Culture of Bhutan: Explore the Mysterious Nature of the Himalayan Kingdom
1. religion of bhutan - traditional beliefs and practices in bhutan's culture.
2. Birth, Marriage and Death in Bhutan
3. Festivals of Bhutan - Integral Part of Bhutan's Culture
4. Traditional Dress of Bhutan - Cultural Aesthetics of the Country
5. Food of Bhutan - Cuisine & Culinary Delights of Bhutan
6. Bhutanese Literature
7. music and dances of bhutan - celebrations of the country's legacy.
8. Art of Bhutan - Wall Paintings and Sculptures that depicts Bhutan's History
9. Bhutanese Architecture - An Intricate Part of its Culture
This post was published by Tina Garg
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Bhutan battles to preserve its culture as development accelerates
A push for growth could destabilise the delicate cultural ecosystem, but officials vow to keep its unique identity alive
I n the village of Ura, nestled in a sweeping valley in central Bhutan , the locals are celebrating. Men wearing grotesque masks and brandishing huge wooden penises leap through traditional dances. And in the village dzong – its monastery, fortress and spiritual centre – locals in national dress eat, drink and gossip.
But overseeing the celebrations at Ura’s annual three-day festival, Tashi Wangyal , a member of the national council, the country’s upper chamber, explains that this year it has been difficult to find enough young men to perform the traditional dances. Those who have moved away have been urged to return for the festivities. “How do we prevent the fissures between modernity and tradition opening out?” he asks. “Bhutan has a distinct culture, language and tradition. We do not have military power, we don’t have economic power but we do have culture – and that is what keeps us distinct, and safe.”
As Bhutan – a nation best known for valuing GNH, gross national happiness, above GDP – accelerates its development, its government and people have engaged in a new fight to preserve its culture and keep its unique identity alive.
In a bid to fight globalisation with a form of Bhutanese “glocalisation”, the government has passed a heritage sites bill , which protects its cultural traditions as well as its monuments. It has its own broadcast channel, the Bhutan Broadcast Service , and insists on national dress in government meetings and in schools. The tourist board is pushing homestays – a Bhutanese version of bed and breakfast – in an attempt to bring money to rural areas, while giving value to a traditional way of life.
Poster child for development
A nation of only 740,000 people, Bhutan is already a poster child for development (pdf). On target to meet all eight millennium development goals , its poverty rate has halved in less than a decade, to 12% in 2012 from 23% in 2007. Healthcare and education are free, and since 1980 life expectancy has increased by 20 years and per capita income by 450%.
But economic growth has stumbled in recent years . The economy is expected to grow by 7.3% in 2014, but a heavy debt burden and a currency shortage forced the government to push through an $88m (£53m) stimulus package last year. Bhutan’s prime minister, Tshering Tobgay, admitted last year that too much focus on GNH rather than providing basic services could be “a distraction”, causing some to worry that a new push for growth could destabilise the country’s delicate cultural ecosystem still further.
Mass migration from villages to urban centres is a key concern. The UN human development report in 2009 revealed that rural-urban migration in Bhutan – which got its first television sets in 1999 and held its first democratic elections in 2008 – was one of the highest in south Asia. This year’s World Bank report (pdf) found that only 37% of rural households said they were happy, compared with half of households in cities. “Low living standards, lack of alternative job opportunities, especially for young people, and unhappiness is contributing to increased out-migration as well as families’ breakdown and loss of communities’ vitality,” said the report.
With greater development comes greater expectation, says Sangay Khandu, an MP in Bhutan’s national council. “You promise a road, the next thing people want is a car to drive on that road; you promote telecommunications, the next thing they want is a mobile phone. The reality is that people want comfort, they want the benefit of development,” he says.
Bhutan’s capital, Thimphu, is one of the fastest growing cities in south Asia, expanding at a rate of about 10% a year. Although attempts are being made to curb its growth (pdf) – strict building rules, tax breaks for businesses in other towns and rural areas, new roads and planned regional airports – its brights lights are still a draw for a population who, until recently, might have lived several days’ walk from the nearest road.
