Bhutan


More than 770 species of bird and 5,400 species of plants are known to occur throughout the kingdom. Bhutan has a rich primate life with rare species such as the golden langur. Recently, a variant Assamese macaque, which is also regarded by some authorities as a new species, Macaca munzala has also been recorded.
The Bengal tiger, Greater One-horned Rhinoceros, clouded leopard, hispid hare and the sloth bear live in the lush tropical lowland and hardwood forests in the south. In the temperate zone, grey langur, tiger, Indian leopard, goral and serow are found in mixed conifer, broadleaf and pine forests. Fruit bearing trees and bamboo provide habitat for the Himalayan black bear, red panda, squirrel, sambar, wild pig and barking deer. The alpine habitats of the great Himalayan range in the north are home to the snow leopard, blue sheep, marmot, Tibetan wolf, antelope and Himalayan musk deer.
The endangered Wild Water Buffalo occurs in southern Bhutan although in small numbers.Among birds, the globally endangered White-winged Wood Duck has been added recently to the list of Bhutan’s fauna.


Introduction



Bhutan,  officially the Kingdom of Bhutan, is a landlocked country in South Asia, located at the eastern end of the Himalayas and bordered to the south, east and west by the Republic of India and to the north by the People’s Republic of China. Bhutan is separated from the nearby country of Nepal to the west by the Indian state of Sikkim, and from Bangladesh to the south by West Bengal.
Bhutan existed as a patchwork of minor warring fiefdoms until the early 17th century, when the area was unified by the Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, who was guided by a prophecy, fled religious persecution in Tibet and cultivated a separate Bhutanese identity. In the early 20th century, Bhutan came into contact with the British Empire, after which Bhutan continued strong bilateral relation with India upon its independence. In 2006, Business Week magazine rated Bhutan the happiest country in Asia and the eighth-happiest in the world, based on a global survey.
Bhutan’s landscape ranges from subtropical plains in the south to the Sub-alpine Himalayan heights in the north, with some peaks exceeding 7,000 metres (23,000 ft). The state religion is Vajrayana Buddhism, and the population of 691,141 is predominantly Buddhist, with Hinduism the second-largest religion. The capital and largest city is Thimphu. After centuries of absolute monarchy, Bhutan became a constitutional monarchy and held its first general elections in 2007. Bhutan is a member of the United Nations and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC); it hosted the sixteenth SAARC summit in April 2010. The total area of the country is currently 38,816 square kilometres (14,987 sq mi).

Name

“Bhutan” is a Kachari word, as at one time Bhutan was part of Tibet. “A place of Bod” in Tibetan, Di-Bod meant a place of frozen water, it later became DiBodo / Tibodo / Tibet. Likewise, Bodo hathan / Bhuthan / Bhutan is a possible origin of the name: from Bod, a name of place and Hathan — a kind of place, in this way Bod Hathan-Bhuthan-Bhutan. In another theory of Sanskritisation, Bho?a-anta (???-????) means “At the end of Tibet”, as Bhutan is immediately to Tibet’s south.

Historically Bhutan was known by many names, such as Lho Mon (southern land of darkness), Lho Tsendenjong (southern land of the Tsenden cypress), Lhomen Khazhi (southern land of four approaches) and Lho Men Jong (southern land of medicinal herbs).


History



Stone tools, weapons, elephants, and remnants of large stone structures provide evidence that Bhutan was inhabited as early as 2000 BC, although there are no existing records from that time. Historians have theorized that the state of Lhomon (literally, “southern darkness”, a reference to the indigenous Mon religion), or Monyul (“Dark Land”, a reference to the Monpa, the aboriginal peoples of Bhutan) may have existed between 500 BC and AD 600. The names Lhomon Tsendenjong (Sandalwood Country), and Lhomon Khashi, or Southern Mon (country of four approaches), have been found in ancient Bhutanese and Tibetan chronicles.
The earliest transcribed event in Bhutan was the passage of the Buddhist saint Padma Sambhava (also known as Guru Rinpoche) in 747. Bhutan’s early history is unclear, because most of the records were destroyed after fire ravaged the ancient capital, Punakha, in 1827. By the 10th century, Bhutan’s political development was heavily influenced by its religious history. Various sub-sects of Buddhism emerged which were patronized by the various Mongol warlords. After the decline of the Mongols in the 14th century, these sub-sects vied with each other for supremacy in the political and religious landscape, eventually leading to the ascendancy of the Drukpa sub-sect by the 16th century.
Until the early 17th century, Bhutan existed as a patchwork of minor warring fiefdoms, when the area was unified by the Tibetan lama and military leader Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal who fled religious persecution in Tibet. To defend the country against intermittent Tibetan forays, Namgyal built a network of impregnable dzong (fortresses), and promulgated the Tsa Yig, a code of law that helped to bring local lords under centralized control. Many such dzong still exist and are active centers of religion and district administration. Portuguese Jesuit Estêvão Cacella and another priest were the first recorded Europeans to visit Bhutan on their way to Tibet. They met with Ngawang Namgyal, presented him with firearms, gunpowder and a telescope, and offered him their services in the war against Tibet, but the Shabdrung declined the offer. After a stay of nearly eight months Cacella wrote a long letter from the Chagri Monastery reporting on his travels. This is a rare extant report of the Shabdrung.
After Namgyal’s death in 1651, Bhutan fell into civil war. Taking advantage of the chaos, the Tibetans attacked Bhutan in 1710, and again in 1730 with the help of the Mongols. Both assaults were successfully thwarted, and an armistice was signed in 1759.

