The Kingdom of Bhutan – even with its relatively small size – accommodates diverse topographies and hence, diversity in its climatic conditions. The coldness moves in a descending order, with the northern parts being bitter cold, central Bhutan is lesser cold and the southern belt is mostly hot and humid.
While the national language of Bhutan is Dzongkha – literally meaning ‘language spoken in dzongs and monasteries’ – there are over nineteen dialects spoken across the kingdom. This linguistic diversity can be attributed to the geographic formations such as mountain passes and deep valleys, which kept the communities in isolation. Sarchopkha and Lhotshamkha languages, spoken in the eastern and southern parts respectively are the most popular ones. Other dialects like Khengkha, Bumthapkha, Mangdepkah and Cho Cha Nga Chang Kha are spoken in different parts of the country
Cultural Heritage/ National Dress
The centuries old culture of Bhutan is deeply rooted in Buddhism and has been carefully preserved by its people. They have strongly held on to their traditional values, belief systems and ways of living, which have together helped carve a unique national identity. A small country situated between two giants, but Bhutan has hardly been influenced by them. This is because Bhutanese people trust that preservation and promotion of their cultural heritage is the key to their survival and progress as an independent nation. This factor is also an important one in measuring the kingdom’s Gross National Happiness.
Apart from thousands of stupas, monasteries, prayer flags and wheels, Bhutanese culture has also been kept alive by traditional clothing. For men, it’s a knee-length robe called Gho, while women wear ankle-length dresses called Kira. It is mandatory for government employees to wear this traditional dress at work and students and other citizens have to wear them for all formal occasions.
Religious Ceremonies/ Pilgrimage
Religion is diligently followed in almost every Bhutanese family. The rituals are performed habitually and with devotion towards peace amongst all beings. On auspicious occasions, many families go for a pilgrimage to sacred Buddhist destinations and offer prayers by turning wheels and lighting butter lamps.
Another feature that distinguishes Bhutan from the rest of the world is its well-conserved natural heritage, which most places have lost to unsustainable ways of life. Situated in the Himalayas, the kingdom is blessed with rich biodiversity, comprising of a wide range of flora and fauna. Considering it as a source of all life, Bhutan has maintained 70% of its area under the forest cover, which supports different wildlife and vegetation.
Gross National Happiness
In Bhutan, development is not measured in monetary terms but in terms of happiness of its people. This philosophy is officially recognized as Gross National Happiness (GNH), which is grounded on four pillars, viz. Sustainable and Equitable Socio-Economic Development, Environmental Conservation, Preservation and Promotion of Culture and Good Governance. These four pillars are further categorized into nine domains:
- Psychological well-being
- Time use
- Cultural diversity and resilience
- Good governance
- Community vitality
- Ecological diversity and resilience
- Living standards
Keeping them as base, the government has created 38 sub-indexes, 72 indicators and 151 variables for measuring and analysing the happiness levels of Bhutanese people. This unique approach takes into account all the factors that affect a person’s overall wellbeing and ensure sustainable growth by walking on a middle path between material and non-material developments.
Bhutanese people typically follow the routine of three meals a day, in which, mostly rice is served with Ema datshi – a traditional curry. Use of cheese and chilly is predominant in their cuisine. Porridge is sometimes an option for breakfast. Many people relish local wine varieties called ara, bangchang and shingchang.
Arts & Crafts/ Architecture
Traditional arts and crafts are zealously promoted in Bhutan. In almost every art form, you can see traces of religious influence. Similarly, architecture is also closely linked with religion. In every monastery, dzong, chorten, monument and even the residences you will clearly see an amount of uniformity in their designs.