A new road is bringing change to Merak, a stop on one of Bhutan’s most celebrated treks in the remote far east, and a bone-jangling three-day drive from Thimphu. Here, narrow paths wind past the carved wooden houses, and many of the semi-nomadic local Brokpa (highlander) people wear the traditional dress of the region while tending their yaks. But the road means the village is only an hour’s trek from the junction. Electricity arrived in 2012.
Road to tourism
Yak herder Lam Richen, 45, explains that two of his three children now live in Thimphu – his daughter has just graduated, his son is a police officer. He hopes the road will bring more tourists, but he is wary too. “I am happy for people to come here, to show them my culture,” he says. “But the risk is that if more tourists come then people here might want a different culture to the one they already have.”
The Shejun Agency, an NGO that aims to preserve Bhutan’s culture, warns that remote and diverse microcultures within Bhutan may be disappearing (pdf) before their existence can even be recorded. The brutality of progress is laid bare on the trek from the village of Merak to Sakteng, which only opened to the public in 2010. For days, the only sounds on the rhododendron-laden route are the rustling of leaves and the occasional whip of a set of prayer flags. But the peace is shattered on the approach to Sakteng by the sound of heavy machinery, as diggers cut a new road into the mountainside, leaving fallen Himalayan cypress in their wake.
Bhutan is unique in its promise to keep at least 60% of its landmass as forest, but roads keep on coming (pdf): in 2004 the country had around 800km (497 miles) of roads, but by 2012 that had grown to 5,500km.
The balance of Bhutan’s economy is already shifting. In 2002 farming accounted for 26% of GDP, but by 2011 that was down to 16%. Industry – mainly due to four massive hydropower projects (pdf) – accounted for 44% of GDP in 2011, up from 28% in 2002. But there is a sense that this development is benefitting a few, and leaving many behind. As of last year only 2% of the population were employed in water, gas and electricity supply (pdf).
A huge new hydropower plant, partly financed by India, in Dagachhu is set to open within months, and 11 more are planned . The country is attempting to meet its declared aim of increasing hydropower capacity to 10,000MW by 2020, most of it for export to India, which is funding the expansions.
Plans for agriculture
Agriculture still features highly in Bhutan’s plans. Around two-thirds of the population still work in agriculture, the vast majority as subsistence farmers. The country – the world’s only nation aiming to be fully organic – plans to diversify production into hazelnuts, coffee and organic vegetables, and is launching the Green Bhutan Project giving rural people plots of land and greenhouses.
Tourism, another area of potential growth and revenue, is increasing by about 10-15% every year. Tourists can only visit Bhutan on an organised tour, which, alongside a daily visa fee to the government, can cost about $250 a day. “We need to make tourism sustainable, so it’s not just about numbers but about yield,” says Kinley Wangi, of Bhutan’s tourism council. “If you don’t plan well, tourists can ruin a country.”
Until now much of the money raised from tourism – which Wangi estimates accounts for only 6-9% of GDP – has stayed in the hands of tour companies. But the government is encouraging local people in remote areas to open up their homes for curious tourists, so that more money is spent locally. “Homestays” are being supported by the WWF in Bhutan as well as the government.
Bhutan will have to make a herculean effort if it is to preserve its unique identity, and, as the Ura festivities close, there are signs of hope.
As the sun dips below the mountains, all the men and women of the village dance around the courtyard of the dzong to the rhythmic sound of bells. A couple of tourists pull the hoods of their all-weather jackets tighter around their faces while a monk in ochre robes takes a photo on his smartphone.
Watching, 12-year-old Rigzin Pema Yodchan says she hopes that in the future her country will be more developed, with computers and phones. Asked if she will stay here in Ura, she nods. “Yes. Lots of people now leave,” she says. “But we should stay and preserve our culture.”
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Mandala Collections Texts
Explore bhutan cultural library.
This collection contains essays on various genres of oral traditions in Bhutan, as well as other cultural subjects. Each text is linked to relevant places and subjects, such that users can explore the rich tapestry of Bhutanese culture through different media.
Texts in this collection
The list below includes texts from this Collection’s Subcollections.
A Brief History of Ura Village
A view on the history, nomenclature, and traditional social organization of Ura, one of Bumthang district's four valleys.
