Happiness is a place
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The Kingdom of Bhutan
Is a small sovereign country hidden in the Eastern Himalayas.
The Kingdom of Bhutan is Mountainous country. The attitude ranges from the little above the sea level in the south to High Himalayan Mountains of 7, 600m in the north
The population of the country is 752,700
Language: Official language “Dzongkha”, English widely spoken by the citizen of the country.
In Bhutan you would experience the different types of climatic conditions, depending upon different altitudes and seasons. To the south it is hot and humid, while the up hills and Mountains towards the north are under perpetual snow. Rainfall can differ within relative short distance due to rain shadow effects.
Spring and autumn is great seasons to travel tourist in the kingdom of Bhutan.
In winter the temperature drops down to minus because of snowfalls. Days are normally hot and nights are cold.
Bhutan is a Buddhist country. It was in the 8th century AD that Guru Rinpoche introduced Buddhism to the country.
Religious festivals known as ‘Tsechus’ and ‘Dromchoes’ symbolizing amity, peace and compassion, are held annually at various parts of the kingdom at different times of the year. These vibrant festivals are a time for the people from various walks of life to come together decent in all their ceremonial dress.
The Bhutanese are a peace loving and god-fearing people who consistently imbibe the values of Buddhism into their everyday lives. People follow the fundamental principles of Buddhist philosophy like non-violence and compassion towards all living beings is firmly instilled in Bhutanese.
Prayer flags fluttering in the wind, stupas, monasteries and twirling prayer wheels are a very common sight, sending the prayers through prayer flags and keeping up a regular communication with heaven.
Their belief in the doctrine of ‘Karma’ is a motivation to accumulate as many virtues as possible in their present lives to lessen the degree of suffering in their next birth. So Bhutanese people are very hospitable and helpful.
Love and respect for nature is inherent in every Bhutanese.
Bhutanese has cultivated a unique culture in to their life, and it is famous for vibrant forms of dances, costumes, architectures, arts and crafts well-known by their expressions in bold lively colors and difficult designs.
Way of Life
Over 70 % of the population lead an agrarian life style and unhampered by the fast life that marks modernity.
Every people of the country wear the distinctive national dress that is finely woven from multi colored, vibrant hued wool, cotton or silk. The men’s attire is called “Gho” and ladies dress is called “Kira”. The form of dress is common to all strata of society.
The Bhutanese diet is rich in meat, cereals particularly rice, vegetables and herbs. Meat dishes, mainly pork and beef, are lavishly spiced with chillies,
Arra, a spirit distilled from rice, maize, wheat or barley, are also favorite beverages. “Doma” or betel nut is offered as a customary greeting.
Archery is the popular national sport played all year round with the traditional bows and arrows. An integral part of most festivities, archery matches are gala affairs with much music, dancing drinking and gaiety.
Bhutan money is known as Ngultrum denoted by the symbol Nu. Introduced in the year 1974,
Flora and Fauna
Bhutan has a rich diversity of flora and fauna. Blessed with some of the best scenic beauties of majestic snow capped peaks, lush valleys and large zone of natural forest, Bhutan is home to numerous rare and endangered species of wildlife such as the blue sheep, musk deer, red panda, snow leopard, black bear, golden langur and the unique Takin, the national animal of Bhutan. The endangered Black Necked Cranes also migrate to Bhutan from Central Asia and Tibet during the winter.
The country has been identified as one of the 10 bio-diversity hot spots in the world and as one of the 221 global endemic bird areas. Its eco-system has some of the most exotic species of the Eastern Himalayas with an estimated 770 species of birds and over 50 species of rhododendron, along with an amazing variety of medicinal plants and orchids.
Bhutan’s prehistoric era fell roughly between 500 B.C. and A.D. 500. Natural calamities and man-made activities like fire, earthquake, flood, and battles had destroyed whatever records may once have existed. For instance the fire accident in 1832 in a Dzong (monastery-fortress) in the old capital Punakha, and the major damages caused on the same structure by an earthquake in 1897 were specific cause of destruction to Bhutan’s historical documentation of that era. Nevertheless, a number of stones tools and megaliths available suggest that Bhutan was populated as early as 2000-1500 B.C.
