkins, tomato, riverweed, onions, and green beans. Bhutan majorly relies on agriculture. Citrus, rice, buckwheat, wheat, potato, oil seed, maize, barley are all main crops in Bhutan. Foods that are only found in Bhutan are Perilla (Shiso) seeds, Szechuan pepper, and chili peppers. Bhutanese foods are real spicy and almost every dish I read about had some sort of chili pepper. One of the dishes in Bhutan is Ema Datshi that is considered the national dish because it is cooked everywhere and widely liked. It has a mix of chili peppers and cheese. It may include green beans, ferns, potatoes, mushrooms, or substituting cheese with yak cheese. Phaksha Paa includes pork and red chilies. Hoentoe are buckwheat dumpling stuffed with cheese turnip and spinach. Additions could be radishes or spinach. Jasha-Maru is spicy chicken, tomatoes, and like most recipes it’s served with red rice. Tripe is cooked animal stomach with chilies. And finally a famous dish in Bhutan is red rice. It’s appearance when cooked is pale pink and is soft and sticky. They send most of their goods to India, HK, Bangladesh, Nigeria, and Japan. They get most of their goods from India, SK, Singapore, Thailand, and China. Second, machine milled clothing is beginning to be worn more for daily wear sadly but still the amazingly fashionable traditional attire is surviving on. It is for sure worn on every special occasion or festival and all members of government are required to wear the gho or kira. The woman wear an ankle-length dress that is woven around the body called kira. Kira’s are hemmed up by two buckles or koma on both shoulders and a belt at the waist. It has many patterns and colors. Underneath the kira is a long sleeved shirt called wonju. A light jacket made of silk called toego is put over the kira. To finish off necklaces of agate eye stone, pearls, and corals adorn the costume. The beads are known as “Tears from the gods.” Male Bhutanese wear gho that is knee-length and resembles a robe. Gho’s are tied at the waist by a belt called kera. A large pouch on the gho traditionally carried bowls or daggers but now carry the normal cellphones, wallets, etc. Handmade boots are also mandatory during those special occasions. The colour of the boots tells the persons social ranking. Otherwise long socks and shoes are worn. Like the shoes and clothes are important during occasions scarves also play an important role. In Bhutan scarves show the class ranking. Men wear a scarf named kabney while woman wear a scarf name rachu. The proper way of wearing the rachu is hanging over the left shoulder and when bowing a certain procedure is followed. The current Dragon King (Druk Gyalpo) is Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and the Head Abbot (Je Khenpo) is Turlku Jigme Choeda. He is the head of the monastery and has the job of leading the Dratshang Lhentshog which oversee the religion of the state. They both wear a yellow scarf. Orange scarves are worn by ministers and other members of the government. When retired they wear the normal civilian scarf which is white. Red scarves are for other members of the Wangchuck family. Green scarfs are for judges. Blue scarf are for the members of the national assembly of Bhutan and members of parliament. Clothing is made from yak wool, cotton or silk. Tribal people in Eastern Bhutan wear yak or sheep woven clothes. They Brokpa peoepl wear a black hat with five fringes down the front. The Layap wear a headpiece that is made of bamboo. Woman wear hand-woven aprons with cool designs. Their hair is braided and decorated with ribbons. Thirdly, Buddhism is a major role in Bhutanese life and is the official religion. Vajrayana, the only form of Mahayana Buddhism, is practiced. Hinduism has presence in the south. There are 10, 000~ Buddhist Monks in Bhutan that are very active in social and religious tasks. They come to births, weddings, sickness and deaths and preform rites. Those festivals are mostly celebrated for different events during the life of Buddha. These festivals are accompanied by dances in costumes that bless the viewer while telling the story. During these festivals are the prefered time to go as a tourist. You get to see these dances inside a Dzong(monastery). Buddhism is vast, but i will shorten it in what I know. Your current actions in this life carry over into your next life(reincarnation) Good karma or bad karma determines your next life. In the 2nd century Buddhism was said to come to Bhutan. It was in the 8th century that Guru Rinpoche made his journey from east to west Bhutan ridding the evil spirits that lurked. He is the Second Buddha because he famously stopped bad spirits and demands. During his journey, he rode a tigeress and taught of Mahayana Buddhism. The festival called Tsechu is celebrated countrywide by dance performances that tell stories of this man’s life events and achievements. It is three to five days long every 10th day of a month. A large flag called Thongdrell of Guru Rinpoche is shown at the last day of the festival. The majority of the festival has unique dances every day in the city markets. Blessings, honoring and socializing take place throughout the kingdom. Atsaras are clowns that have a big role in the