31 Interesting Facts About Bhutan You Probably Didn't Know | Kidadl


31 Interesting Facts About Bhutan You Probably Didn't Know

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The Kingdom of Bhutan is a small, landlocked country in the southern foothills of the eastern Himalayas in South Asia.

Bhutan shares international boundaries with China in the north and India in the south, east, and west. The capital city of Bhutan is Thimpu.

Buddhism is the predominant religion in Bhutan and is considered the last stronghold of the Vajrayana school of Buddhism. Consequently, Bhutanese culture is strongly influenced by sacred Buddhist teachings. Hence, one will find numerous monasteries, dzongs, stupas, prayer wheels, and colorful prayer flags scattered all over Bhutan. The dzong is a distinctive combination of a monastery and an administrative center built along the lines of a fortress and was earlier used as a garrison against enemies. Sporting the traditional architectural codes of Bhutan, Dzongs are present in each district (Dzongkhag) in Bhutan. Moreover, Bhutan is a picture-perfect travel destination with lush valleys, serene mountains, pristine rivers, and hallowed monasteries, enhancing the natural beauty and charm of the country. Read on for many more interesting facts about Bhutan!

If you like reading about Bhutan, do check out interesting facts about Kuwait and interesting facts about Chad as well!

Bhutan's Culture Facts 

The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan has a rich cultural heritage. The best part is that the Bhutanese government and people actively strive towards preserving and promoting the country's cultural values.

Religion: The Indian Tantric master Guru Padmasambhava is said to have popularized Buddhism in the country in the 8th century. Before Buddhism became dominant in the region, the Bhutanese people mainly practiced Bonism, which centered around the worship of nature. Guru Padmasambhava was instrumental in propagating the ancient school of Buddhism known as Nyingmapa. Later, in 1222, Phajo Drugom Zhigp from Tibet introduced the Drukpa Kagyu sect of Buddhism, which also went on to take firm roots in the country's culture. However, the Tibetan Buddhist lama Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyal was the one responsible for unifying Bhutan as one nation-state. He integrated the different Buddhist schools that had developed in western Bhutan and gave the country its individual national identity.

After Buddhism, Hinduism is the next major religion. Christianity and Islam are also practiced in the country. Moreover, foreign tourists who visit Bhutan have the freedom to practice any religion or faith as long as it does not interfere with the rights of others. Besides, some people in Bhutan practice animism, which involves beliefs in worshipping different elements of nature. Animistic traditions and beliefs associate each element of nature, such as lakes, mountains, water sources, and land, with its own spirit or deity.

Festivals: Festivals are an integral part of Bhutanese life. While every village celebrates its own colorful festivals, the most important celebration in Bhutan is the annual religious festival called Tshechu. The Tschechu festivities correspond to the birthday of Guru Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche) and are celebrated on the tenth day of a month of the Tibetan lunar calendar. However, the exact date and month vary depending on the place and temple.

Tshechus are grand occasions marked by social gatherings, religious mask dances, and other forms of entertainment. The mask dances performed on the occasion of Tshechu bear special religious significance and are based on the life and times of Guru Padmasambhava. The mask dances are accompanied by songs and are performed over three days on average. While monks participate in mask dances in monasteries, those in remote villages are performed by monks and village men alike. In terms of audience and participation, the two most prominent Tshechus in Bhutan is the Thimpu and Paro Tshechus. These colorful and vibrant extravaganzas of local and traditional culture attract tourists from other countries in the world.

Traditional Attire: The traditional attire, or the national dress of Bhutan, is worn in government offices and on special occasions. The men wear the Gho, which is a kimono-like knee-length robe tied at the waist with a belt called Kera. A pouch at the front of the dress was traditionally used to carry a small dagger and food bowls but has evolved over time to carry personal belongings such as wallets and mobile phones. The traditional dress for women in Bhutan is called a Kira. It is an ankle-length dress worn with an outer jacket known as Tego and a long-sleeved blouse called Wonju.

