BHUTAN IN BRIEF
Bhutan, nestled in the awe-inspiring Himalayas, is a landlocked Kingdom bounded by two of the world’s largest nations, China and India,
A nation driven by strong environmental preservation policies, Bhutan is now one of the top 10 global hotspots, and home to many of the world’s magnificent and endangered species of flora and fauna.
With one foot in its glorious past and another in the future, Bhutan is a Kingdom marching along the middle path, guided by a unique development philosophy of Gross National Happiness, where material wealth means little without the happiness and fulfillment of its people.
Population National Language Official Religion
672,425 Dzongkha Mahayana Buddhism
Country Size Time Currency
38,395 sq. km.
(approx. the size of Switzerland or 1/2
the size of Indiana) Six hours ahead of GMT The Ngultrum
(at par with the Indian Rupee)
Capital & largest city Main Exports Country Code
Thimphu Electricity, timber, cement, agricultural products, handicrafts +975
Government Head of State Prime Minister
Parliamentary Democracy Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck Tshering Tobgay
Information provided by and property of the Department of Tourism, Royal Government of Bhutan
Bhutanese health care development accelerated in the early 1960s with the establishment of the Department of Public Health and the opening of new hospitals and dispensaries throughout the country. The government has maintained a system of universal health care for its citizens.
The school year in the 1980s ran from March through December. Tuition, books, stationery, athletic equipment, and food were free for all boarding schools in the 1980s, and some high schools also provided clothing. With the assistance of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s World Food Programme, free midday meals were provided in some primary schools.
Before the introducation of modern education, the only education available in Bhutan was from monasteries. Access to basic education has become the right of all Bhutanese and it is the key to the most of the nation’s buildings.
The form of government is very unique in Bhutan. It is one of the only democratic monarchies in the world. Under the farsighted and guardians of the 4th Druk Gyelpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the monarchy was transform to democracy in 2008, who kept the culture and traditions of the country intact while listening to the voice of the people. Through the transformation of monarchy to democracy, the Royal Government of Bhutan has opened the door for the people’s participation in the following areas: Freedom of Speech, Participating in the development goals, Freedom of Rights and Equal Justices.
The estimated population of the country is about 720,679.00 with the growth rate of about 3.1% per year. The country is still predominantly rural and about 85% of the people live in villages. More than 90% of population in Bhutan follows Buddhism as there only religion. The people of Bhutan are very warm and friendly. Also increasing number of tourist arrivals in Bhutan every year proves there unmatched hospitality. A large number of Bhutan’s population is engaged in tourism and travel related services.
Three main ethnic groups constitute its population:
Sharchops: live in eastern part of country are recognized as the original inhabitants of Bhutan and is Indo Mongoloid origin.
Ngalops : are descendants of Tibetan immigrants who arrived in Bhutan from 9th century and settled in the west of country.
Lhotshampas: this Nepalese group began settling in the south of Bhutan in the late 19th century. The Lhotshampa represents different Nepali speaking ethnic groups primarily – Brahman, Chettri, Gurung, Rai and Limbu.
Bhutan has relied on its geographic isolation to protect itself from outside cultural influences and has long maintained both culturally and economically, with the goal of preserving its cultural heritage and independence. The most important factor in modeling of Bhutanese character has been the teaching of Lord Buddha, which was brought into the country by Guru Padsambhava over the high and snowcapped mountains from Tibet. The Bhutanese are physically similar to the Tibetans, and settled in the south-draining valleys of Bhutan.
For a small country like Bhutan, the preservation and promotion of cultural identity is an important means for survival as sovereign Kingdom. Bhutan has been isolated for centuries and only in the last decades of the 20th century, foreigners were allowed to visit the country. In this way, Bhutan has successfully preserved many aspects of its culture, which dates back to the mid-17th century. The influence of religion is highly visible in every day life and is a major reason for Bhutan’s spiritual and cultural legacy. It was this identity that has protected and sustained Bhutan for so long and all of these combinations make Bhutan into a unique cultural setting.
Bhutanese architecture is without doubt one of the best expression of country’s unique character.Bhutanese architecture is famous for its originality, its harmonious proportions and its adaptation to the landscape. From the buildings dating back to the 17th century that still exist, it can be seen that they were relatively small structures with a courtyard enclosed within their walls.
