The ancient names attributed to Bhutan provide a glimpse of how this protected nation was seen by the outside world. Lho Mon (Southern Land of Darkness), Lho Tsenden Jong (Southern Land of Cypress) and LhoJong MenJong (Southern Land of Medical Herbs) were the names before the country was called as “Bhutan”. Bhutan- the name was derived from the Sanskrit Bhota ant, meaning the country’s geographical situation at the end of Bhot (Tibet). After 17th century Bhutan came to be known as Druk-yul, meaning “Land of the Thunder Dragon.” And we call our people as “Drukpa”.
With Monasteries and prayer flags dotting every hills and valley, Bhutan is predominantly a Buddhist country and follows Buddhism as our religion. Bhutanese language and literature, arts and crafts, drama, music, ceremonies and events, architecture and basic social and cultural values draw their essence from Buddhist values.
With the modernization of world, Bhutan has also undergone with major developmental activities in every aspects but without disturbing our environment and cultural heritage which makes people of Bhutan as one Bhutanese. .
Culture and Society
Bhutan’s rich and unique culture heritage has largely remained unharmed due to its self-imposed isolation and geographical locations from rest of the world. Unlike many countries, traditional arts, age-old ceremonies, festivals, social conduct and structure are not remnants of a bygone age but are still followed and practiced as they were done hundreds of years ago.
National language Dzongkha (meaning ‘language of Dzong/monasteries) is widely spoken throughout the country. There are over 19 different dialects with very little common in the country and English is widely spoken in the main towns and is the medium of instruction in the schools.
Textiles, Bhutan’s premier art are the product of centuries of individual creativity in fiber preparation, dying, weaving, cutting, stitching and embroidery. Vibrant fabrics and intricate weaves and designs are an inseparable part of Bhutan’s rich culture that has evolved over the centuries. Bhutan’s textile tradition has gone international and increasingly appreciated with our distinct technique, colour and styles.
Bhutan has a rich mixture of cultures, lifestyles, and language and belief systems. Bhutanese people have different dialects, customs and culture patterns which have led to strong sense of individuality and independence. The majority of the Bhutanese are a homogenous group divided into three main ethnic groups. Sharchops (people from east) who lives in the eastern region, Ngalops (people from west) who are settled in western region and Lhotshampas (people from south) those who are settled in southern region of Bhutan.
The traditional dress for Bhutanese men is the Gho which is a knee-length robe tied at the waist by a fabric belt known as Keyra. Women wear an ankle-length dress known as the Kira, secured by a woven Keyra around the waist, and fastened at the shoulder with silver brooches called Koma. A long-sleeved blouse Wonju is worn underneath the Kira and a jacket called Tego worn on the outside.
On formal visits to Dzong/Monasteries and offices, our people (men and women) wear Gho and Kira.
The national flag is divided diagonally into two equal halves. The upper yellow half signifies the secular power and authority of the king while the lower saffron-orange symbolizes the practice of religion and the power of Buddhism, manifested in the tradition of drukpa kagyu. The white dragon signifies the name and the purity of the country while the jewels in its claws stand for the wealth and perfection of the country.
The national emblem of Bhutan is a circle that projects a double diamond thunderbolt placed above the lotus. There is a jewel on all sides with two dragons on the vertical sides. The thunderbolts represent the harmony between secular and religious power while the lotus symbolizes purity. The jewel signifies the sovereign power while the dragons (male and female) represent the name of the country Drukyul (land of the dragon).
The 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 above 4000 meters on the north-western and far north eastern parts of the country where they feed on bamboos.
The national sport is the traditional archery. The bow and arrow is made out of bamboos and it is played between different teams with a player ranging from minimum of 5 up to 11 in each team during religious and secular public holidays in Bhutan.
The national bird is the raven (corvus corax). It adorns the royal crown. The raven represents one of the protective deity of Buddhism Gonpo Jarodongchen (raven headed mahakala) and it is also said that he is personal deity of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel.
The national flower is the 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 and is found above the tree line (3500-4500 meters) on rocky mountain terrain.
The national tree is the cypress (cupressus torolusa). Cypresses are found in abundance and one may notice large cypresses near temples and monasteries. This tree 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.