A Translation of Zhabten for the 4th Druk Gyalpo
A translation of a prayer for the long life of the Fourth King of Bhutan Jigme Singye Wangchuck (b. 1955) composed by the 70th Je Khenpo Jigme Choedra.
Alcohol Culture in Bhutan
Alcohol in religious rituals, alo: songs of sorrow.
An overview of the eight types of Alo, secular songs of sorrow sung solo and generally alone.
Archery: Bhutan’s National Game
The history and development of archery as Bhutan's national game, played almost exclusively by men.
Atsara: A Character Both Sacred and Profane
Bardo thoedrol, beliefs in bhutanese life, bhutanese bathing culture.
Descriptions of the three types of water sources used for bathing in Bhutan: tshachu, menchu, and drupchu.
Bhutan’s Raven Crown
Bhutan’s religious history in a thousand words.
An extremely brief summary of Bhutan's religious history, presented in three phases.
Bhutan’s Zangdog Pelri Temples: Paradises of Guru Rinpoche
A view on the building plans and cultural perceptions of temples built in Bhutan meant to emulate Guru Rinpoche's Copper Mountain Paradise.
Bödra: A Song Genre
Bomena: night dating.
The author's view on the state of bomena and its changed prominence and practices in modern Bhutan.
Bönkor Festival of Haa Yangthang village
Bumpa: offering vases, chabdro: taking refuge.
A summary of the rationale for Buddhist practitioners' taking refuge, the proper steps for doing so, and the role of refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.
Chag or prostration is fundamentally a practice of paying respect, but it is not about submission to others. It is aimed at getting rid of one’s greatest flaw, evil and enemy--the ego or the sense of I.
This piece was initially published in Bhutan’s national newspaper Kuensel in a series called "Why we do what we do".
Chagchen: The Great Seal
An overview of the Chagya Chenpo (phyag rgya chen po), or Mahāmudrā, from the Bhutanese perspective.
Chakcha Stone Game
Chalipaikha: the language of chali, cham: sacred dances.
Cham is a type of sacred dance unique to the Indo-Himalayan Buddhist culture. It is an extension of the Buddhist practice of visual offering of aesthetic movement, the mudra expression of enlightened spirit and of the artistic and entertaining expedience of passing a spiritual message.
Changköl: An Alcohol Porridge
The making of and uses for changkoe, a grain-based alcoholic foodstuff served at special occasions in Bhutan.
Mani is a popular ngag or mantra. Mani or oṃ maṇi padme huṃ, which is also known as the six syllable mantra, is the mantra of Avalokiteśvara or Chenrezig, the Buddha of compassion.
There are different kinds of mantras. The innate mantra of reality is the ineffable nature of sound, which is simultaneously empty and audible. This state is expressed in the form of symbolic mantras, which are the syllables, letters and words, which we can chant and also hear.
Chipön: Local Chieftains
Chod is a very expedient Mahayana Buddhist practice primarily aimed at reducing and eliminating one’s sense of ego or attachment to oneself, using the tactics of fear and selfless giving.
Choe lhag ni: Why Bhutanese recite scriptures
The recitation of Buddhist sutras is a very ancient tradition. After the Buddha passed away, his teachings were passed down orally for about three centuries. The master would recite and transmit the teachings to the disciple who will memorise, recite and pass it down again.
Chösham: Domestic Shrine Rooms
A summary of the contents and contexts that surround choesham, domestic Buddhist shrines in Bhutan.
A summary of the types of chortens encountered in Bhutan, their construction and their functions.
Chothrul Dawa – The Month of Miracles
The first month of the Bhutanese calendar is called Chothrul Dawa, literally the month of miracles. It is believed to be the month when Buddha performed many miracles.
Chunyipai Losar: A Bhutanese New Year
An overview of the eastern Bhutanese New Year alternately referred to as Chunyipai Losar, Sharchokpai Losar, and the Traditional Day of Offering.
Chunyipai Tshetheg (Bhutanese New Year)
Due to its cultural diversity engendered by geographic isolation, Bhutan has many different losar (ལོ་གསར་) or New Year celebrations.
