Bhutan

Officially known as the Kingdom of Bhutan. Situated in the eastern Himalayas of South Asia, this beautiful mountainous landlocked country borders; the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China in the north, Sikkim State and the Chumbi valley in the west, Aruna Pradesh State in the east, West Bengal and Assam state in the south. After the Maldives, Bhutan has the least population among South Asian countries. Thimpu is the capital city and trade center of Bhutan.

The geography of Bhutan includes tropical plain to alpine mountains that range up to 7,000 m. World’s Highest Unclimbed Mountain lies here which is also the highest peak of Bhutan i.e. Gangkhar Puensum (7,570m).

Bhutan has its deep-rooted old Buddhist culture and tradition. Most people still follow the same ancient lifestyle. Since Bhutan is a monarchy country, that implements strict laws thus it isolated itself for over centuries to protect their culture and natural resources.  Bhutan is the first country in the world who has banned tobacco sales in their country; the last country to allow television and the internet within the country.

Before Bhutan used to restricts the number of visitors but now they remove the restrictions. Traveling in Bhutan is expensive but the experience after traveling truly worth it. Bhutan is famous for adventure activities like hiking and trekking among them Jomolhari Base Camp Trek, Snowman Trek, and Masagang trek is very popular. 

People of Bhutan

Bhutan has a total population of 797,765 according to the 2016 census. People in Bhutan usually categorized into two groups i.e. Western and Eastern Bhutanese. People of Western Bhutan are called Ngalops whereas eastern are  Sharchops. In terms of population, Sharchops is higher than Ngalops but they dominate the political and economic sector of Bhutan. Most of the King, Minister, and well-known people belong to Ngalops.

Ngalops are the first race to land on Bhutan. They were of Tibetan origin who were responsible for introducing Tibetan and Buddhism in Bhutan. Ngolop’s speaks Dzongkha which is also the national language of Bhutan. This language has high influences from Tibetan language and culture. 

Sharchops are the tribes that are a mixture of Tibetans, south Asian and southeast Asian. They speak Tshangla, a Tibeto-Burman mix language. They mostly reside in the eastern part of Bhutan.

Besides that, there is a group of Lhotshampa which includes Bhutanese people of Nepalese ancestry. They are the ones that introduce Hindu and Buddhist religion as well as the Nepali language to Bhutan. Still, you can see people speaking Nepalese language in Southern Bhutan. 

Bhutanese people love to eat red rice, also called Buckwheat which is mainly eaten in Bumthang. During the cold season in the hilly region of Bhutan, people love to eat chicken, yak meat, dried beef, pork, pork fat, and lamb. Soups and stews of meat, rice, ferns, lentils, and dried vegetables. 

Bhutan’s national dish is Ema datshi which is a spicy dish made of green peppers with a cheese sauce.

Religion of Bhutan

As for the official religion, Bhutan follows Vajrayana Buddhism. Since Bhutan is a Buddhist country thus Buddhism plays a vital role in Bhutanese people's life and culture. About 75 % of Bhutanese people follow Buddhism whereas 25 % of Bhutanese ( Lhotshampa) follows Hinduism. 

As for Buddhism

Ngalop people follows the Vajrayana Buddhism whereas Sharchops follows Buddhism along with some aspects of Bon.

As for Hinduism

Besides Buddhism, Hinduism is the second most populated religion of Bhutan making 23% of the overall population. Lhotshampa is the Nepalese ethnicity Bhutanese that mostly follows Hinduism in southern Bhutan. In 2012, the first Hindu temple was constructed by Je Khenpo, Chief Abbot of Bhutan.

Along with Buddhism and Hinduism, there is a Bon system or religion. Before Buddhism, Bon was the original religion of Bhutanese during the 8th century.  This religion is a combination of both Tibetan and Indian culture. 

Before the advent of Buddhism, various forms of animistic religions including Bon were followed in Bhutan. In some parts of the country, these traditions and rituals are still practiced by minority groups.

Bhutan has been home to many sages and saints over the centuries since Guru Rinpoche brought Buddhism to Bhutan in the 8th century. Kuenkhen Longchen Ramjam, Phajo Drugom Zhigpo, Pema Lingpa, Drukpa Kuenley, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and Gyalse Tenzin Rabgye are some of the key figures of Bhutanese Buddhism. Drukpa Kagyu, a school of Tantric Mahayana Buddhism, is the official state religion. Although it is similar to Tibetan Buddhism, it has its own set of unique beliefs and practices.

Religious Institutions continue to play an important role in Bhutan. Monks continue to play an important role in people’s daily lives. They perform religious ceremonies and preserve and promote traditional scholarships.

Culture of Bhutan

Bhutanese culture and Buddhist influence go hand-in-hand. The influence of religion is highly visible in everyday life and is a major reason for Bhutan’s spiritual and cultural legacy. The hundreds of sacred monasteries, stupas, religious institutions, prayer flags, and prayer wheels make Buddhism a faith that nowadays still is very alive and probably always remains the same in the kingdom. The people of Bhutan wear the traditional woven garments, posses refined architecture and follow the splendid cultural festivals influenced by Buddhism. All of this combines making Bhutan into a unique cultural setting.

Once a year there held a religious festival which is hosted by reputed villages of Bhutan. People from nearby districts gather to celebrate and take part in this festival. They offer fruits, clothes, sweets, etc to the deities and monks of the monastery. During the festival, people perform religious mask dances that occur in large courtyards. This dance takes several hours to get complete which entertains people along with offering information about Tantric Buddhism.

Best Places to visit in Bhutan

  1. Rinpung Dzong
  2. Chele La Pass
  3. Punakha Dzong
  4. Buddha Dordenma Statue
  5. Dochula Pass
  6. Tiger’s Nest
  7. Chomolhari
  8. Tashichho Dzong