Bhutan is geographically situated between China and India in South Asia. Towards the north and west, there is Tibet (an Autonomous region of China). Indian states West Bengal and Assam is in the south. The Arunachal Pradesh state of India is in the east of Bhutan. Sikkim of India lies southwest of Bhutan. Nepal and Bangladesh are close neighboring nations to Bhutan which do not share a land border.
The geographical structure of Bhutan rises from the north of the sub-alpine Himalayan Mountains to the plush sub-tropical plains in the south. The stunning views of Bhutan’s highest mountain Gangkhar Puensum and other mountains above 7000 m including Mt. Everest while traveling on a plane from the northern-west part of the world. Bhutan is rich in preserving its biodiversity and has succeeded in becoming the only carbon-negative nation in the world.
Bhutan on a World Map
Official Name: Kingdom of Bhutan
Area: 38,394 sq. km
Latitude: 26°N and 29°N
Longitude: 88°E and 93°E
Population: Over 788,615
Religion: Vajrayana Buddhism (state religion)
Currency: BTN Ngultrum (Nu) [100 Nu= 1.25 USD approx.]
Time Zone: BTT (UTC+6)
Dial code: +975
Government: Constitutional monarchy
Geography, Demographics, and Culture of Bhutan
Bhutan is a small land-locked nation in the Eastern Himalayas situated in South Asia. It is bordered by India in the east, west, and south, and Tibet (China) in the north and west.
Bhutan’s land area is 38,394 sq. km. The geographical elevation of Bhutan starts from the lowest point Drangme Chhu valley (98m) to the highest point Gangkhar Puenseum (7,570m). Bhutan has diversity in geography and climate. The land of Bhutan comprises rapid rivers forming deep valleys and steep and high mountains. Bhutan ranks 133rd in terms of land area in the world.
Bhutan is geographically and climatically diverse. The sub-tropical climate in the south, temperate in the hilltops, and very cold climate with snow in the north for a year. There are five seasons in Bhutan- summer, monsoon, spring, winter, and autumn. The temperature of Thimphu is slightly warmer in winter. There is a temperate climate in the central mountain valleys. Rest places of Bhutan have an extremely hot climate in the Duars plains and the north is extremely cold.
Vajrayana Buddhism is a widely followed religion in Bhutan which is also a state religion. Approx. 75% follow this religion. The rest of the Bhutanese follow Hinduism, Bon, Christianity, Islam, and others. The belief in Buddhism prohibits animal killing in Bhutan.
The national language of Bhutan is Dzongkha. Presently, 24 languages are spoken in Bhutan that falls under the Tibeto-Burman family. Besides, the Tshangla and Nepali language is also widely spoken. The English language is a medium of teaching in the education system of Bhutan.
Bhutanese cuisine is special and unique in its way. The staple dish of Bhutan is Red rice, Buckwheat, and Maize. The national dish of Bhutan is Ema Datshi which is prepared with spicy chilies and cheese. Besides, there are many datshi dishes prepared with veg or non-veg items. The meats like pork, beef, yak meat, lamb, and chicken are used. But, the uniqueness of Bhutan is animal killing is illegal. Hence, meats are imported from neighboring nations. Butter Tea, Beer, Black Tea, and locally brewed rice wine are popular beverages in Bhutan.
Bhutan’s national dress code is “Gho” for men and “Kira” for women. The national dress is a cultural symbol and plays a great role in their daily life. The Bhutanese law requires all citizens to wear the national dress at workplaces, schools, government offices, and on special occasions. Some Bhutanese wear a formal customary dress. The scarves Rachu and Kabhey are social indicators in Bhutanese society.
Bhutanese architecture is unique and impressive because of its traditional construction techniques. The sophisticated woodwork and stone masonry on the roof and windows are truly marvelous. They use wattle daub and rammed earth sustainable building techniques. The beauty of their architecture is that they don’t use nails or irons bars while constructing.
Music and Dance
Bhutan’s music is of two types: Traditional and Modern. The traditional music of Bhutan has religious and folk genres like zhungdra and boedra. The traditional music of Bhutan uses traditional instruments. The modern music of Bhutan is inspired by India and Western countries and uses traditional and modern musical instruments. Rigsar is a popular modern music genre.
Masked dances and dance dramas are very popular in Bhutan. Music and dance are other cultural aspects that are deeply rooted in its tradition. Cham dance is popular during festivals and other events performed with traditional music. The dance is performed wearing designed costumes and wooden or configured face masks. The ancient culture of Bhutan is preserved through its folk and religious customs, and the art of mask-making. It has the great support of the royal family and government. Enjoy and participate if the tourist is around during festival months in Bhutan.
Archery is the national sport of Bhutan. Archery competitions are regularly organized in most villages. Archery is not only a sport but a social gathering opportunity for Bhutanese to enjoy some fun moments together. Digor is another traditional sport in Bhutan that is similar to shot put and horseshoe throwing. Besides, these sports Basketball, Football, and Cricket are slowly gaining popularity.