Geography



The Kingdom of Bhutan is nestled in the southern slopes of the eastern Himalayas, and landlocked between the Tibet Autonomous Region to the north and the Indian states of Sikkim, West Bengal, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh to the west and south. It lies between latitudes 26° and 29°N, and longitudes 88° and 93°E. The land consists mostly of steep and high mountains crisscrossed by a network of swift rivers, which form deep valleys before draining into the Indian plains. Elevation rises from 200 m (660 ft) in the southern foothills to more than 7,000 m (23,000 ft). This great geographical diversity combined with equally diverse climate conditions contributes to Bhutan’s outstanding range of biodiversity and ecosystems.

The northern region of the country consists of an arc of Eastern Himalayan alpine shrub and meadows reaching up to glaciated mountain peaks with an extremely cold climate at the highest elevations. Most peaks in the north are over 7,000 m (23,000 ft) above sea level; the highest point in Bhutan is Gangkhar Puensum at 7,570 metres (24,840 ft), which has the distinction of being the highest unclimbed mountain in the world. The lowest point, at 98 m (322 ft), is in the valley of Drangme Chhu, where the river crosses the border with India. Watered by snow-fed rivers, alpine valleys in this region provide pasture for livestock, tended by a sparse population of migratory shepherds.
The Black Mountains in the central region of Bhutan form a watershed between two major river systems: the Mo Chhu and the Drangme Chhu. Peaks in the Black Mountains range between 1,500 and 2,700 m (4,900 and 8,900 ft) above sea level, and fast-flowing rivers have carved out deep gorges in the lower mountain areas. The forests of the central Bhutan mountains consist of Eastern Himalayan subalpine conifer forests in higher elevations and Eastern Himalayan broadleaf forests in lower elevations. Woodlands of the central region provide most of Bhutan’s forest production. The Torsa, Raidak, Sankosh, and Manas are the main rivers of Bhutan, flowing through this region. Most of the population lives in the central highlands.

In the south, the Shiwalik Hills are covered with dense Himalayan subtropical broadleaf forests, alluvial lowland river valleys, and mountains up to around 1,500 m (4,900 ft) above sea level. The foothills descend into the subtropical Duars Plain. Most of the Duars is located in India, although a 10 to 15 km (6.2 to 9.3 mi) wide strip extends into Bhutan. The Bhutan Duars is divided into two parts: the northern and the southern Duars. The northern Duars, which abuts the Himalayan foothills, has rugged, sloping terrain and dry, porous soil with dense vegetation and abundant wildlife. The southern Duars has moderately fertile soil, heavy savannah grass, dense, mixed jungle, and freshwater springs. Mountain rivers, fed by either the melting snow or the monsoon rains, empty into the Brahmaputra River in India. Data released by the Ministry of Agriculture showed that the country had a forest cover of 64% as of October 2005.
Climate
The climate in Bhutan varies with altitude, from subtropical in the south to temperate in the highlands and polar-type climate, with year-round snow in the north. Bhutan experiences five distinct seasons: summer, monsoon, autumn, winter and spring. Western Bhutan has the heavier monsoon rains; southern Bhutan has hot humid summers and cool winters; central and eastern Bhutan is temperate and drier than the west with warm summers and cool winters.


Places



Bhutan is divided into twenty dzongkhags (districts), administered by a body called the Dzongkhag Tshogdu. In certain thromdes (urban municipalities), a further municipal administration is directly subordinate to the Dzongkhag administration. In the vast majority of constituencies, rural gewogs (village blocks) are administered by bodies called the Gewog Tshogde.

