There are many things about Bhutan that makes the kingdom special. Foremost amongst them are their living culture, dzongs and tshechus, pristine environment and sustainable tourism.
Monks gather for prayers at Punakha Dzong
Buddhism was first introduced in the 7th century and further strengthened by the Indian Tantric master Guru Padmasambhava (also known as Guru Rimpoche, widely considered to be the Second Buddha) in the 8th century. Bhutan remains a predominantly Buddhist country and is known as the last stronghold of Mahayana Buddhism.
Bhutanese culture and Buddhist influence are intertwine as Bhutanese live and breathe their faith as exemplified by the hundreds of sacred monasteries, religious institutions, stupas, prayer flags and prayer wheels that punctuate the landscape, the chimes of ritual bells, sounds of gongs, people circumambulating temples, red robed monks conducting rituals and festivals.
A distinctive feature of the Bhutanese is their traditional dress, unique garments that have evolved over thousands of years. Men wear the Gho, women wear the Kira.
Dzongs And Tshechus
Dzongs were built on mountain spurs to serve as fortresses against an invasion in the 12th century. They not only served as an effective defence but also became the centres of religious and cultural activities. Today the Dzongs are the seats of district administrations and house the offices of the civil authorities.
The Tshechu is a religious event celebrated on the tenth day of a month of the lunar calendar corresponding to the birthday of Guru Padmasambhava. The exact month of the Tshechu varies from place to place and temple to temple. Tshechus are grand events where entire communities come together to witness religious mask dances, receive blessings and socialize. Every mask dance performed during a Tshechu has a special meaning or a story behind it and many are based on stories and incidents from as long ago as the 8th century, during the life of Guru Padmasambhava. The two most popular are the Paro and Thimphu Tshechus in terms of participation and audience.
Tshechu being staged at a Dzong
Environment preservation is very important to Bhutan and is seen to be highly successful with its 72% of forest coverage of which 46% are devoted to National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries. They include:
- Jigme Dorji National Park (Western region: Gasa, Paro, Thimphu, Punakha and
Wangdue Phodrang Districts)
- ThrumshingLa National Park (Central region: Bumthang, Lhuntse, Mongar and
In order to maintain the present percentage, institutions, colleges and schools around the country observes the Annual Social Forestry Day (June 2), by planting saplings.
Wild animals and birds in the national parks and sanctuaries include the Royal Bengal tiger, Himalayan black bear, clouded leopard, snow leopard, one-horned rhino, takin, red panda, golden langur, barking deer, red fox, shrike, common hoopoe, grey headed woodpecker, dark breasted rosefinch, rufous-necked hornbill, great white heron, pallas fishing eagle, spotted wren-babbler, emerald cuckoo, the Assamese macaw, etc.
Wild flowers include the blue poppy, edelweiss, orchids, rhododendrons, primulas, cordyceps, etc.
The Bhutanese Tourism Industry was first opened in 1974. Since then it has grown to become a major contributing factor for the Bhutanese economy, creating countless employment opportunities and generating additional revenue for the government.
The government, committed to building a sustainable tourism industry that is not only financially viable but also limits the negative cultural and environmental impacts commonly associated with the culture of mass tourism, established a policy of “High Value, Low Impact’ tourism. The kingdom of Bhutan seeks to ensure that it attracts only the most discerning visitors with a deep respect for cultural values, traditions and the natural environment. Bhutan, today, still remains an exclusive destination by virtue of its government mandated minimum daily charge of US$200 per day.
Hikers on the Tiger's Nest trail