As a Buddhist philosopher say, “Culture lies not in objects or monuments but in the mind and compassion towards all sentient beings”.
Bhutan’s unique cultural and traditional values, highly valued in themselves by all the population, are the essential embodiments of the nation’s identity. For a small country located between two most populated countries of the world, India and China, the preservation and promotion of its distinct cultural identity is seen as an important means for its survival as an independent and sovereign Kingdom. It was this identity that has protected and sustained Bhutan and also provided the foundation for its major policies.
In terms of quality and originality, Bhutanese architecture is without doubt one of the best expression of country’s unique character. Almost completely isolated for many centuries by its complex geography, Bhutan has indeed seen very few changes in its architectural system since the earliest times.
The great fortresses known as ‘dzongs’ are among the most striking example of Bhutanese architecture.
The commonest structures in Bhutan are not the great fortresses but chortens, which are also known as stupas.
Lhakhang (temples) are fairly small building of simple design, seem to have been the first forms of religious architecture.
Bhutanese Goembas (monasteries) can be divided in two types :- ‘Cluster type’ which consists of a core formed by one or two temples with various dwelling structures grouped around such as Dzongdrakha in Paro valley , Phajoding in Thimphu valley and Tharpaling in the Bumthang valley.
The villages of Bhutan often take the form of small hamlets of between 5 to 15 houses, arranged in such a way as to mitigate the harsher effects of the climate.
Bhutan is the only country in the world to have adopted Mahayana Buddhism in its Tantric form as its official religion. The Buddhist faith has played and continues to play a fundamental role in the cultural, ethical and sociological development of country and its people. Monks are held in great respect and play an active part in community life.
At different time of the year, the annual festivals known as Tsechus, take place in different locations. These Tsechus are festivals extolling the great deeds of Guru Padsambhava also known as Guru Rinpoche. Festivals are celebrated for several days between three to five and are the occasion for dances that are purely defined in religious content.
Arts & Crafts
Bhutanese traditional arts and crafts draw upon a long tradition deeply imbued with spiritual significance. This traditional arts and crafts continue to possess its religious and spiritual significance and retain relevance in the minds and lives of the people.
Archery – the National Sport
Archery is the national sport of Bhutan and very village has its own archery range. Using bamboo bows (although modern compound bows are now common in cities) team of archers shoot at targets only 30 centimeters in diameter from a distance of 120 meters. Each team has a noisy crowd of supporters who, as well as encouraging their own side, try to put off the opposition.
The National dress of Bhutan is one of the most distinctive and visible aspects of Dragon Kingdom’s unique character. Men wear Gho, a long robe similar to Tibetan Chhuba while women wear, ankle length robe called Kira. The Bhutanese textile is made from fine, hand-woven fabric, with the colourful distinctive patterns.
Formal occasions, require men to wear a scarf called Kabney that also indicates person’s rank. Wearing Kabney is an important part of Bhutanese etiquette. In same manner women wear rachu over their left shoulder on all formal occasions.
The Way of Life
Still majority of the population of Bhutan continues to live as it has for centuries – in small isolated farms and hamlets, surrounded by terraced fields of rice, maize and buckwheat. Higher up, many people live in tents woven from yak-hair, spending at least part of the year on the alpine pastures among their grazing livestock.
One trait which is common to all Bhutanese is hospitality. Custom dictates that simple hospitality is extended to any and all guests, even to perfect strangers.
In Bhutan, everyone seems to wear a smile. Perhaps this is due to their deep rooted Buddhist faith or may be their sense of contentment is due to their self-sufficient lifestyle. Whatever the reason, the Bhutanese project an apparent inner happiness that travelers will remember long after their visit.