Thromdes (municipalities) elect Thrompons to lead administration, who in turn represent the Thromde in the Dzongkhag Tshogdu. Likewise, gewogs elect headmen called gups, vice-headmen called mangmis, who also sit on the Dzongkhag Thshogdu, as well as other members of the Gewog Tshogde. The basis of electoral constituencies in Bhutan is the chiwog, a subdivision of gewogs delineated by the Election Commission.

Main places to visit are

  • [[Thimphu]]
  • [[Paro]]
  • [[Punakha]]
  • [[Phuentsoling]]
  • [[Trongsa]]
  • [[Mongar]]
  • [[Bumthang]]


People



Bhutanese people primarily consist of the Ngalops and Sharchops, called the Western Bhutanese and Eastern Bhutanese respectively. The Ngalops primarily consist of Bhutanese living in the western part of the country. Their culture is closely related to that of Tibet. Much the same could be said of the Sharchops, the dominant group, who originate from the eastern part of Bhutan (but who traditionally follow the Nyingmapa rather than the official Drukpa Kagyu form of Tibetan Buddhism). In modern times, with improved transportation infrastructure, there has been much intermarriage between these groups. In the early 1970s, intermarriage between the Lhotshampas and mainstream Bhutanese society was encouraged by the government.

The Taktshang Monastery, also known as the “Tiger’s Nest”. Bhutan is a predominantly Buddhist country.
The national language is Dzongkha, one of 53 languages in the Tibetan language family. The script, here called Chhokey (Dharma Language), is identical to classical Tibetan. In the schools English is the medium of instruction and Dzongkha is taught as the national language. Ethnologue lists 24 languages currently spoken in Bhutan, all of them in the Tibeto-Burman family, except Nepali, an Indo-Aryan language. Until the 1980s, the government sponsored the teaching of Nepali in schools in Southern Bhutan. However, after the armed uprising in the south, Nepali was dropped from the curriculum. The languages of Bhutan are still not well-characterized, and several have yet to be recorded in an in-depth academic grammar. Before the 1980s, the Lhotshampa (Nepali-speaking community), mainly based in southern Bhutan, constituted approximately 30% of the population. However, during the 1980s, after the Bhutanese government instituted a policy of one language and one culture, these Lhotshampas were forced to wear the national costume of Bhutan, which is not well-suited to the high temperatures of the southern region. This cultural discrimination led to protests which eventually resulted in the eviction of more than 100,000 Lhotshampas throughout the 1990s. These Lhotshampas took refuge in Nepal via India. Those residing in Bhutan are still threatened by the government. Because the bilateral talks between Nepal and Bhutan to repatriate Bhutanese refugees (Lhotshampas) have been proven futile, the UNHCR is now helping the refugees to settle in various developed countries such as Norway, USA, Canada and many others.
The literacy rate is 59.5 percent. The country has a median age of 22.3 years. Bhutan has a life expectancy of 62.2 years (61 for males and 64.5 for females) according to the latest data from the World Bank. There are 1,070 males to every 1,000 females in the country.

Religion

Religions of Bhutan
religion percent
Buddhism 76%
Hinduism 23%
Others 1%

It is estimated that between two thirds and three quarters of the Bhutanese population follow Vajrayana Buddhism, which is also the state religion. About one quarter to one third are followers of Hinduism. Other religions account for less than 1% of the population.
The current legal framework, in principle guarantees freedom of religion; proselytism, however, is forbidden by a royal government decision.

Buddhism was introduced to Bhutan in the 7th century AD. According to legend, Guru Rinpoche ordered the Tibetan king Trisong Detsen to have 108 temples built all over the Himalayas. Doing so would aid in subduing a demoness and allow for the construction of Samye Temple in Tibet. Two of the 108 temples are in Bhutan, one in Paro and the other in Bumthang and were built around AD 637.

Languages

Dzongkha
Bumthang
Kurtöp
Dzala
Khampa
Tibetan
LakhaNyenkhaOlekha (Monpa)
Brokkat
Tshangla(Sharchopkha)

Languages of Bhutan
Bhutanese, or Dzongkha, is the language of the Ngalop. It is a Southern Tibetan language that is partially intelligible with Sikkimese and spoken natively by 25% of the population. Tshangla, the language of the Sharchop and the principal pre-Tibetan language of Bhutan, is spoken by a greater number of people. It is not easily classified and may constitute an independent branch of Tibeto-Burman. Nepali speakers constituted some 40% of the population as of 2006. The larger minority languages are Dzala (11%), Limbu (10%, immigrant), and Kheng (8%). There are no reliable sources for the ethnic or linguistic composition of Bhutan, so these numbers do not add up to 100%.


