Welcome to the Land of Happiness
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Climate & Weather

The climate in Bhutan is extremely varied. This variation in the climatic conditions and average temperature can be attributed to two main factors-the vast differences in altitude present in the country and the influence of North Indian monsoons.

Southern Bhutan has a hot and humid subtropical climate that is fairly unchanging throughout the year. Temperatures can vary between 15-30 degrees Celsius (59- 86 degrees Fahrenheit). In the Central parts of the country which consists of temperate and deciduous forests, the climate is more seasonal with warm summers and cool and dry winters. In the far Northern reaches of the kingdom, the weather is much colder during winter. Mountain peaks are perpetually covered in snow and lower parts are still cool in summer owing to the high altitude terrain.

The Indian summer monsoon begin from late-June through to late-September and is mostly confined to the southern border region of Bhutan and it brings heavy rain and high humidity. These rains bring between 60 and 90 percent of the western region’s rainfall.

Annual precipitation ranges widely in various parts of the country. In the Northern border towards Tibet, the region gets about forty millimeters of precipitation a year which is primarily snow. In the temperate central regions, a yearly average of around 1,000 millimeters is more common, and 7,800 millimeters per year has been registered at some locations in the humid, subtropical south, ensuring the thick tropical forest, or savanna.

Thimphu experiences dry winter months (December through February) and almost no precipitation until March, when rainfall averages 20 millimeters a month and increases steadily thereafter to a high of 220 millimeters in August for a total annual rainfall of nearly 650 millimeters.

Bhutan’s generally dry spring starts in early March and lasts until mid-April. Summer weather commences in mid-April with occasional showers and continues to late June. The heavier summer rains last from late June through late September which are more monsoonal along the southwest border.

Autumn, from late September or early October to late November, follows the rainy season. It is characterized by bright, sunny days and some early snowfalls at higher elevations.

From late November until March, winter sets in, with frost throughout much of the country and snowfall common above elevations of 3,000 meters. The winter northeast monsoon brings gale-force winds at the highest altitudes through high mountain passes, giving Bhutan its name – Drukyul, which means Land of the Thunder Dragon in Dzongkha (the native language).

History & Myths

It is believed that Bhutan was inhabited as early as 2000 B.C. due to the presence of early stone implements discovered in the region.

The country was originally known by many names including Lho Jong, ‘The Valleys of the South’, Lho Mon Kha Shi, ‘The Southern Mon Country of Four Approaches’, Lho Jong Men Jong, ‘The Southern Valleys of Medicinal Herbs and Lho Mon Tsenden Jong, ‘The Southern Mon Valleys where Sandlewood Grows’. Mon was a term used by the Tibetans to refer to Mongoloid, non-Buddhist peoples that populated the Southern Himalayas.

The country came to be known as Druk Yul or The Land of the Drukpas sometime in the 17th century. The name refers to the Drukpa sect of Buddhism that has been the dominant religion in the region since that period.

Initially Bonism (a pre-buddhist religion of Tibet) , was the dominant religion in the region that would come to be known as Bhutan. Buddhism was introduced in the 7th century by the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo and was further strengthened by the arrival of Guru Rimpoche, a Buddhist Master that is widely considered to be the Second Buddha.

The country was first unified in 17th century by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel. After arriving in Bhutan from Tibet he consolidated his power, defeated three Tibetan invasions and established a comprehensive system of law and governance. His system of rule eroded after his death and the country fell into in-fighting and civil war between the various local rulers. This continued until the Trongsa Penlop Ugyen Wangchuck was able to gain control and with the support of the people to establish himself as Bhutan’s first hereditary King in 1907. His Majesty Ugyen Wangchuck became the first Druk Gyalpo (Dragon King) and set up the Wangchuck Dynasty that still rules today.

In 2008 Bhutan enacted its Constitution and converted to a democracy in order to better safeguard the rights of its citizens. Later in November of the same year, the current reigning 5th Druk Gyalpo Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck was crowned.

People and Culture

A spiritual leader unified Bhutan, and therefore his leadership influence naturally inclined towards religion, and spirituality. During this time period, and for many years that followed, monastic institutions were the only source of formal education in Bhutan. Thus, ordained monks were respected by the peasants, and the monastic institutions commanded significant influence over society. During the early formation of the governance structure in the newly formed state, a lot of the key positions were held by religious figures. Given this history of the significant roles played by the monastic institution during the formative years, Bhutan’s culture, and traditions are deeply inspired from Buddhism.

The institutionalization of the 13 arts, and crafts of Bhutan is another distinct aspect to Bhutan’s culture. The 13 arts and crafts were identified hand craft that were applied in construction of Bhutan’s fortresses, temples and its interior design. The 13 arts and crafts among others include the art of painting, sculpting, calligraphy, woodcraft and metal casting. In order to preserve, and promote the arts, and crafts, all architectures in Bhutan strictly adhere to the guidelines that have been passed on for generations.

