This little Himalayan kingdom jealously guards its lifestyle and ancient traditions. The beauty of the unspoilt landscape seems unreal to travelers from the industrialized world: houses with brightly decorated window frames and shingled roofs, patchworks of green paddy fields, plots of tawny buckwheat, oak forests, covered bridges bedecked in colorful prayer flags, fences of intricately woven bamboo, a man leaning on a wooden rail trampling his harvest, a women weaving in the open air, a baby tied into a horse’s saddlebag, yaks browsing in groves of giant rhododendrons.
Such scenes remain in the memory forever. The symbols of Bhutan’s religion leave the deepest impression: chortens (commemorative monuments) dot the landscape, fluttering prayer flags, prayer wheels turned by the water of swift mountain streams and impressive monasteries. Buddhism is everywhere, determining attitudes, and molding thoughts.
Impenetrable jungles to the south and daunting ranges of snow-capped mountains to the north have always barred access to the remote valleys of the kingdom. In spite of many incursions by both Tibeto-Mongol troops and the armies of the British Empire stationed in India, the country has not been colonized since the 8th century. Bhutan has therefore kept alive its extremely rich heritage, stubbornly maintaining its distance from the modern world, proud of its own values and traditions.
Thimpu city is the capital of Bhutan with the population of approximately 1, 00,000 out of approx 710,000. The total area is 38,394 square kilometer with the altitude of 7,000 m in north and 100 m in south. The political system of Bhutan is Democratic constitutional monarchy and the people follow the Buddhism and Hinduism in religion. Ngultrum (BTN) is the currency of Bhutan.
Bhutan is originally known as different names in the history like Lho Jong, The valley of the South, Lho Mon Kha Shi, Lho Jong Men Jong, and many more. The country came to known as Druk Yul or The Land of Drukpas in the 17th century.
In the 17th century, country was initially unified by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel. He was from Tibet and consolidated his power after arriving Bhutan by defeating three Tibetan invasions and established a comprehensive system of law and governance. After his death, country fell into the civil war between different rulers. After few time, Trongsa Poenlop Ugyen gain control over Bhutan and established himself as first hereditary king of Bhutan in 1907. He introduced new rules called Wangchuck Dynasty and still rules today.
In Bhutan mainly three languages are used under the geographical conditions. The major national language is Dzongkha which is native language used in western Bhutan. The literal meaning of the Dzongkha is the language spoken in the Dzongs. Another language is Tshanglakha which is native language used in Eastern Bhutan. And lastly Sourthern Bhutanese, Nepali origin spoke Lhotshamkha language as their native language.
Other dialects spoken languages are Khengkha, and Bumthapkha in Central Bhutan.
Southern Bhutan has a hot, humid sub-tropical climate that is fairly unchanging throughout the year. Temperatures can vary between 15-30 degrees Celsius. In the Central parts of the country the climate cools a bit, changing to temperate and deciduous forests with warm summers and cool, dry winters. In the far Northern reaches of the kingdom the weather is cold during winter. Mountain peaks are perpetually covered in snow and lower parts are still cool in summer owing to the high altitude terrain.
The Indian summer monsoon lasts from late-June through late-September and is mostly confined to the southern border region of Bhutan. It brings heavy rain and high humidity, to the southern region. These rains bring between 60 and 90 percent of the western region’s rainfall.
Annual precipitation ranges widely in various parts of the country. In the northern border region to Tibet gets about forty millimeters of precipitation a year which is primarily snow. In the temperate central regions, a yearly average of around 1,000 millimeters is more common, and 7,800 millimeters per year has been registered at some locations in the humid, subtropical south, ensuring the thick tropical forest, or savanna.
Thimphu experiences dry winter months (December through February) and almost no precipitation until March, when rainfall averages 20 millimeters a month and increases steadily thereafter to a high of 220 millimeters in August for a total annual rainfall of nearly 650 millimeters.
Bhutan’s generally dry spring starts in early March and lasts until mid-April. Summer weather commences in mid-April with occasional showers and continues to late June. The heavier summer rains last from late June through late September which is more monsoonal along the southwest border.
Autumn, from late September or early October to late November, follows the rainy season. It is characterized by bright, sunny days and some early snowfalls at higher elevations.
From late November until March, winter sets in, with frost throughout much of the country and snowfall common above elevations of 3,000 meters. The winter northeast monsoon brings gale-force winds at the highest altitudes through high mountain passes, giving Bhutan its name – Drukyul, which in the Dzongkha language mean Land of the Thunder Dragon.
Best times to travel
The month from November to January is the best time for bird-watching, trekking at lower altitudes and cycling along the mountain roads. The trekking routes in the high mountains are covered with deep snow and are impassable during this time of year. The endangered black-necked cranes winter in Phobjikha (western Bhutan) and the high valley of Bumdelling (eastern Bhutan). Winter is a good season for touring in western Bhutan, bird-watching and visiting the southern subtropical jungles. This time of the year the climate is dry with daytime temperatures of 16-18° C and night-time temperatures falling below zero.
Spring (February to April) is the best time for kayaking, rafting and trekking in moderate altitudes. This is also a very good time for touring and the popular religious dance festival at Paro takes place in the spring. The spring is also a good time for trekking, especially to see the spring flowers and rhododendrons.
Bhutan is one of the smallest countries in the world but cultural miscellany and richness are profound.
As such, strong emphasis is laid on the promotion and preservation of its unique culture. By protecting and development Bhutan’s living culture it is believed that it will help guard the power of the nation.
Dzongkha is the official language but taught in English at school, so most people can speak English. Many people originally came from Nepal and Nepali is widely spoken in many places.
The state religion is Buddhism and its influence can be seen on every aspect of daily life.
People are conservative so always ask before taking photos of people.
For the Bhutanese citizens, it is compulsory to wear national dress in public, to the office and in particular for any formal occasions.
Bhutan is very conservative, shoulders and knees should be covered. Please do not wear shorts.
In main rooms of monastery area shoes, cameras, umbrellas and hats are prohibited.
Always move in a clockwise direction around the building and monuments.
Speak in loud voice is prohibited.
If there is a ceremony being performed inside, always check first before entering.
The sales of tobacco products are banned and also smoking is illegal in public places.
The Precious Teacher, Guru Rinpoche is known for the “One who was born from a lotus flower”. He contributed extremely to the dispersion of Tantric Buddhism in the Himalayan regions of Tibet, Nepal, and Bhutan around 800 AD. He is the founder of Nyingmapa, the “old school” of Lamaism, which still has numerous followers. The biography of Guru Rinpoche is highlighted by 12 episodes on the model of the Buddha Sakyamuni life. “The Tsechu” which has become the name of a popular festival commemorates each episode around the year on the 10th day of the month. The dates and the duration of the festival vary from one district to another but they always take place on or around the 10th day of the month according to the Bhutanese calendar.
Bhutanese religious dances are called cham. Dancers wear spectacular costumes made of yellow silk or rich brocade often decorated with ornaments of carved bone. For certain dances, they wear masks, which may represent animals, fearsome deities, skulls, manifestations of Guru Rimpoche or just simple human beings.
The Tsechu Festival is a celebration in honor of Padmasambhava. During Tsechus, the dances are performed by monks as well as by laymen. The Tsechu is a religious festival and by attending it, it is believed one gains merits. It is also a yearly social gathering where the people come together to rejoice dressed in all their finery. The following is the dance sequence for the Thimphu Tsechu. At other Tsechus the sequence may vary.