Also little is known about the country early history. The preserved artifacts available in the some of the ancient monasteries indicated, that Bonism, shamanistic ritual, was followed in Bhutan prior to the advent of Buddhism. The Bon tradition and ritual are still observed in some rural areas of Bhutan during the celebration of local festivals.
History in Brief
The country’s recorded history dates back to the era of the introduction of Buddhism from 7th century A.D. Soon after, Buddhism has greatly shaped the history of Bhutan and the tradition of its inhabitants. Bhutan’s physical location kept the ancient world at bay and together with the policy of self imposed isolation this small kingdom was never colonized which is a matter of great pride to the Bhutanese. Its ancient history is a mixture of the oral tradition and classical literature, and tells of a largely self-sufficient population that had little contact with the outside world until 1900. Two visible and treasured structures of ancient Bhutan are Kyichu monastery in Paro and Jambay monastery in Bumthang which were built in the 7th Century A.D., a period when little was known about the land. However only after the visit of a great Buddhist Saint Guru Rinpoche (Padma Sambhava) in 747 A.D., did the foundation of Buddhism become strong in the country. Some of the most revered and sacred sites of pilgrimage related to the Guru still exist in Paro and Bumthang valleys; the places where he meditated, transformed the local demons and left the imprint of his body on a rock.
A subsequent remarkable chapter was added in the history of Bhutan, in the early part of the 13th century with the arrival of a Buddhist spiritual master, Phajo Drugom Zhingpo from Tibet. He was the precursor of the Kagyu institution of Mahayana Buddhism which eventually gained supremacy in the country till date. Over the years, several saints and religious figures, over the years, helped shape Bhutan’s history and develop its religion. Among the influential figures, the Tertons (Treasure discoverers) played a crucial role with their pre-destined power to unearth the relics hidden for posterity by Guru Rinpoche and other saints. The Terton Pema Lingpa occupies the most important place among treasure hunters in the Bhutanese history for his discovery of relics from a lake called Mebartsho (The Burning Lake) in Bumthang. Apart from discovering religious texts and artifacts he also composed dances and created arts which have become one of the most important constituents of the cultural heritage of Bhutan.
The Zhabdrung (meaning the precious jewel at whose feet one submits) in the 17th Century opened the most dynamic era in the history of Bhutan. The religious and secular powers were not clearly delineated until then and Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the great leader of the Drukpa school of Mahayana Buddhism, established the dual system of government; the temporal and theocratic with Je Khenpo (chief abbot) as the religious head and the Desi as the temporal leader. In this system a spiritual leader looked after the clergy while simultaneously a temporal ruler looked after the affairs of state. Besides proving himself a great spiritual personality and a statesman, he was also left his permanent legacy as a great architect and a builder. The Zhabdrung constructed numerous Dzongs (fortress), monasteries, and religious institutions bringing people of all levels under one faith and tightly established the Drukpa Kagyu as the state religion.
This dual system of governance introduced by the Zhabdrung was ruled by 54 Desis and 60 Je Khenpos and guided Bhutan from 1651 to 1907, until the foundation of the Wangchuck dynasty and establishment of hereditary Monarch a century ago.
“Throughout the centuries, the Bhutanese have treasured their natural environment and have looked upon it as the source of all life. This traditional reverence for nature has delivered us into the twentieth century with our environment still richly intact. We wish to continue living in harmony with nature and to pass on this rich heritage to our future generations.”
– His Majesty the King Jigme Singye Wangchuck (4th Monarch of Bhutan)
Biodiversity and Environment
The Kingdom of Bhutan is situated on the Eastern Himalayan Range at the juncture of the Palearctic realm of temperate Euro-Asia and the Indo-Malayan realm of the Indian subcontinent and features extremely diverse geophysical elements – high, rugged mountains interlaced with deep valleys as well as stunning biodiversity at the ecosystem, species and genetic levels. Bhutan ranks in the top ten percent of countries with the highest species density on earth, and it has the highest fraction of land in protected areas (approximately 60% of the country) as well as the highest proportion of forest cover (72 % of its area) of any Asian nation. Thus, few countries in the world match this – and fewer still have taken such strong steps to conserve. Bhutan is one of the world’s last remaining biodiversity hotspots.