Another aspect of the Bhutanese culture is the celebration of Tsechu festival. Tsechu is a spiritual social event celebrated annually across Bhutan in the honor of Guru Rinpoche. Guru Rinpoche is believed to have introduced Buddhism in Bhutan in the 7th century. According to tradition, Tsechu is celebrated in the open courtyard of the magnificent medieval fortresses. During the event, monks perform a series of religion inspired dances, and chant prayers before the congregation. The sacred dances known as chaams are believed to invoke deities to bless people who attend the festival. Monks perform these dances wearing colorful silk costumes, and exquisitely hand crafted masks depicting pantheons of Buddhist gods and deities. The celebration usually lasts several days, and ends with the unfurling of a giant applique of Guru hoisted against the back-drop of a high rising central tower of the fortress. Locals consider themselves fortunate to be able to witness the painting, offer prayers, and receive blessings.

Gross National Happiness

Gross National Happiness is a holistic and sustainable approach to development, which balances material and non-material values with the conviction that humans want to search for happiness. It is considered as the guiding philosophy of Bhutan’s development process, the philosophy was pronounced by His Majesty King Jigme Singye Wangchuck shortly after his enthronement in 1972. It is used as an indicator to measure the national progress. It serves as a philosophical guiding system for all national endeavors. GNH in its essence articulates that the collective happiness of its people is paramount to the progression of a nation. Gross Domestic Product while important, is deemed inadequate to accurately gauge the progress of a nation in the GNH paradigm. Gross National Happiness constitutes a set of values which are Socio Economic Development, Cultural Preservation, Good Governance and Environmental Conservation.

The intuitive guiding principle of Gross National Happiness led to a practical conceptualization for the foundation of the four pillars which are as follows:

Good Governance

Good Governance determines the conditions in which Bhutanese thrives accordingly with the policies and programs which are developed in Bhutan. These policies and programs are intended to keep conformity with the values of GNH. There are also a number of tools and procedures engaged to guarantee that the values are indeed well-established in social policy.

Sustainable Socio-economic Development

A prosperous GNH economy must value social and economic contributions considering all the aspects of households and families, free time and leisure given the roles of these factors in Happiness.

Preservation and Promotion of Culture

Preservation of the Bhutanese culture is a contributing aspect to Happiness because it instills a unique belonging to one’s land. Developing cultural resilience, which can be understood as the culture’s capacity to maintain and develop cultural identity, knowledge and practices, and able to overcome challenges and difficulties from other norms and ideals.

Environmental Conservation

Environmental Conservation is considered a key contribution to GNH because in accumulation of the existing eco-system services, the environment also contributes to aesthetic and other factors that can directly heal people who enjoy vivid colors and light, untainted breeze and silence in nature’s sound.

The four pillars are further structured into nine domains, which articulate the different elements of GNH in elaboration and forms the basis of GNH measurement, index and screening tools.

• Living standards
• Education
• Health
• Environment
• Community Vitality
• Time-use
• Psychological well-being
• Good Governance
• Cultural resilience and promotion

These nine domains demonstrate that various many inter-related factors are considered to be important in creating the conditions for happiness from the perspective of GNH.

Food

The most distinctive characteristic of Bhutanese cuisine is its spiciness. Chillis are an essential part of nearly every dish and are considered so important that most Bhutanese people would not enjoy a meal that was not spicy.

Rice forms the main body of most Bhutanese meals. It is accompanied by one or two side dishes consisting of meat or vegetables. Pork, beef and chicken are the meats that are eaten most often. Vegetables commonly eaten include Spinach, pumpkins, turnips, radishes, tomatoes, river weed, onions and green beans. Grains such as rice, buckwheat and barley are also cultivated in various regions of the country depending on the local climate.

The following is a list of some of the most popular Bhutanese dishes:

Rice forms the main body of most Bhutanese meals. It is accompanied by one or two side dishes consisting of meat or vegetables. Pork, beef and chicken are the meats that are eaten most often. Vegetables commonly eaten include Spinach, pumpkins, turnips, radishes, tomatoes, river weed, onions and green beans. Grains such as rice, buckwheat and barley are also cultivated in various regions of the country depending on the local climate.

The following is a list of some of the most popular Bhutanese dishes:

Ema Datshi

This is the National Dish of Bhutan. A spicy mix of chillis and the delicious local cheese known as Datshi. This dish is a staple of nearly every meal and can be found throughout the country. Variations on Ema Datshi include adding green beans, ferns, potatoes, mushrooms or swapping the regular cheese for yak cheese.