Dadar: Arrow Scarf
Dance of shinjé yabyum.
The dance of Male and Female Yamantaka, Shinje Yab Yum, and its perceived purificatory functions in Bhutanese festivals.
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The Essence of Bhutanese Culture: Proceedings of the Fifth Colloquium, Vol. 2.
Journal of Bhutan Studies
The Centre for Bhutan Studies is pleased to dedicate the 24th volume of the Journal of Bhutan Studies to papers presented at the joint Association for Asian Studies (AAS)—International Convention of Asia Scholars (ICAS) conference held in Honolulu, Hawaii, US, from 31 March to 3 April 2011. The Bhutanese Panel titled, ‘Tradition and Evolution in Bhutanese Intangible Culture’ examines several intangible cultural traditions and how they have not only established and maintained themselves over the last four centuries, but also documents how they are currently engaging modernity. The panel acknowledges the contributions of Ariana Maki, a PhD candidate, working for the National Museum of Bhutan, Paro. She also chaired the session. Lastly, the panel would like to thank Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation for supporting the Bhutanese participation in the conference.
few years ago, a man was interviewed on radio asking why he became a soldier. He replied: “To serve the Tsawasum with tha damtshig”. When asked what the Tsawasum are, he enumerated army, bodyguards and police force. Similarly, teacher-trainees at the National Institute of Education were asked in an exam to name the Tsawasum. Some wrote the names of their three best friends. These anecdotes amply show (1) that concepts such as Tsawasum and tha damtshig are very profusely bandied about in Bhutan and (2) that most people take them for granted without any accurate knowledge of their significance. Even among those who grasp their significance, their frequency and ubiquity have rendered the weighty concepts meaningless catchphrases. It is these socio-political concepts – Tsawasum, tha damtshig, le judre, driglam namzha, and Gyalyong gakyi palzom – their historical origins, significance, usage, implications and underlying assumptions which I shall attempt to explore briefly.
In chapter one, I talk about Buddhism in Bhutan not only as a religion but also a part of the culture, Buddhism has had a huge impact on the lives of people because it is a Buddhist state. In chapter two, Youth of Bhutan, this chapter is the longest compared to other chapters because there are many issues that the current generation is dealing, and I have given some insight to help in overcoming these issues. In Chapter three, Women in Bhutan, the roles of the women are changing in Bhutanese society, and women are becoming active in politics and other things. Finally, a provide a Conclusions chapter which synthesizes the chapters aforementioned. My thesis is an exploratory thesis, thus I did not test a hypothesis. I have included my narratives with research, as well as some interviews I conducted when I returned home during the winter intersession 2015-16
Tibet Journal, XXVII (1): 237-240.
George van Driem
Reflections of the Mountain: Essays on the history and social meaning of the mountain cult in Tibet and the Himalaya, A.M. Blondeau & E. Steinkellner (eds), Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Wien, 1996, 39-56.
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Essay on Bhutan
Students are often asked to write an essay on Bhutan in their schools and colleges. And if you’re also looking for the same, we have created 100-word, 250-word, and 500-word essays on the topic.
Let’s take a look…
100 Words Essay on Bhutan
Bhutan is a small country in South Asia. It is between China and India. Bhutan is known as the “Land of the Thunder Dragon”. This name comes from the violent storms that often roll in from the Himalayas.
The people of Bhutan are called Bhutanese. They speak Dzongkha, the official language. Bhutanese people are known for their kindness and hospitality. They wear traditional clothes. Men wear ‘gho’ and women wear ‘kira’.
Religion and Culture
Most people in Bhutan follow Buddhism. It is the main religion. The culture of Bhutan is strongly linked to Buddhism. You will see many monasteries and religious festivals in Bhutan.
Gross National Happiness
Bhutan is famous for its unique idea of Gross National Happiness. It means the country cares more about the happiness of its people than money. This makes Bhutan very special.
Bhutan is a green country. It is the world’s only carbon-negative country. This means it removes more carbon dioxide from the air than it adds. This is good for the environment.
Bhutan has rich wildlife. You can find snow leopards, Bengal tigers, and Himalayan black bears. There are also many types of birds. Bhutan is a great place for nature lovers.