activities. They look funny, act obnoxious, and abandon all normal behaviour. They tell jokes, tease the crowd, mime people, chase woman, help with the costumes of other preparations, etc. Ngawang Namgyal a head lama of the Drupka School escaped Tibet to Bhutan and became a famous figure. He was the founder of the Bhutanese state in 1616. He revised the laws and defeated invasions from Tibet. Later making himself the leader of the torn kingdoms that used to be ran by England and was warring Tibet that are now in present day Bhutan. The date for the unification is unsure so instead the day Bhutanese use for their National Day is on 17 December, 1907 when 1st King Ugyen Wangchuck, Jigme’s great-great grandfather, established the Wangchuck dynasty. The current King of Bhutan is Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck who is 36 years old. His coronation day was on December 6, 2006 and is celebrated along with his birthday on February 21, 1980. He married Jetsun Pema(Druk Gyaltsuen born 1990 age 26) five years ago on Oct 13, 2011. So far they have had one adorable boy back in February 5th 2016 who is the heir. Prince(Gyalsey) Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck of Bhutan. The Crown Prince is titled Penlop Trongsa and was like a Governor and had control of districts before the monarchy came around. The Bhutanese people are loyal and thankful for the wise and strong leadership given to them by all 5 kings. A few Bhutanese have no idea when their real birthday is so January 1st is assigned to many Bhutanese IDs. Many Bhutanese had no access to giving birth in a hospital and so documents were missing. New Year celebration Dawa dangpai losar is celebrated for 1-3 days on the first month in the Bhutanese calender. An end of the their calendar is another Losar, Dawa chu nyi pai losar which is celebrated on the 1st day of the 12th month of the Bhutanese calender. Dawa means month, Dang pa means first, and Chi nyi pa means twelfth. Nearing the New Year everything from markets, to homes, to monasteries (place of worship) are heavily decorated. On the first day of the new year, known as Lama Losar, the day is centered on the lamas or the teachers at Buddhist schools. Offerings of food at home altars are made for hopes of a good harvest. Day two is called Gyalpo Losar where the King and other national leaders are honored. The Dalai Lama (head lama and very holy religious leader) meets with exiled Tibetans. Day three is called Choe-kyong Losar and offerings to the dharmapalas are made. Dharmapalas are the protectors of Dharma which is the teachings of the Buddha’s. They raise prayer flags from hills, mountains and rooftops and burn juniper leaves and incense. Celebrations sometimes go up to the following festival Chunga Cheopa or Lamp Festival. The monks sculpt yak butter to create works of art. Bhutanese calendar is created by Pema Karpo sometime during his life of 1527-1592. It is based on the Tibetan Calendar. Each month of the year has a total of 30 days. Years are given certain animals and elements that rotate. The animals are in order: mouse, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, bird, dog and boar. While the elements are earth, fire, water, air, and iron. For 2000 it was the year of the Iron Monkey. Those are the main festivals for Bhutan. Lastly full moons are important days. Fourthly, Buddhists are estimated to have 185,000,000 followers and had started in India but later the religion in India died down due to Muslim attacks. Now Buddhism is the major religion of South Asia and other parts of Asia. Mahayana “Great vehicle” and Theravada “Little vehicle” are two main sects of the religion. Theravada believed that the Buddha had no connection to god and that following him would lead to the end of suffering. Theravada teachings lean more to the Siddhartha Gotama or First Buddha’s teachings. One thing he thought is in order to reach enlightenment you had to eliminate desire. Nepal has many Theravada worshipers. Although Bhutan has freedom for all religious practice the main religion is Mahayana Buddhism. Current estimates are that 75% of Bhutan is Mahayana Buddhist. Hindu’s and Bonism make up the rest. Mahayana has more scriptures and has more roles for the lama’s but for the most part the rules and teachings are the same as Theravada. Mahayana started by Guru Rinpoche. One of the Eight Manifestations of “Guru padmasambhava” is when he went to 13 different places, called Tiger Nests and brought local deities and guardians under his control. He was in a wrathful form while riding a pregnant tigress. The most renowned of all tiger’s nests is Paro Taktshang that was located in Lhomen which is now in Bhutan. From the Padma Kathang biographies of Guru Rinpoche, Guru spent four months in Paro Taktshang, three months in Mon Gom or Gomphu Kora, three months in Singye Dzong. Today Tigers Nest is a very popular tourist place and probably one of the most iconic photos you would find searching for places in Bhutan. Philosophy of Buddhism is to lead a moral life, to be mindful and aware of thoughts and actions, to develop wisdom and understanding. The basic concepts of Buddhism are told best in the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path. I