The dresses are usually made of cotton or wool, with silk attire reserved for special occasions. However, the semi-nomadic and tribal people of eastern Bhutan, such as the Brokpas and Bramis wear dresses woven out of sheep or yak's hair. Scarves are an equally important part of a Bhutanese's attire, especially when one is in a dzong or administrative center. The women's scarf is called Rachu, and the men's one is called Kabney. The scarves are typically woven out of raw silk and come in a variety of colors and beautiful patterns. The scarves are hung over the shoulder, and interestingly, the color of the scarf signifies the wearer's rank or status.

Music and dance: Masked dances such as the Cham dance and dance dramas accompanied with traditional music are an essential part of every festival, an annual event in Bhutan. The music and dance of Bhutan are strongly influenced by religion. The dance performances are marked by dancers depicting gods, animals, demons, heroes, and other caricatures through the use of colorful masks and costumes. Most often, the dances reenact various events in the life of Guru Rinpoche and, at the same time, help in preserving religious customs, ancient folklore, and the traditional art of mask-making. Drametse Nga Cham, Joenpa Legso, Pa Cham, and Zhungdra are some of the most popular Cham dances in Bhutan, with the Zhungdra being popular among the royals. The dance performances are accompanied by music that not only keeps track of time but also makes the dances livelier.

The music in Bhutan includes both modern and traditional varieties. Traditional Bhutanese music includes folk and religious genres. The influence of Buddhist music and Drukpa Buddhism on the cultural life of Bhutan is evident in folk music as well. The two most dominant forms of folk music in Bhutan include the Zhungdra and Boedra. The Cham remains one of the most significant religious musical subgenres in the country. The Rigsar is also a popular music genre in Bhutan, originally played on a stringed musical instrument called the dranyen. Apart from the dranyen, common musical instruments include a two-stringed fiddle called chiwang and a six-holed flute known as lingm. The lyrics to the music are mostly in the Tibetan languages, Chöke and Dzongkha.

Birth, death, marriage, and family life: Bhutan is one of the very few countries in the world that does not discriminate between male and female children. Guests and members of the extended family do not visit the newborn during the first three days after birth. Visitors can see the child and its mother after a short purification ritual performed on the third day. The responsibility of naming the newborn is entrusted to the head Buddhist priest (lama) of the local temple, and there is no family name as such.

While marriages in Bhutan are low-key affairs, the rituals associated with them are quite elaborate. Marriage laws in Bhutan also allow Bhutanese to marry foreigners, provided they abide by the provisions of the laws.

The Bhutanese regard death as a journey to the next life. Hence, elaborate rituals are commonplace in funerals. The 7th, 14th, 21st, and 49th days after a person's demise are marked by putting up prayer flags and performing specific religious ceremonies. An interesting fact about Bhutan's family structure is that inheritance is matrilineal and passes from mother to daughter rather than through the male line.

Bhutan Food Facts 

Bhutanese cuisine is known for its spiciness. Chilies are one of the key ingredients in almost every dish in Bhutan!

Rice is the main component of a quintessential Bhutanese meal, and it is accompanied by various dishes comprising a variety of vegetables, pork, chicken, and beef.

Ema Datshi is the national dish of Bhutan and is consumed as a staple part of almost every meal throughout the country. Comprising a delicious and spicy mix of chilies and a local cheese known as Datshi, variations of the dish may also include potatoes, green beans, mushrooms, ferns, and yak cheese.

Momos are yet another delicacy in Bhutan. These Tibetan-style dumplings stuffed with cheese and beef, pork, or cabbage are traditionally part of meals on special occasions. Another type of dumpling consumed in Bhutan is the Hoentoe. These are aromatic, steamed buckwheat dumplings with a stuffing of Datshi cheese, spinach, turnip greens, and other ingredients.

Jasha Maru is another popular Bhutanese dish of spicy minced chicken and other ingredients served with rice. A traditional Bhutanese meat dish called Phaksha Paa consists of pork cooked with spicy and hot red chilies. A popular variation of Phaksha Paa is made with sun-dried pork known as Sicaam.

