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Bhutan
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Bhutan

Information about Bhutan
Bhutan, the mystic Himalayan kingdom is the last Shangri-la on this earth. Bhutan is bordered by its great neighbours, India and China. Bhutan is only one third of the size of Nepal, but slightly larger than Switzerland. Bhutan, is known to the world by several names such as the 'the Last Shangri-La' or 'the Last Place on the Roof of the World'. Though the original name from the time of Marco Polo was 'Bootan', the natives prefer to call their country as 'Druk Yul', or the 'Land of the Peaceful Thunder Dragon'. Druk

Right click on the map to zoom in

Yul means ‘Land of the Thunder Dragon’, which can also be seen on its flag. The kingdom of Bhutan lies nestled in the folds of the mighty Himalayas. It is also the most mysterious and the least modernized country in South Asia. Monarchy, under the reign of King Jigme Singye Wangchuck exists in Bhutan. The capital of Bhutan is Thimphu. The national language of Bhutan is Dzongkha, with each region having its own dialect. Buddhism is the dominant religion, and some percentage of the population are Hindus. English is also understood and spoken in some parts of Bhutan. Its total population is two million people with a mix of Bhotes, ethnic Nepalis and indigenous or migrant tribes. The people of Bhutan are warm, hospitable and always smiling. They love to meet and entertain foreign visitors. The climate of Bhutan differs from place to place, such that you can experience different climate as you move from one place to another. Some of the tourist places in Bhutan are now accessible by road. Much of the rugged beauty of the country can also be seen along these roads. The visit to Dzonga and temples enables the tourists to experience the past and present of Bhutan.

History of Bhutan
The written history on Bhutan belongs to the seventh century, when Buddhism reached the land. The temples built during that time still stands, revered by the Bhutanese. A century later, the saint, Padmasambhava, spread the Buddhism faith throughout Bhutan. After a long period of internal strife, the country was united by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal who consolidated his spiritual and temporal authority over Bhutan with some frequent battles with Tibetan and Mongolian armies. Shabdrung means at whose feet one submits. The Shabdrung established the Drukpa Kagyupa tradition of Mahayana Buddhism, from which Bhutan derives its native name of Druk Yul. The sect has continued to live still without interruption as the state religion. Bhutan also remained isolated and independent for centuries. For 300 years, following the arrival of westerners, only 13 European expeditions passed through Bhutan’s borders. The present King’s grandfather Ugyen Wangchu was elected as the first King of Bhutan in 1907. The monarch has thrived ever since and the present King Jigme Singye Wangchuck receives overwhelming love and support of his people. Bhutan has also made a treaty agreement with India under which it accepts India's guidance in foreign relations and at the same time, it also tries to retains its independence. It has also been consistently cautious with respect to contact with outside world. The flow of foreign tourists and the speed of social and economic changes are also controlled by the Bhutan government. The government has also made considerable efforts to uphold traditional values and beliefs, and strongly guards the country’s religious and cultural traditions.
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Geography of Bhutan
Bhutan is situated in the heart of the great Himalayas, the world’s mightiest mountain ranges. Bhutan is a landlocked country surrounded by mountains. The kingdom of Bhutan is spread over an area of 75,000 square kms. It is bordered in the north and north-east by Tibet and in the west and east by rugged mountain ranges that separates Bhutan from India and the states of Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim, in the south

Bhutan Land, Bhutan Geography

by Assam and West Bengal. In the far north, it is bordered by the snow clad peaks of the Himalayas, some of them soaring over 7500 meters high and extend southward losing height, to form the fertile valleys of the Lesser Himalayas that are divided by the Wang, Sunkosh, Trongsa and Manas rivers. The entire country is virtually mountainous, the 7554-m Kulha Gangri on the Tibetan border being the highest. In the south, the foothills of the Himalayas merge into the forest of Sikkim and north-eastern plains of West Bengal and Assam. North to south, Bhutan features three geographic regions, namely, the high Himalayas of the north, the hills and valleys of the interior, and the foothills and plains of the south. Its great rivers helped to carve its topography and their enormous potential for hydropower has helped shape the economy. Monsoon influences promote dense forestation in this region and alpine growth at higher altitudes. The cultivated central uplands and Himalayan foothills support the majority of the population. In the south, the Daurs Plain drops sharply away from the Himalayas into the large tracts of semi-tropical forest, savannah grassland and bamboo jungle. Forests and woodlands cover 70% of Bhutan’s total area.