Momos

These Tibetan-style dumplings are stuffed with pork, beef or cabbages and cheese. Traditionally eaten during special occasions, these tasty treats are a Bhutanese favourite.

Phaksha Paa

Pork cooked with spicy red chillis. This dish can also include Radishes or Spinach. A popular variation uses sun-dried (known as Sicaam). Hoentoe: Aromatic buckwheat dumplings stuffed with turnip greens, datshi (cheese), spinach and other ingredients.

Jasha Maru

Spicy minced chicken, tomatoes and other ingredients that is usually served with rice.

Red Rice

This rice is similar to brown rice and is extremely nutritious and filling. When cooked it is pale pink, soft and slightly sticky.

Goep (Tripe)

Though the popularity of tripe has diminished in many countries it is still enjoyed in Bhutan. Like most other meat dishes, it is cooked with plenty of spicy chillis and chilli powder.

Arts & Crafts

An essential part of Bhutan’s cultural heritage are the thirteen traditional arts and crafts that have been practiced from time immemorial. These arts were formally categorized during the reign of Gyalse Tenzin Rabgay, the fourth temporal ruler of Bhutan.

Zorig Chusum: The Thirteen Traditional Crafts of Bhutan

The thirteen arts and crafts are categorized as follows:

Thag-zo

The textile industry is an integral part of Bhutanese life and culture. As such the art of weaving is widely practiced.

Women of eastern Bhutan are skilled at weaving and some of the most highly prized textiles are woven by them. In the past, textiles were paid as a form tax to the government in place of cash and people from western Bhutan travelled all the way to Samdrup Jongkhar to acquire/barter for woven textiles. Bhutanese textiles are woven from cotton, raw cotton and silk with intricate motifs woven into the cloth.

Tsha-zo

Most of the forests in Bhutan are richly stocked with bamboos and canes of various species.

Taking advantage of these abundant natural resources, the Bhutanese people have mastered the skill of weaving cane and bamboo products. Widely known as Tshar Zo, this art is spread throughout the country and products such as baskets, winnowers, mats, containers known as Palangs and bangchungs are all made. The people of Kangpara in eastern Bhutan and the Bjokaps of Central Bhutan are the pioneer’s and masters of this craft. Their products are now sold to tourists earning them additional income and keeping this craft alive.

Shag-zo

The art of wood turning is known as Shag-Zo and is traditionally practiced by the people of Trashiyangtse in eastern Bhutan.

The master craftsmen of this vibrant art are known as Shag Zopa. They are famed for the wooden cups and bowls traditionally known as dapas and phobs. These wooden bowls are made of special wooden knots known as Zaa and are highly valued. Until the advent of steel and brass, these bowls were widely used by the Bhutanese. Today they are typically sold at craft markets and offered as gifts.

Lha-zo

Bhutanese paintings are quintessential of the arts and crafts tradition known as Lha-zo.

An ancient art that has been practiced since antiquity, paintings captures the imagery of the Bhutanese landscape. Master painters are known as Lha Rips and their work is apparent in every architectural piece from the massive Dzongs to glorious temples and spiritual monasteries and even in modest Bhutanese homes.

Shing-zo

Shing-zo or carpentry plays a major part in the construction of Bhutan’s majestic fortresses or dzongs, temples, houses, palaces and bridges.

Do-zo

Do-zo is the ancient craft of masonry, a trade which is still practiced today.

In Bhutan, temples, Dzongs, Chortens (or stupas) and farm-houses are all constructed using stone. Classic examples of stone work are those of Chorten Kora in Tashiyangtse in eastern Bhutan and Chendebji chorten in central Bhutan.

Par-zo

Par zo is the art of carving and another traditional Bhutanese art form that has been perfected over generations.

Major carvings are carried out on stone, wood and slate. The traditional designs crafted on these materials create beautiful and distinctive art works unique to the Land of the Thunder Dragon.

Jim zo

Jim zo or clay work is an ancient craft that has been practiced and passed down over the centuries.

This art form preceded other sculpture works such as bronze and other metal works. Statues of deities, gods and goddesses and other prominent religious figures exemplify clay work in Bhutan.

Lug-zo

Between the Stone Age and the Iron Age we have the Bronze Age around about 3500 BC.

Bronze was commonly used to cast containers such as cups, urns, and vases. People also shaped bronze into weapons and armor such as battle-axes, helmets, knives, swords and shields. Bronze casting in Bhutan was introduced only in the 17th century and was mainly spread through the visiting Newari artisans that came from Nepal. The Newars were first invited by Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyal to cast bronze statues and religious items such as bells and water offering bowls. It was through these artisans that the art was introduced and today, quite a few Bhutanese practice bronze casting.

