Bhutan known as Land of the Thunder Dragon is a small landlocked Himalayan Kingdom. It has an area of 38,394 sq km; and is sandwiched between two giant neighbors’ China in the North and India in the South. Bhutan lies between 27 30 N longitude and 90 30 E latitude with a population of 691,141 (from the National Housing and Census Bureau of Bhutan statistics).
The pristine environment is home to exotic wild life and also for the endangered species. The country is 65 percent under forest cover currently and more than 26 percent of land is under the protected areas which comprises of four national parks. The rugged mountains and enchanting valleys, winding rivers and colorful lakes, tall shady trees and exquisite flowers make Bhutan a fascinating land and nature’s veritable paradise on earth.
Bhutan is a sacred land with deeply spiritual people. Buddhism and Hinduism are both practiced. As you travel inside Bhutan you will come across stupas or chorten and monasteries in the kingdom many of which were built centuries ago. Bhutan is divided into four regions western, central, eastern and southern. Tourism in Bhutan is known for its high value, low volume and the philosophy GNH (Gross National Happiness) which is the national policy. The policy asks every visitor to be careful or sensitive to social, cultural and environmental system as we are trying to preserve the best of its traditions in a fast changing world.
The National flag of Bhutan is divided diagonally with a white dragon in the center of the flag. The dragon is snarling and clutches jewels in its claws.
Dress - Gho & Kira
The 'Gho' is National Dress for Men in Bhutan. National Dress for Bhutanese Women is 'Kira'.
Amblem - Royal Crest
Druk khatap or the Royal Crest of Bhutan has two dragons with a thunderbolt in the center. It is the official seal and the National Emblem of Bhutan.
Sport - Archery
It is an exclusively male sport but women do participate in the rituals of dancing; accompanying the game and give verbal encouragements to the archers.
Animal - Takin
The Takin has been chosen as the National Animal because it is rare and native to Bhutan. It is closely associated to religious history and mythology of the country.
Flower - Blue Poppy
The National Flower of Bhutan, is known locally as 'Euitgel Metog hoem'. Its biological name is Meconopsis grandis.
Bird - Raven
The Raven is Bhutan's National Bird. It represents one of the most powerful deities of the country, Jarog Dongchen. Raven is thus known in the local language as 'Jarog'.
Tree - Cypress
The National Tree of Bhutan is locally known as 'Tsenden'. It is also referred to as Bhutan Cypress or Himalayan Cypress.
The concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH) was promulgated by His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the Fourth King of Bhutan in the early 1970s. When His Majesty spoke about GNH at the time, he questioned the prevailing measurement system that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) alone could deliver happiness and well-being to society. He was still a teenage monarch, and wise beyond his years. His Majesty firmly believed that happiness is an indicator, and a sign of progressive development for the Bhutanese people. He also believed in the legitimacy of public discussion in defining Bhutan’s development goals.
In addition, Bhutan’s ancient legal code of 1629 stated that, “if the government cannot create happiness for its people, then there is no purpose for government to exist”. The code stressed that Bhutanese laws must promote happiness for all sentient beings – as a Buddhist nation, it is clear that the cultivation of compassion stemmed from this ancient wisdom. That the focus was not just the economic progress of Bhutan, but of a flourishing human society living in harmony with nature. Today there is a lot of research that shows that wealth alone does not contribute to life satisfaction or happiness. GNH measures the quality of its development in a more holistic way and believes that the beneficial development of human society takes place when material and spiritual development occurs side by side. Bhutan has been considered a living example by many for sparking the debate on what is real human development.
Bhutan has managed to preserce a rich tradition and culture. Bhutanese language and literature, the arts and crafts, dance, music, drama, ceremonies and festivals, architecture and the basic social and cultural values have their significant roots in the Buddhism. Dance, music, song and drama are an integral part of religious ceremonies and festivals, and play a significant role in the lives of the people as they offer opportunities to become immersed in the meaning of the religion and accumulate merits. The festivals celebrate the faith, legends, myths and history of Bhutan and are important religious and social gatherings.
Bhutan has relied on its geographic isolation to protect itself from outside cultural influences and has long maintained a policy of strict isolationism, both culturally and economically, with the goal of preserving its cultural heritage and independence. Only in the last decades of the 20th century were foreigners and tourists allowed to visit the country, and only then in limited numbers. In this way, Bhutan has successfully preserved many aspects of a culture, which dates directly back to the mid-17th century.
Arts & Architecture
The country has diverse ecological zones; sub-tropical, temperate and alpine. About 72.5 percent of the total land is under forest cover and it is home to about 7,000 species of plants, 165 species of mammals and 700 species of birds. About 26.23 percent of the country lies under protected areas, excluding 9 percent biological corridors created to connect different protected parks. Around 35 percent of the country’s total area is under some form of conservation. Bhutan falls under the top ten countries with the highest species density in the world, and has the highest percent of land area under protected areas and forest cover in Asia. Bhutan has been declared as one of the ten global biodiversity ‘hotspots’ for its huge bio diversity. Unlike other Himalayan regions, Bhutan is successfully conserving and preserving its rich bio diversity. Bhutanese people have preserved their natural environment for centuries; they have always lived in harmony with nature and this relationship has been forced within moral, cultural and ecological borders. Buddhism plays a central role in people’s lives and culture. The basic principle is to give back to nature what has been taken away, and accord respect to all forms of life. Buddhism teaches interdependence among all life forms. This has established a close and harmonious relationship with the surrounding environment.
The economy of Bhutan is based on the agriculture and forestry, which provides the main livelihood for more than 60% of population. Agriculture consists largely of subsistence farming and animal husbandry. The economy is closely aligned with India’s through strong bilateral trade and monetary links and dependence on India’s financial assistance. Hydropower generation and export especially to India forms the major revenue source for the country.