Climate of Bhutan
The climate of Bhutan varies from the subtropical to the arctic and region to region. The climate within the mountains varies greatly according to precipitation and wind conditions. In the Duars plain and up to 1500 meters, the climate is sub–tropical with high humidity and heavy rainfall. The low–lying parts of Punakha, Mongar, Tashigang and Lhuntse have cool winters and hot summers, whereas the higher valleys of Ha, Paro, Thimpu, Tongsa and Bumthang receives a temperate climate with cold snowy winters and cooler summers. The monsoons starts in mid June and lasts until the end of September. Most of the towns also have warm and autumn days with cool nights in spring, cold and sunny skies in winter and warm, generally sunny summer with light monsoon rainfall. The temperatures also varies greatly between day and night at different altitudes. Layered clothing for changing conditions is thus recommended.

 

Flora and Fauna in Bhutan
Like the climate, there is also wide difference in the flora and fauna of the country. The rivers of Bhutan falls down from the frozen glaciers to feed the fertile valleys. Bhutan is a botanist paradise. In the ancient times, Bhutan was also known as Southern Valley of Medicinal Herbs. Fern and forests of pine, oak and other deciduous trees are found at the lower altitudes, whereas the evergreen forests like pine, spruce, hemlock, cypress and juniper are found in the higher altitudes. Mountains of

Bhutan Flora

rhododendrons blaze with colors in the spring. Even on the high mountain passes above the tree line, tiny alpine flowers can be seen dotting the wind-swept ground. Magnolias, carnivorous plants, rare orchids, blue poppy (the national flower), edelweiss, gentian, medicinal plants, daphne, giant rhubarb abound here. Some of the rare and exotic faunas found in Bhutan are the golden langur, red pandas, black-necked crane, snow leopard, Takin or wild boar, musk deer, Himalayan brown bear, Himalayan marten, tiger, hornbills, pheasants, mountain goats and timid blue sheep. In the higher altitudes, herds of yaks and blue sheep can be seen. The Manas wildlife sanctuary is the only wildlife sanctuary in Bhutan which extends into Assam. Elephant, tiger, rhinoceros, buffalo, deer and Bhutan’s golden langoor monkeys are found in plenty in the sanctuary.

People of Bhutan
The people of Bhutan can be divided into three broad ethnic types. These types are the Sharchops, who live mostly in the eastern region; the Ngalops, who live in the western part of Bhutan, and the people of Nepalese origin who live in the southern part of Bhutan. Over 50% of the population are Bhotiyas, of Tibetan origin. The majority of them belong to the Tibeto–Burmese language group. There are a large number of Nepalese who belongs largely to tribes such as the Rai, Gurung and Limbu. Since 1959, the immigration of Nepalese has been banned and Nepalese are not allowed to move into the central plain. There are various other tribes like the Lepchas, an indigenous people and the Santals, who migrated from North Bihar. The unity of the Bhutanese people and independence of the country is under control of the state religion, Buddhism. There is very limited religious freedom, as government and social pressure do not allow for public expressions of other faiths. The people of Bhutan always keep smiling and are very happy. This feeling of contentment is due to their Buddhist faith or security felt by them which is provided by the lofty Himalayas which protects them from the outside world. Most of the people live the life as they lived several hundred years ago. They live in rustic rural homes surrounded by fields of rice, maize, buckwheat and wheat. At higher altitudes, they live in nomadic tents woven with yak hair. All the citizens of Bhutan, whether Government officials or the common public, wear the national dress at all times in public. The men wear traditional Gho, a knee-length robe tied at the waist and pouched over the belt to form a pocket usually made from hand-woven fabric in interesting patterns. The women wear the ankle-length Mira, which is tied at the waist with a wide sash and fastened at the shoulders with silver broaches and woven in patterns distinct to each valley. Government senior officials wear a sword on ceremonial occasions. The most important sport of the people is archery. Archers throughout Bhutan take great pride in hitting any part of a plate of the size of a dinner plate from a distance of 450 feet. Every village has its own archery range, and high-spirited competitions are held as the part of every festival.