250 Words Essay on Bhutan
Bhutan is a small country in South Asia. It is located in the eastern Himalayas, between China and India. Bhutan is also known as the ‘Land of the Thunder Dragon’ because of the fierce storms that often roll in from the Himalayas.
Capital and Language
Thimphu is the capital city of Bhutan. It is the largest city in the country. The official language of Bhutan is Dzongkha. English is also widely spoken, especially in schools and government offices.
Bhutan has a rich culture. It is famous for its unique art, music, and dance. Bhutanese people are known for their traditional dress. Men wear a ‘gho’, a knee-length robe, and women wear a ‘kira’, an ankle-length dress.
Buddhism is the main religion in Bhutan. The country is filled with many beautiful monasteries. The most famous one is the Tiger’s Nest Monastery, which is built on a steep cliff.
Bhutan’s economy is based on agriculture, forestry, and tourism. The country is also famous for its policy of Gross National Happiness. This means they value the happiness and well-being of their people more than money.
Bhutan is known for its commitment to the environment. It is the only carbon-negative country in the world. This means it removes more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than it adds.
In conclusion, Bhutan is a unique country with a rich culture and a strong commitment to the environment. It is a place of peace and happiness, where people and nature live in harmony.
500 Words Essay on Bhutan
Bhutan is a small country in South Asia. It is known as the ‘Land of the Thunder Dragon’. It is between China and India. It is famous for its beautiful nature and unique culture.
Bhutan has high mountains and deep valleys. The highest peak is Gangkhar Puensum, which is very high. Many rivers flow through Bhutan. These rivers are the source of water for the people. The country also has a rich variety of plants and animals. There are forests, grasslands, and wetlands. Some rare animals like the snow leopard and the red panda live here.
The culture of Bhutan is very special. The people of Bhutan follow Buddhism. They have many festivals. One famous festival is Tshechu. During this festival, people wear traditional clothes and perform dances. These dances tell stories about Buddhism.
Bhutanese people also love music and sports. The national sport is archery. Music is also very important. People play traditional instruments and sing folk songs.
Bhutan is a democratic country. The king is the head of the state, but the people elect the government. The government makes laws and takes care of the people. Bhutan is also the only country in the world that measures its success by Gross National Happiness. This means they care more about the happiness of the people than money.
The economy of Bhutan is based on agriculture, forestry, and tourism. Most people are farmers. They grow crops like rice, corn, and fruits. The forests provide wood for building and firewood. Tourism is also very important. Many people come to Bhutan to see its beautiful nature and unique culture.
Bhutan is very careful about the environment. The government has made rules to protect nature. For example, they have said that at least 60% of the country should always be covered by forests. This helps to keep the air clean and protect the animals and plants.
In conclusion, Bhutan is a unique country with a rich culture and beautiful nature. Its people are proud of their traditions and take care of their environment. It is a great place to learn about a different way of life and to enjoy the beauty of nature.
That’s it! I hope the essay helped you.
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Bhutanese Views on Happiness and Subjective Wellbeing Essay
Introduction, bhutanese views on happiness, specific examples from the video were found interesting or meaningful, the contrast of “good life” as reflected in bhutanese and american culture.
The purpose of this task is to explore Bhutanese views on happiness as a form of positive psychology that depicts national progress. Bhutan’s views on national progress are not based on the gross domestic product (GDP) but rather on gross national happiness (GNH). This is the most effective way to assess progress. In addition, spiritual, social, physical, and environmental elements of health are evaluated among the public. This view posits that subjective wellbeing is more important than material progress.
Based on these views, Bhutan has discarded the normal measure of national growth based on the GDP (Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness, n.d). Instead, the country focuses on GNH as a measure of national progress. This measure encompasses other factors such as physical, spiritual, social, and environmental wellbeing among the public (Bhutan- The Happiest Place on Earth- One Life, n.d).