Culture



Chaam, sacred masked dances, are annually performed during religious festivals.
Bhutan has a rich and unique cultural heritage that has largely remained intact because of its isolation from the rest of the world until the early 1960s. One of the main attractions for tourists is the country’s culture and traditions. Bhutanese tradition is deeply steeped in its Buddhist heritage. Hinduism is the second dominant religion in Bhutan, being most prevalent in the southern regions. The government is increasingly making efforts to preserve and sustain the current culture and traditions of the country. Because of its largely unspoiled natural environment and cultural heritage, Bhutan has been referred to as The Last Shangri-la.

While Bhutanese citizens are free to travel abroad, Bhutan is viewed as inaccessible by many foreigners. There is a widespread misconception that Bhutan has set limits on tourist visas. Another reason for it being an unpopular destination is the cost, which is high for tourists on tighter budgets. Entry is free for citizens of India and Bangladesh, but all other foreigners are required to sign up with a Bhutanese tour operator and pay around $200 per day that they stay in the country.

The national dress for Bhutanese men is the gho, a knee-length robe tied at the waist by a cloth belt known as the kera. Women wear an ankle-length dress, the kira, which is clipped at one shoulder and tied at the waist. An accompaniment to the kira is a long-sleeved blouse, the toego, which is worn underneath the outer layer. Social status and class determine the texture, colours, and decorations that embellish the garments. Differently coloured scarves and shawls are important indicators of social standing, as Bhutan has traditionally been a feudal society. Jewellery is mostly worn by women, especially during religious festivals (tsechus) and public gatherings. To strengthen Bhutan’s identity as an independent country, Bhutanese law requires all Bhutanese citizens to wear the national dress in public areas and as formal wear.
Rice, buckwheat, and increasingly maize, are the staples of Bhutanese cuisine. The local diet also includes pork, beef, yak meat, chicken, and mutton. Soups and stews of meat and dried vegetables spiced with chillies and cheese are prepared. Ema datshi, made very spicy with cheese and chilies, might be called the national dish for its ubiquity and the pride that Bhutanese have for it. Dairy foods, particularly butter and cheese from yaks and cows, are also popular, and indeed almost all milk is turned to butter and cheese. Popular beverages include butter tea, tea, locally brewed ara (rice wine) and beer. Bhutan is the only country in the world to have banned the sale of tobacco under its Tobacco Act of 2010.
Rigsar is an emerging style of popular music in Bhutan, played on a mix of traditional instruments and electronic keyboards, and dates back to the early 1990s; it shows the influence of Indian popular music, a hybrid form of traditional and Western popular influences. Traditional genres include the zhungdra and boedra.
Characteristic of the region is a type of castle fortress known as the dzong. Since ancient times, the dzongs have served as the religious and secular administration centres for their respective districts.
Bhutan has numerous public holidays, most of which centre around traditional seasonal, secular and religious festivals. They include the winter solstice (around January 1, depending on the lunar calendar), the lunar New Year (February or March), the King’s birthday and the anniversary of his coronation, the official start of monsoon season (September 22), National Day (December 17), and various Buddhist and Hindu celebrations.
Masked dances and dance dramas are common traditional features at festivals, usually accompanied by traditional music. Energetic dancers, wearing colourful wooden or composition face masks and stylized costumes, depict heroes, demons, dæmons, death heads, animals, gods, and caricatures of common people. The dancers enjoy royal patronage, and preserve ancient folk and religious customs and perpetuate the ancient lore and art of mask-making.
Inheritance in Bhutan generally goes in the female rather than the male line. Daughters will inherit their parents’ house. A man is expected to make his own way in the world and often moves to his wife’s home. Love marriages are common in urban areas, but the tradition of arranged marriages is still common in the villages. Although uncommon, polygamy is accepted, often being a device to keep property in a contained family unit rather than dispersing it. The previous king, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, who abdicated in 2006, had four queens, all of whom are sisters.


Transport



Paro Airport is the only international airport in Bhutan. Yongphulla Airport in Trashigang is a small domestic airport that underwent upgrades through 2010. Yongphulla Airport was scheduled for completion in January 2010, but as of August 2011 work is still ongoing. There are plans for further domestic airports to be built at Bathpalathang in Bumthang District and at Gelephu in Sarpang District, which were due to start operations in June 2011.

The Lateral Road is Bhutan’s primary east-west corridor, connecting Phuentsholing in the southwest to Trashigang in the east. In between, the Lateral Road runs directly through Wangdue Phodrang, Trongsa, and other population centers. The Lateral Road also has spurs connecting to the capital Thimphu and other major population centers such as Paro and Punakha. As with other roads in Bhutan, the Lateral Road presents serious safety concerns due to pavement conditions, sheer drops, hairpin turns, weather, and landslides.