Bhutan, Land of the Thunder Dragon is a remote kingdom nestled in the Himalayas between India and China and has been open to outsiders only since the 1970’s.
The Wangchuk hereditary monarchy in power since 1907 became a two party parlimentary democracy in 2008. Area of 14,812 sq miles & one of the world’s least densely populated countries; 79% of the people live in rural areas. 2007 population - 658,000 (UN); median age 19.4 yrs.
It is the only country to maintain Mahayana Buddhism as the official religion; almost all the Bhutanese are Buddhist. Monks, nuns and gomchens (lay priest) are important in the people’s daily lives. People are pious and the importance of the Buddhism is evident.
Festivals in Bhutan often seen by outsiders as raucous affairs, are truly spititual events by which attendees gain merit for the next life. They take place at Dzongs with music & dance which has spitual importance.
Tradition is a striking aspect of Bhutan’s culture, reflected in dress and architecture. National dress is compulsory - gho for men and kira for women – made of colorful, fabrics from simple cotton checks and stripes to intricate designs in woven silk.
Bhutanese architecture is made up of chortens, stonewalls, temples, monasteries, fortresses, mansions and houses, all with uniformity and traditional designs. Ancient monasteries and fortresses merge with more modern dwellings.
More than 2,000 monasteries are testimony of the spiritual nature of the country. Each provides a spiritual centre for festivals and ceremonies;they are a focal point of cultural, secular and administrative and religious events.
Bhutanese art reflects Tibetan influences. Intricate wall paintings and thankas, historical writing and sculpted images have a religious theme.
Traditional Bhutanese food features spicy red and green chillies, either dried or fresh. Bhutanese love eating spicy food.
Sources: Bhutan Tourism Council, BBC News, Other