think a strong and emotional poem written by the Buddha is, “Do not accept any of my words on faith, Believing them just because I said them. Be like an analyst buying gold, who cuts, burns, And critically examines his product for authenticity. Only accept what passes the test By proving useful and beneficial in your life.” Enlightening your soul is done by being kind and radiate good emotions, doing daily prayers, offerings to altars, encouraging ones son to enter monkhood, rituals for births and deaths, giving help, time and respect to the monks, lama’s and monasteries, raise prayer flags, use of paintings on paper and in sand called Mandalas, turn prayer wheels, etc. In conclusion, Bhutan has an interesting cuisine, clothing, history and religion that is unique, beautiful and simply amazing. It’s scenery, architecture, dzongs and countryside are astonishing. Towns are filled with lively and joyful people with good hearts. People are very open to expressing their culture to outsiders and get super excited when someone knows about their small Kingdom. The music and language is also so so pretty. I would recommend going here any day and I personally would love to go to Bhutan and meet my favourite living royal HRH Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and all of the many wonderful people I have met online. Dragons represent Bhutan in their flag(One of the coolest flags). The national flower is the blue poppy. The national tree is the cypress. The national bird is the raven, which also adorns the royal hat. The national animal is an extremely rare mammal called the takin.You may have started reading this only knowing one thing about Bhutan, possibly GNH, but now you can leave taking much more.
More on the Brokpa people: They are in the Merak Sakten region of Bhutan and speak Brokkat. Before a marriage parents talk with an astrologer. Astrologers advise on death matters also. Their religion is Gelugpa Buddhism and Ama Jhomo is the main deity. They have their own festivals. The Brokpa are partly nomads.They breed yaks and sheep and sell dairy produce for a living. The wealthy have many yaks. The Brokpa are also traders since they go to some villages swapping their products for food. Some Brokpa are poor and work as carpenters, blacksmiths and tailors.
One of my favorite tribes is Layap: They live in the northwest of Bhutan in the village of Laya, Gasa District. Back in 2003 the population was 1,100. they speak Layakha. Layaps refer to their homeland as Be-yul – “the hidden land.”
Men wear Gho. Women wear black woolen jackets, which reach right down to the ankles. A blue pattern band may also be found at the bottom of their long sleeves. They also sometimes have silver jewelry and beads. They wear a triangle hat made out of darkened bamboo strips. They practice either Bon and Tibetan Buddhism. According to legend, Laya village is the spot where Ngawang Namgyal, the founder of Bhutan, first entered the country. Layap ostracized “living defilements” (soen drep) who is ritually impure to not anger deities and plague. Their language, clothing and religion are all Tibetan influenced.
The Layap have polyandry(a women having two or more husbands)but this is now in decline.The Layap also have a tradition of child marriage, with brides as young as 10 years old. Education is hoping to reduce the later. Heathcare and prenatal care are hard to come by in isolated nomadic life. They are also traders and smugglers.They raise yak, dzos and small ponies. It’s too cold to grow any crops but some types of grasses. Cordyceps are fungi that is a traditional magical medicine and is native to the region. Leopards are a big issue to livestock. Flooding is an even more serious threat. Until the 1980s, the Layap lived in near-complete isolation from the world, except for occasional visits to Thimphu or Punakha, which was a five-day walk. Laya is another big touristy place. Many Layaps now live in permanent settlements complete with modern amenities – from toilets to mobile phones and televisions. Layap children are attending Bhutanese schools. The government encourages pride among Bhutan’s tribal groups, and cites them as an example of humans successfully living in harmony with nature. Sex in their culture is more commonplace but leads to many health problems.
Trailer of Roof of the world: Tibet (第三极), documentary film telling about the sacred land, directed by Zeng Hairuo曾海若. I will try to find episodes to post later. This film is really amazing, for ones who have never been to tibet before. A lot of my friends have been to tibet for long trips through places like མངའ་རིས། | Ali阿里 | Ngari Sanai. That place is the origin of Himalayas mountains,Kailash Range, Brahmaputra River etc, so it’s named after this. མངའ་རིས means origin of mountains and rivers, where the scenery one must see in his life time.
This Envisat image captures Asia’s diverse topography, altitude and climate
with the snow-sprinkled Himalayan Mountains marking the barrier between
the peaks of the Tibetan Plateau [top] in Central Asia and the plains of
Nepal, Buthan and India in the Indian subcontinent. In this
false-colour image, lush or green vegetation appears bright red.