Gar-zo

The art of iron work is known as Gar-zo and blacksmithing in Bhutan began sometime in the late 14th century.

It is believed that it was introduced by a Tibetan saint known as Dupthob Thangtong Gyalpo. He is revered by the Bhutanese people as a master engineer for his skill in casting iron chains and erecting them as bridges over gorges. He is supposed to have built eight suspension bridges in Bhutan.

Troe-ko

The vibrant craft of traditional ornament making is still designed today and is known as Troe ko.

Its products are widely used by Bhutanese women. A master craftsman skilled in shaping beautiful ornaments is regarded as Tro Ko Lopen. Using precious stones and metals such as corals, turquoise, silver and gold, these master craftsmen create all manner of ornaments and implements including necklaces, bangles, earrings, rings , brooches, amulets to contain ritual objects, traditional containers to carry the much chewed beetle nut, ritual objects and much more.

De-zo

Paper-making is another art that has deep roots in Bhutan. People engaged in producing the traditional Bhutanese paper or De zo are known as Dezop.

This traditional paper is made from the bark of the Daphne tree and was widely used in the past. Most religious scriptures and texts were written on Dezho using traditional Bhutanese ink or occasionally in gold. While the presence of readily available modern paper has overtaken the market, people still produce and use Desho as carry bags, wrapping for gifts and envelopes. The art still continues in Trashiyangtse where the raw material is readily available.

Tshem zo

Tshem zo or the art of tailoring is a popular art amongst the Bhutanese.

This art can be broadly classified as Tshem drup the art of embroidery, lhem drup the art of appliqué and Tsho lham, the art of traditional Bhutanese boot making. The art of embroidery and appliqué are normally practiced by monks. Using this art they produce large religious scrolls known as Thangkas that depicts Gods and Goddesses, deities and saints.

Economy

Despite Bhutan’ small population there has been much economic development in recent years and the economy is growing rapidly.

While a large part of the Bhutanese population is still illiterate and reside in rural areas with approximately 1in 5 still living under the poverty line, the majority of all Bhutanese have shelter and are self-sufficient. Rapid modernization has brought about vast improvements in the living standard of the Bhutanese people. All villages now have access to basic amenities such as education, running water, basic healthcare and are connected by roads and electricity. Even the most remote villages have connection to the telecommunication network including mobile phone service.

The Bhutanese economy is predominantly agricultural. Farmers supplement their income through the sale of animal products such as cheese, butter and milk. Farmers’ markets are common throughout the country, supplying the people with fresh, organic, local produce.

The main staple crops are rice, maize, wheat and buckwheat while cash crops are predominantly potatoes, apples, oranges, cardamom, ginger, and chilies. A fruit based industry has been established in the capital allowing farmers from the nearby areas to sell their produce and thereby earn additional revenue.

Cottage Industries

Bhutan’s rich biodiversity provide the country with ample forest resources and this has brought about the development of a thriving cane and bamboo handicraft industry. Craftsmen weave a number of beautiful and intricate items out of bamboo and cane including hats, backpacks, floor mats and traditional bowls.These items are then sold to tourists or Bhutanese, supplying a secondary income source.

Tourism

The Bhutanese Tourism Industry was first opened in 1974. Since then it has grown to become, a major contributing factor to the Bhutanese economy creating countless employment opportunities and generating additional revenue for the government.

The government is 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. By establishing 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.

To this end efforts have been made to ensure that even remote areas are publicized and able to reap the benefits of tourism while still respecting their traditions, culture and natural environment.

Hydroelectricity

Due to its fast flowing, glacier-fed rivers, Bhutan has enormous potential to producehydroelectricity. With the construction of several major dams, the power sector hasundeniably been the biggest contributor to the Bhutanese exchequer. The ChukhaHydro Power Corporation, the Tala Hydro Power Corporation, the Baso Chu HydroPower Corporation and the Kurichu Hydro Power Corporation, under the umbrella of Druk Green Power Corporation, are some of the existing mega projects in the country.The 1500 MW of power they generate, most of which is exported to our neighboringcountry India, barely scratches the surface of Bhutan’s untapped hydroelectricpotential.With its abundant water resources, Bhutan still has the capacity to generateanother 30,000 MW of electricity. However, the government is proceeding cautiouslywith new construction projects in order to minimize the impact upon the surroundingareas.

Manufacturing

The Manufacturing sector is another major contributor to national revenue. With the industrial sector established in Pasakha, small scale industries such as cement plants, calcium and carbide, steel and Ferro silicon, Coca Cola and also wood based industries have started developing.

As a result of the recent economic development, Bhutan has one of the highest per capital incomes in South Asia at US$1,321. However despite this high level of growth and development, efforts stringent regaliations have been enacted in order to protect Bhutan’s natural environment.