Perhaps most important in the Bhutanese context are the ethical and cultural roles of biodiversity in human affairs. Nature is central to Buddhism, which is crucial to culture here; indeed, respect for all life is a dominant tenet, as is the belief that acts of this life will be rewarded or punished in the next. Moreover, mountains, rivers, rocks and soils have been seen as spirit domains since pre-Buddhist times. All provide a powerful motivational principle for sustaining the nation’s outstanding natural resource base. The government has enacted a law that shall maintain at least 60% of its forest cover for all time.
Development in Bhutan is guided by principles that emphasize preservation of both natural and cultural heritage, as well as sustainability from subsistence to a more modern economy. Even now, Renewable Natural Resources remains the most important sector, and in 1998 contributed 36.1 percent of the Gross Domestic Product. Thus, short-term profit at the expense of long-term loss of natural heritage is not for Bhutan. Its cautious approach prioritizes conservation and relegates economic benefits to a firmly secondary role. Today, there are 10 national parks and sanctuaries.
PUT A PICTURE OF National Parks and a map
Flora and Fauna
The array of flora and fauna available in Bhutan is unparalleled due to conservation and its wide altitudinal and climatic range. Physically, the country can be divided into three zones:
- Alpine Zone (4000m and above) with no forest cover;
- Temperate Zone (2000 to 4000m) with conifer or broadleaf forests and
- Subtropical Zone (150m to 2000m) with Tropical or Subtropical vegetation.
Forest types in Bhutan are fir forests, mixed conifer forest, blue pine forest, chirpine forest, broadleaf mixed with conifer, upland hardwood forest, lowland hardwood forest, and tropical lowland forests. Almost 60% of the plant species found in the eastern Himalayan region are present in Bhutan.
Bhutan boasts of about 300 species of medicinal plants and about 46 species of rhododendrons. Some common sights for the visitors are the magnolias, junipers, orchids of varied hues, gentian, medicinal plants, Daphne, giant rhubarb, the blue and trees such as fir, pine and oaks.
A wide range of rare and endangered animals can also be found frequenting the dense jungles and high mountains of Bhutan. Due to the countries conservation efforts and its unspoiled natural environment Bhutan supports thriving populations of some of the rarest animals on earth and has thus been classified as one of the last biodiversity hotspots in the world.
Some high altitude species are the snow leopards, Bengal tigers that are found at altitude ranging 3000 to 4000 meters, the red panda, the gorals and the langurs, the Himalayan black bear, sambars, wild pigs, barking deer, blue sheep and musk deer.
In the tropical forests of Southern Bhutan one can come across clouded leopards, the one horned rhinoceros, elephants, water buffaloes and swamp deer. You can even find the Golden Langur, a species of monkey that is unique to Bhutan.
Bhutan also has a great variety of bird species. It is recognized as an area of high biological diversity and is known as the East Himalayan ‘hot spot’, the hub of 221 global endemic bird areas. The recorded number of bird species is over 670 and is expected to rise as new birds are discovered.
In addition, 57% of Bhutan’s globally threatened birds and 90% of the country’s rare birds are dependent on forests. Bhutan has about 415 resident bird species. These birds are altitudinal refugees, moving up and down the mountains depending upon the seasons and weather conditions. Of about 50 species of birds that migrate during the winters are the buntings, waders, ducks, thrushes and the birds of prey. Some 40 species are partial migrants and they include species such as swifts, cuckoos, bee-eaters, fly catchers and warblers.
Bhutan is also home to about 16 bird species that are endangered worldwide. These include the White bellied heron, Pallas Fish eagle and Blyth’s King fisher to name a few. Phobjikha valley in Wangdue Phodrang and Bomdeling in Trashi Yangtse are also two especially important locations of the endangered Black Necked Cranes.
As one of the ten global hotspots, Bhutan is committed to preserve and protect its rich environment through its government and environmental organizations. This commitment is apparent in the fact that the kingdom has the distinct honor of being one of the only nations whose forest cover has actually grown over the years.
One of the proactive organizations in Bhutan committed to environmental conservation issues, is the Association of Bhutan Tour Operators.
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