Bhutan notes that happiness should be the priority rather than material achievements (Tobgay, Dophu, Torres, & Na-Bangchang, 2011). Is Bhutan a nation of only happy individuals? Of course, it is not; the GNH is a national aspiration and a guiding principle to ensure equitable, fair, and sustainable growth. Hence, happiness, as a national goal, can only emanate from equitable social development, environmental and cultural preservation, and ensuring a just governance structure.
The concept of GNH is unique. It does not find any in the world, except in Bhutan. The country aims to advance good governance, equitable social development, environmental and cultural preservation through GNH. The happiness and prosperity of every citizen are considered as worth more than any economic achievement (Vorster, 2012).
Environment preservation is imperative in Bhutan. The country is currently carbon negative, with over 70% of forest cover. People understand the role of the natural environment in their lives. Conservation efforts are vital, but these efforts occur at the expense of economic prosperity, which is not important in this country.
Bhutanese believe in good governance to achieve happiness. Good governance is guided by the happiness of the people. In addition, people are encouraged to take part in ongoing changes.
The country believes in sustainable development. It provides free education and healthcare for increased standards of living. Only sustainable development can promote the effective use of current resources and guarantee availability for the future generation. Equality drives sustainable development in this tiny country, and it ensures that every member of the nation benefits from natural resources.
The so-called ‘good life’ in Bhutan is derived from the philosophy of the GNH index. Material gains and money are not considered important. In fact, 95% of Bhutanese claims to be ‘very happy’ with their lives. They consider money as a means and not the end. This reflects oddity in a capitalist world like America, in which amassing material wealth is the goal of most citizens.
The country has developed a national policy as a methodical tool for pursuing happiness at all costs. Happiness in the US is not a matter of national concern but simply considered as a sub-factor of subjective wellbeing.
About 80% of Bhutanese people work on the land, but they still manage to be happy. Perhaps deep belief systems in spiritual, social, physical, and environmental health among Bhutanese contribute to a unique lifestyle and good life in the country.
Individuality alongside the materialistic life of Americans cannot be compared with the collective responsibility of Bhutan, where systems are designed to complement each other with the purpose of promoting physical and mental well-being and, by extension to achieve the overall goal of happiness.
This task-focused on evaluating the concept of happiness from a Bhutanese point of view. It is unique and perhaps one of its kind in the world. GDP is rather not important than GNH. As a result, GNH is the measure of national progress and not material gains.
Happiness, as a core part of positive psychology, remains the ultimate goal for Bhutanese. The systems are therefore designed to ensure equality, good governance, environmental and cultural preservation, and spiritual wellbeing.
Bhutan- The Happiest Place on Earth- One Life. (n.d) Web.
Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness . (n.d). Web.
Tobgay, T., Dophu, U., Torres, C. E., & Na-Bangchang, K. (2011). Health and Gross National Happiness: review of current status in Bhutan . Journal of Multidisciplinary Healthcare, 4 , 293—298. Web.
Vorster, S. (2012). GNH, EI and the well-being of Nations: Lessons for public policymakers, with specific reference to the happiness dividend of tourism. Journal of Bhutan Studies, 27 , 15-33.
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IvyPanda. (2024, February 17). Bhutanese Views on Happiness and Subjective Wellbeing. https://ivypanda.com/essays/bhutanese-views-on-happiness-and-subjective-wellbeing/
"Bhutanese Views on Happiness and Subjective Wellbeing." IvyPanda , 17 Feb. 2024, ivypanda.com/essays/bhutanese-views-on-happiness-and-subjective-wellbeing/.
IvyPanda . (2024) 'Bhutanese Views on Happiness and Subjective Wellbeing'. 17 February.
IvyPanda . 2024. "Bhutanese Views on Happiness and Subjective Wellbeing." February 17, 2024. https://ivypanda.com/essays/bhutanese-views-on-happiness-and-subjective-wellbeing/.
1. IvyPanda . "Bhutanese Views on Happiness and Subjective Wellbeing." February 17, 2024. https://ivypanda.com/essays/bhutanese-views-on-happiness-and-subjective-wellbeing/.
IvyPanda . "Bhutanese Views on Happiness and Subjective Wellbeing." February 17, 2024. https://ivypanda.com/essays/bhutanese-views-on-happiness-and-subjective-wellbeing/.
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