Bhutan has a very rich biodiversity. The environment of Bhutan is the best habitat for animals and birds. The national animal of Bhutan is “Takin’. The appearance of Takin looks like a mix of a goat’s head and a yak’s body. This is a vulnerable creature and Bhutan has specially arranged Takin Preservation Centre to protect and safeguard it. Rare species such as Golden Langur, Assamese Macaque, Bengal Tiger, endangered white-winged duck, and other animals and birds are well-preserved in Bhutan.
Some Amazing Facts about BHUTAN
Bhutan is very serious when it comes to the environment. In fact, the first nation in the world has specific constitutional responsibilities to protect the environment. The everlasting requirement is that 72% of Bhutan’s land must cover by forest. The nation produces less carbon dioxide and absorbs more than it produces. Thus, Bhutan is the only nation in the world having carbon negative.
No Traffic Lights
The world is full of pollution and chaos due to modernization and the increase in vehicles. Even the street traffic lights are unable to clear the jam roads on time. Many people lost their valuable time in a traffic jam. It may come as to surprise for many to learn that there are no traffic lights in Bhutan. Traffic controls the street even in this modern world. This fact proves that Bhutan is good at traffic management as well as Bhutanese citizens are well-behaved and disciplined in terms of road safety and regulations.
Happiness over GDP
The world’s nations’ GDP plays a vital role in determining their development and growth. But, Bhutan has a different way of measuring Gross Domestic Product. They strictly believe that the nation’s growth is in the happiness of their citizen rather than in the nation’s wealth. Thus, they favor happiness over GDP and the progress is calculated under Gross National Happiness (GNH). The four indicators supporting GNH are sustainable development, good governance, a healthy environment, and preservation and promotion of cultural values. These four indicators are considered four pillars of GNH.
No use of Plastic bags
As mentioned earlier, Bhutan is very serious when it comes to preserving the environment. As an initiative to preserve the environment, they don’t use plastic bags. Plastic bags are banned in Bhutan since 1999. But, it was not fully managed. Thus, waste management’s serious issues lead to the decision to completely ban plastic bags from the year 2019. Bhutanese citizens are very much disciplined and support the government’s decisions completely. As an alternative to plastic bags, they use handmade bags and jute bags. Bhutan deserves a round of applause and respect for this initiative to preserve the environment.
Again I repeat, Bhutan is wonderfully supporting environment-friendly activities. The small acts of Bhutan have created a small but good impact on the environment. Smoking and the use of tobacco are strictly prohibited in public places. They can smoke and use tobacco only in selected places. If found disobeying the law, imprisonment for 3-5 years is levied. The production and sale of tobacco are strictly forbidden and they import these products. But, still, they levy huge taxes on imports so their citizens stay out of this harmful and life-threatening product. Bhutan is on its way to becoming the first smoke-free nation and setting an example for other nations.
Animals Killing Illegal
Bhutan’s main and state religion is Vajrayana Buddhism. The majority of the Bhutanese follow Buddhism. They deeply follow and practice Buddhism learnings in real/practical life as well. For them, animal killing is illegal and the strong law of the nation forbids them to do it so. They are playing a significant role in preserving the environment by conserving them. They are helping in balancing the environment chain. Many might wonder then how they can eat meat in Bhutan. They import meats from neighboring nations but don’t kill the animals in their nation.
Fertility and Good Luck symbol: Phallus
Bhutan actually has many amazing facts and all are unique to the world. They take the Phallus as a symbol of fertility and good luck. Tourists can observe the phallus paintings on the houses’ facades. It is a belief to keep off demon spirits with the blessings of the deity Divine Mad Man. Tourists might laugh at witnessing it but the ancient belief is strong among Bhutanese. It has historic importance and we should respect it.
Approve TV and the Internet
Bhutan was isolated from the world till the 1970s. It was not in touch with the world and its developments. Technology has become an essential part of human life. New technologies have made the world smaller and swift connections with the world. Television and the Internet are technological means which easily connect us with the globe. Bhutan slowly adapt and became the last nation to approve TV and the Internet in 1999. But, still, only limited access to the programs on TV and Internet speed is there in Bhutan.
National Dress Mandatory
Bhutan gives very much priority to its culture, arts, and tradition. The ancient beliefs of the nation have made wearing the national dress mandatory. The national dress of Bhutan is Gho for men and Kira for women. Bhutan’s law requires all its citizens to wear the national dress in school, government offices, hospitals, festivals, and for all job activities. This is the best way so far to promote and preserve the ancient tradition and culture of Bhutan.
Follow Traditional Architectural Design
Bhutan is famous in the world for its ancient and traditional architectural design in its monasteries, dzongs, chortens, and monuments. Traditional architecture designs don’t use nails or iron bars while constructing. They use sustainable construction techniques such as wattle and daub for interior walls, rammed earth for exterior walls, and stone and earth for strong wall retention. Tourists can witness many popular landmarks that were built following traditional architectural design. The swastikas and phallic paintings add beauty to the traditional buildings of Bhutan. At present, they still follow traditional architectural design but with a slight western touch. The buildings in Bhutan have colorful wood facades, curved windows, and slanted roofs. For your information, the architectural design of Bhutan has been adapted by Texas University at El Paso.