The architectural landscape changed in the 17th century when Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal introduced the construction of dzongs which became the model for all monasteries built or restored from that time. Displaying a great sense of innovation, they made each dzong, temple and monastery a unique creation, different from all others but at the same time maintaining a perfect unity of architectural style. The many examples of traditional Bhutanese architecture that we see were all built in this way. Architectural styles differ from place to place and from different periods in time.
The architects of Bhutan developed a style which is peculiar to its own country. Each of these buildings was designed and built to harmonize with the environment.
The great fortresses known as ‘dzongs’ have an unusual architectural magnificent about them. Most of the dzongs are gigantic in structure and rise high in a landscape at strategic places, at the entrance to the valley, at the summit of a hill or at the confluence of rivers impgregnable fortresses set in a pattern of architectural design distinctively Bhutanese. Both in form and design the concepy of Dzong architecture is one of the most elegant and harmonious in fortress- building in the world. Bhutanese Dzongs are striking example of Bhutanese architecture. The Dzongs truly symbolize the past history and independence of Bhutan.
A chorten is a receptable of worship, equivalent to an Indian stupa whererelics of Buddhist divines were deposited,but gradually it acquired a hallow of sancity and means of attaining nirvana. Witness to the profound faith of the Bhutanese, they can be found at crossroads, near a dzong or a monastery and on high mountain passes and spreading serenity and peace.
Lhakhang means a temple or house of god. Bhutan’s monasteries are not merely religious places, but they bear witness to the country’s highly cultivated spiritural civilization and artistic temperament. Lhankhangs are build in simple structure with small enclosed courtyard. Lhakhangs differ from ordinary houses that we find in the villages. Inside the Lhakhang the walls are painted in religious painting representing Buddhist philosophy, mythology and religious tradition.
Goembas are not exactly called a monastery, though it is build in cluster type which consists of one or two temples. It housed the lay monks cell and services rooms. Goemba are build like fortness with tower in the centre sourrounded by exterior walls. The most impresseive example are Phajoding Goemba in Thimphu,Tharpaling in Bumthang and Gangtey Goemba in Phobjikha, Wangdu.
Traditional Bhutanese houses serve as a home for the family, a shelter for domestic livestock, a place for weaving and other household activities and also a religious space. The family farm house remains an important part of life. Most the rural houses are two to three stories high. The houses are build in cluster type meaning close to each other to protect from wind and cold and architectural elements and construction materials may vary a bit according to environment and climatic conditions of a place. Most villages are of between 5 to 20 houses. The general pattern is almost same throughout the country.
Bhutan is the only country in the world to have adopted Mahayana Buddhism and endorsed by the government. Buddhisim palys a fundamental role in the cultural, ethical and sociological development of Bhutan and its people. The majority of Bhutan’s Buddhist are the followers of the Druk sub-sect of the Kargyupa school, one of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhisim.
The influence of Buddhisim has started from the mid 7th century and has sharped Bhutan’s history, enlightening impact in the life of the Bhutanese people. As a Buddhist country, Buddhisim play an active part in community life.
Religious festivals know as “Tsechu” symbolize amity, peace and compassion and are held annually in Dzongs and Temples throught the country. They have remained unchanged for a century. During the festivals, rare and scared masked dances, sword dances and many rituals are performed by layman monks. Festivals are celebrated between three to five days which varies from places to places and mask dances are purely defined in religious content. Mask dances are performed in different styles and ways as per the phophised by Guru Padsambhava. The dancers wear in brilliant silk costumes accompanied by blaring horns, drums and clasing cymbals. It is believed that, by witnessing the festivals, one can get an opportunity to become immersed in the meaning of their religion and gain much merit.
All the festivals ends with unfolding of “Thongdrol” and people believe that by receiving the blessing from the Thongdrol, one can be clear from bad deed and sins which is the ultimate aim of the Buddhisim.
From all walks of life, people come to witness the festivals in their finest cloths and their most beautiful jewelleries with colourfull patten of silk gho and kira. For the Bhutanese people, religious festivals offer an opportunity to migle with their families, friends and relatives from the days of hard work.