 

Religion and Culture of Bhutan
Religion plays a very important role in the social affairs of Bhutan. Buddhism is followed by 70% of the population, while Hinduism is practiced by 25%. The rest are either Muslims or Christians. Lamaist Buddhism is the state religion. It belongs to the school of Mahayana or Tantrik Buddhism. Buddhism has shaped the country’s destiny since it was introduced 100 years ago. It is practiced throughout the country and has also played a vital role in the life of the people. The Bhutanese belongs to the Drukpa school, a 12th century splinter movement from the

Bhutan Religion and Culture

Kagyupa (one of the Red Hat sects). The religious goal of the Drukpa is redemption from the cycle of rebirth, entering into Nirvana. With Lamaism this is believed to be achieved by castigation, magic deeds and formulas. There are about 8 major monasteries (which are also dzong – fortresses) and 200 small shrines (gompas) scattered throughout the country.

Bhutan had a unique cultural heritage for thousand years and is very different from anything in the neighbouring countries of the Indian subcontinent. The Bhutanese culture is one of the oldest, most carefully guarded and well preserved cultures in the world. For the people of Bhutan realize that other than their centuries old culture and revered values, there is little else that is exclusive to their small and less developed country. The highly colourful ceremonies in Bhutan have a strong element of wizardry. The country was never colonized, and remained unaffected by outside influences and Western culture. In a bid to prevent their ancient customs from being influenced by the West, the Bhutanese government has made it mandatory for all Bhutanese to wear only their national dress in public.

 

Festivals of Bhutan
The people of Bhutan love festivals. Many of the festivals lasts for several days. The largest and most colorful festivals take place at Bhutan's dzongs and monasteries once a year, especially in honor of Guru Rimpoche. They are normally celebrated in spring and autumn. Tsechus consist of up to five days of spectacular pageantry, masked dances and religious allegorical plays that have remained unchanged for centuries. Besides being a vital living festival and an important medium of Buddhist teaching, tsechus are 

Bhutan Festivals

huge social gatherings. Bhutanese revel and exult together, dressed in their finest clothes and jewelry, in a welcoming ambiance where humor and devotion go hand in hand. For guests, the tsechu provides an ideal opportunity to appreciate the essence of the Bhutanese character. Dancing, singing, feasting and sports are an integral part of each festival. The tourists can also take part and enjoy the festival. Spectacular masked dances are part of the festival. More....

Adventure in Bhutan
Bhutan is not only known for its culture, but here one can also experience a little bit of adventure in the mountains or enjoy an outdoor holiday. The best adventure treks are available, depending upon the physical conditions of the tourists. The most adventurous and exciting trekking is to the Himalayas. The treks start from semi-tropical forests till the snow clad mountains. For the more adventurous, some of the highest peaks of the country and swift rivers have been opened. Some of the rivers also provides a good rafting experience to the tourists. During the tour, the tourists are provided well-trained guides who have good knowledge of history and traditions of the country and are well versed in English.

Restrictions on Entry in Bhutan

Only a few thousand foreign tourists have visited Bhutan during the last two decades. The entry to this land is restricted so as to retain the ancient charm of this kingdom and save the citizens from outside influence. Bhutan was totally closed to foreign visitors till 1974 except for some Indian visitors. It was first opened to foreign tourists on June 2,1974 when about 150 dignitaries from different countries of the world were invited to attend the Coronation, a three day spectacular ceremony of the present King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuk, who was crowned at the young age of 17. After the Coronation, the Government decided to open the kingdom for foreign tourists utilizing the accommodation built for the guests who came to Bhutan. Bhutan Government has a policy of sustainable tourism and to avoid the high number of tourists into the country, so every tourist has to pay a considerable high amount for per night stay which includes all the quality services.

 

Art and Craft of Bhutan
All Bhutanese art-dance, drama and music-is steeped in Buddhism. The paintings are not produced for tourists, but for religious purposes; festivals are not quaint revivals, but living manifestations of a national faith; and almost all art, music and dance represents the struggle between good and evil. These traditions can be seen in all their glory at Bhutan's spectacular religious festivals called Tsechus.

How to reach Bhutan

Bhutan Art

By Air:
Today, most of the visitors visit Bhutan by air. Paro is the only airport in the country. It takes only two hours to reach Bhutan from Delhi by air. Druk Air is the national carrier of Bhutan. The Druk Air connects Delhi or Kolkata with Paro via Kathmandu. It also flies to Paris via Kathmandu and to Bangkok via Dhaka and Kolkata.

By Road:

Till Druk Air started flying in 1983, Bhutan can be visited only through Darjeeling and Sikkim in India. Bhutan also has land-crossings to northern India in the south-west via Phuentsholing and in the east through Samdrup Jomkar.

 
 
 

 

 
 

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