There is a popular Bhutanese dish similar to brown rice is red rice. The rice is soft, somewhat sticky, and pale pink when cooked, and makes for a nutritious and filling meal. Another common Bhutanese dish is Goep. This spicy dish consists of slices of stir-fried tripe (the edible stomach lining of cows or other farm animals) along with green onions, dried chilies, and other vegetables.

The flag of Bhutan features a dragon.

What is Bhutan famous for?

Apart from the rich cultural diversity of Bhutan, the tiny nation is famous for a number of other things. Read on to find out!

Thimpu is the only capital city in the world with no traffic lights. In the past, the installation of traffic lights invited such public outcry that officials were forced to pull them down. In fact, the entire country of Bhutan doesn't have a single traffic light. Policemen direct traffic at major intersections.

Bhutan is the only country in the world that is carbon-negative. It means that the region is a carbon sink and absorbs more carbon dioxide than it releases.

Bhutan was the first country in the world to ban the production and sale of tobacco.

Bhutan was one of the last countries in the world to introduce television.

Bhutan is the only country in the world to measure Gross National Happiness (GNH). Instead of using Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as a measure of development, GNH is used as a yardstick to assess the progress and development of the country. The phrase 'Gross National Happiness' was coined in 1972 by the fourth king of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck. GNH is based on four pillars, namely sustainable socio-economic development, good governance, environmental conservation, and cultural preservation.

Bhutan History

Early historical facts about Bhutan are mostly unclear. Some evidence suggests that the region was inhabited in 2000 B.C.

The religious history of Bhutan has had a significant impact on the country's political development. Before the introduction of Buddhism, Bonism was the predominant religion in Bhutan. The founder of the Tibetan Empire, Songtsen Gampo, introduced Buddhism in Bhutan in the 7th century, and thereafter, Guru Rinpoche strengthened Buddhism's roots in the life and culture of the Bhutanese.

Bhutan was earlier known by various names, such as Lho Mon Kha Shi, Lho Jong, Lho Mon Tsenden Jong, and Lho Jong Men Jong. Since the Drukpa sect of Buddhism became dominant in the region sometime around the 17th century, the country came to be known as The Land of the Drukpas or Druk Yul.

After arriving in Bhutan, the Tibetan Buddhist lama Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel defeated three Tibetan invasions, established a system of law and governance, and consolidated his power to eventually unify Bhutan as a nation-state in the 7th century. However, the death of the lama left various local rulers of Bhutan fighting amongst themselves. In 1907, Trongsa Penlop Ugyen Wangchuck was finally able to gain control over the region with the support of the Bhutanese people. Thereafter, he established himself as the first hereditary king of Bhutan. He became the first Druk Gyalpo (Dragon King) and founded the Wangchuk Dynasty that rules Bhutan to this day. The country enacted its Constitution and converted to a democracy in 2008. In the same year, the 5th Druk Gyalpo Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck was crowned as the Constitutional monarch.

Did you know...

The white dragon featured in the Bhutanese flag is derived from Bhutanese mythology.

The United Nations designates Bhutan as one of the least developed countries in the world.

Bhutan is a Dzongkha word, and its English translation is Land of the Thunder Dragon. It is so named because of the enormous thunderstorms rolling in from the Himalayan range.

Archery is the national sport of Bhutan.

According to Bhutanese etiquette, you should refuse food when offered. Instead, you are to say the words 'meshu meshu' and also cover your mouth with your hands. The tradition is to give in after two or three offers.

The 'High value, Low Impact' tourism policy of Bhutan serves to prevent mass tourism and aims to attract tourists that will respect the traditions, culture, and natural environment of Bhutan.

Children in Bhutan get free education from the state up to the tenth standard.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for interesting facts about Bhutan, then why not take a look at interesting facts about Burundi, or interesting facts about Bulgaria?

<p>With a Master of Arts in English, Rajnandini has pursued her passion for the arts and has become an experienced content writer. She has worked with companies such as Writer's Zone and has had her writing skills recognized by publications such as The Telegraph. Rajnandini is also trilingual and enjoys various hobbies such as music, movies, travel, philanthropy, writing her blog, and reading classic British literature.&nbsp;</p>

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