Arts & Crafts
All Bhutanese art is symbolic, non-secular and a rare blending on Tibetian, Chinese and Indian traditional styles in characteristic Bhutanese setting.This trattional arts and crafts continue to possess its religious and spiritual significance. Bhutanese traditional arts, dance, drama and music has its root in the Buddhist religion. It is rich in colours and details and dynamic in its exclusive representation of Bhutanses religion concepts, belief and ways of life.
The craftmen have preserved the acient skills of the ancentors through works such as arts, dance, drama and music. The traditional arts and crafts continue to possess its religious and spiritual significance and retain relevance in the minds and lives of the people. Though, world has become a full of technologies, Bhutan, unlike other countries arts, crafts and festivals are not the reminder of gone ages but this traditions are still preserved, practiced and preformed and signifying that it is continue to have the manifestation of a living culture which have a religious and spiritual significance.
The Bhutanese art consists of three cartorgries namely: Thangkhas painting, Wall painting and status curving which has a visible manifiestation. We have a painting school at Kwangjangsa in Thimphu and 13 traditional arts and craft school at Trashiyangtse in the east. In architectural styles its Dzongs, Lhakhangs and appliqué contains the figure of Great Saint- Guru Padsambhava. It is a work of great artistic beauty executed with a brilliantly dazzling colours scheme.
Life of the People
The Bhutanses people lead a very simple life before the 20th century.Majority of the population of Bhutan live as it has for centuries – in small isolated farms in the villages always surrounded by rice, maize and buckwheat field. People in the villages rear cattles besides cultivating crop for the self consumption and up in the higher land, many people live in tents woven from yak-hair, rearing yaks through out the year among their grazing livestock.
One of the most common to every Bhutanses people is hospitality. Who so ever the guest may be or even the strangers, that simple hospitality is extended with smile, may be this is due to the deep rooted in the Budhhisim faith that has been pass from forfather through generations.The smile and the hospitality that the Bhutanese people wear will remember by the tourist even long after their visit.
Agriculture and livestock rising are still the main pillars of the economy, with 85% of the population dependent on these two sectors. Industry and mining are still in the first stage of development but are expanding rapidly.
The export of hydroelectric power provides 25% of government revenue. Hydroelectric power is Bhutan’s largest resource and is sustainable, renewable and environmentally friendly.
Bhutan also exports calcium carbide, wood products and cement. In other major export is agricultural product, including apples, oranges, cardamom, potatoes, asparagus, mushroom.
Tourism and Airline, although very important for earning foreign exchange, only constitute a small part of the gross national product.
Bhutan lies in the eastern Himalayaian range with rich in natural heritage of histrocial record and the country is called “Valley of Medicinal Herbs”. The country’s rich flora and fauna is the result of its unique geographic locations and maintained and protected its natural resources and environment still richly intact.
Bhutan forest cover comprises a multitude of valuable species of trees, a wide variety of valuable and enchanting flora and amazing range of wildlife. For centuries forest covered the entire country. As a result flora and fauna flourish in abundant in Bhutan with diverses varities of plant life including the plants that have been identified as medicinal properties.Today Bhutan is one only the very few remaining countries which possesse such a high percentage of forest cover. Bhutan has a rich natural environment with beautiful landscape, fresh stream and rivers and hidden minerals which gains consistent with the central principle of sustainable development.
Bhutan with many glacier mountains, the geroges are brown and barren in summer because of high wind and they are covered with snow all the year round. The expensive forest that cover more than 62% of Bhutan’s area give a birth to many rivers and streams which now Bhutan is targeting to produce a electicity of 10,000 MW by 2020.
Flora & Fauna
Bhutan flora are found ranging from altitude of 200m to as high as 4000 m elevation and over 5400 different species are found including 300 species of herbal plants and over 50 species of rhododendron and 378 species of orchid. Bhutan’s national flower called Blue Poppy grows above the altitude between 3500-4500m above the sea level.
In the southern belt, the narrow tropical vegetation supports the habitat of elephant, rhino, langur, buffalo, deer, tiger and birds of different characteristic of Indo-Malayan species. In the high Hamalayas blue sheep, takin, musk deer and snow leopard are found. In Bhutan, more than 770 species of birds and flora are recorded. Bhutan also have a hot spot of black necked crane valley in Phobjikha in Wangdu, Bondeling in Trashiyangtse and Gyetsa in Bumthang.
