The Kingdom of Bhutan is a tranquil country where you can explore the ancient cultures, beautiful landscapes and magnificent architecture.
Bhutan, called Druk Yul by its people, is known as the “Land of the Thunder Dragon”. It is one of the world’s most beautiful, yet mysterious places. It is located on the eastern edge of the Himalayan Mountain region. A large part of the area is forested welcoming a diverse ecosystem of flora and fauna. The country stretches from subtropical valleys and plains to snowcapped mountain ranges. This landscape makes it the perfect place to trek through the majestic valleys or steep mountains to visit ancient architecture and Buddhist temples.
Bhutan has a rich culture where most of its 700,000 inhabitants practice the Buddhist religion. This secluded land has a rich history embedded into the society and shows through the festival reenactments. Bhutan’s ancient cultural traditions have continued to grow despite the current technological restructuring. Only since the mid 1970’s technology has come to Bhutan. It has become the ultimate tourist destination for adventurers, spiritual awakenings, and serene visages.
High Value – Low Volume Tourism
A high volume of tourism may seem like a good thing for Bhutan’s economy, but for the Bhutanese, protecting their culture and environment is most important. Bhutan’s Royal Government used to limit the number of tourists entering the country. Officials believed that unrestricted access to the country would have a negative impact on the natural environment and ancient cultural traditions. This belief led to the notion of “High Value, Low Volume” tourism. Tourism, like all Bhutanese industries must be sustainable and environmentally friendly.
The government wanted tourists to understand the feel the deep-rooted culture and traditions, so they would have a higher appreciation for their surroundings.
Tourism has become the second highest economical contributions to the Bhutan economy, after the agricultural industry. Recently, the government decided to increase the tourism rate. The Tourism Council of Bhutan extended the tourism areas to include once protected communities, natural reserves, and ancient cultures.
Gross National Happiness
Why is Bhutan known for the word Happiness?
Bhutan is known famously as the first country in the world to measure progress based on happiness. To do so, the 4th Druk Gyalpo coined the term Gross National Happiness (GNH). From then on, GNH was used to measure the country’s development instead of Gross National Product (GNP).
The happiness of the Bhutanese is more important than material growth and there should be a balance between to two. A GNH Commission was created to take an annual measure of how the people fare. The poll is based on an index of nine domains. Living standards, education, health, cultural diversity and resilience, community vitality, time use, psychological wellbeing, ecological diversity, and good governess are the nine domains that are taken into account. According to the GNH Commission, 81.5% of the population of Bhutan is deeply happy. The Commission is still working on ways to achieve total happiness for 100% of Bhutanese.
Today, GNH is well known for having the foundation of four pillars:
– Conservation of the Environment
– Equitable and Sustainable Development
– Good Governance
– Preservation of Culture
Facts About Bhutan
The national flower of Bhutan is the Himalayan Blue Poppy or Euitgel Metog Hoem. This unique flower grows above tree level on rocky mountain regions.
The official religion is Vajrayana Buddhism. Bhutan is the last kingdom to practice Vajrayana Buddhism. The teachings allow one to embody both mind and body. You will reach enlightenment if you follow and understand the concepts of emptiness, wisdom, compassion, and skillful means.
The Takin, or gnu goat is Bhutan’s national animal. It lives in forested areas in mountain areas of 4,000-meter altitudes and above. Takin’s have a stocky body on short legs with two-toed hoofed feet. It has a long nose and stout horns. These animals feed on bamboo, grass, leaves, and other plants. Takin are rare, therefore they are an endangered species.
Archery became Bhutan’s national sport in 1971. Although only men were allowed to play during festivals, tournaments, and religious celebrations, Tshering Choden was the first female archer to be asked to enter into the Summer Olympic Games.
The official language in Bhutan is Dzongkha. Bhutanese also speak Tshanglakha and the Lhotshamkha. Tshanglakha is spoken in the western region of the country and Lhotshamkha is used by the southern Bhutanese. There are at least 19 dialects of Dzongkha that are spoken all over Bhutan. Most of the people that are in the tourism industry speak English. It is also being taught in schools.
Ngultrum (NU) is Bhutan’s currency. Until the 1960’s, Bhutanese bartered goods and services because there was no paper money. Today, in addition to ngultrum, you can use Indian rupees at different shops and restaurants around the country.
CULTURE AND COSTUME
For generations the Kingdom of Bhutan has isolated its culture and society from outside influences. This drive is to insure the protection of ancient teachings. Today, these teachings are passed on through festivals and other events that tell stories of their ancestry. Bhutanese dress in festive costumes, some with masks and created detailed recreations and dances that entertain and bestow onto others the Bhutanese spiritual life story.