National Parks & Protected Areas
Bhutan’s history of isolation and policy of sustainable development provides decision makers with a unique opportunity to conserve the country’s natural and cultural heritage. As a first step in conserving its natural heritage, Bhutan has established a system of nine protected areas. The system sets aside approximately 26% of country’s total land area in national parks, nature reserves, wildlife sanctuaries and conservation areas.
Kingdom established its national park system to protect important ecosystems, and they have not been developed as tourist attraction. In many case people even won’t be aware that they are entering or leaving a national park or wild life sanctuary.
Jigme Dorji National Park
It is the largest protected area in the country, encompassing an area of 4,349 sq. km, covering the western parts of Paro, Thimphu and Punakha and almost entire area of Gasa district. JDNP is the only park in the country that has all the four national symbols: blue poppy, takin, raven, and cypress. It is also the only park where the Royal Bengal Tiger meets the Snow Leopard.
Royal Manas National Park
Royal Manas National Park was Bhutan‘s first example of the conservation philosophy of the country. Manas Park was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1966, when most of the Bhutan was under pristine forest cover. The Park has an area of 1,023 sq km in south central Bhutan adjoins the Black Mountain National Park to the north and India’s Manas National Park and Manas Tiger reserve to the south. It is home of rhinoceros, buffalo, tiger, leopard, gaur, bear, elephant, wild dog, pygmy hog, hispid hare and several species of deer.
Black Mountain National Park
This reserve with an area of 1,723 sq km protects the range of hills that separates eastern and western Bhutan. The plant includes wide range of broadleaf species, conifers and alpine pastures. Animal life includes tiger, Himalayan black bear, leopard, red panda, goral, serow, sambar, wild pig and golden langur. The Phobjikha valley, wintering place of black necked crane, is included in this park.
Phipsoo Wildlife Sanctuary
This 278 sq km area is in southern border of Bhutan, about 50 km east of Phuentsholing and protects sal forests of the country. Several protected species thrive in the sanctuary including axis deer, chital, elephant, gaur, tiger, golden langur and hornbill.
Thrumshing la National Park
The 768 sq km Thrumshing la National Park lies between Bumthang and Mongar and protects temperate forests of fir and chir pine. It is known for its scenic views, dense forests and alpine meadows. Presence of threatened species viz. rufous necked hornbill, Satyra tragopan, Ward’s trogon, chestnut breasted partridge is a noteworthy feature of this reserve.
KholongChhu Wildlife Sanctuary
With an area of 1, 300 sq km, this reserve is a large area of alpine tundra. The sanctuary protects the sambar and adjoins the Bomdeling conservation area, which is an important roosting place of black-necked cranes in winter.
Sakten Wildlife Sanctuary
Its in easternmost part of the country protecting 650 sq km temperate forests of eastern blue pine and rhododendron. This sanctury is established to protect the habitat of yeti.
Khaling Wildlife Sanctuary
Situated in far south-eastern Bhutan with an area of 273 sq km this sanctuary protects wild elephant, gaur, pygmy hog, hispid hare and other tropical wildlife.
Toorsa Nature Reserve
It is in western part of the Ha district where Toorsa river enters from Tibet. This 644 sq km reserve was established to protect the temperate forests of far west Bhutan.
GETTING IN TO BHUTAN
Flights to Bhutan
Drukair the national airline of Bhutan has flghts to/from Bangkok, Dhaka, Kathmandu, Singapore, New Delhi, Kolkata, Bagdogra, Guwahati, Mumbai and Gaya.
For more information on flight schedules and airfare visit: www.drukair.com.bt
Bhutan Airlines has flight to/from Bangkok, New Delhi, Kolkata and Kathmandu.
For more information on flight schedules and airfare visit: www.bhutanairlines.bt
We at Bhutan “Your Way” will handle all of the necessary flight arrangements for the Bhutan portion of your trip free of any charges.
Note: Kindly note that during the peak tourist season , especially when there is festivals going on in Bhutan, flights normally get sold out very fast. Therefore, we recommend you get your flight tickets arranged as early as possible.