Bhutan – The Kingdom of Bhutan state in Asia in the Himalayas

Exotic Countries, Part 6. Bhutan

The Kingdom of Bhutan is a state in Asia in the Himalayas, situated between India and China. The capital city is Thimphu. The country’s self-name is Druk Yul or Druk Tsenden, meaning “the land of the dragon-thunderer.

According to one version, the name “Bhutan” comes from Bhu-Uttan, which means “highland” or “mountainous country” in Sanskrit. Another version is that the name comes from Bhots-ant, which means “edge (end) of Tibet” or “south of Tibet”.

According to archaeological data Bhutan was inhabited as early as the II millennium BC, there is little written evidence of the ancient times. The history of the country is known mainly in episodes, due to the fact that in 1827 the largest library in the then capital of Bhutan Punakha. Historical events are now inseparable from legends.

Tibetan monk and artist Ngawang Namgyal (Shabdrung) became king in 1616, he was able to unite Bhutan, and organized the construction of fortified forts everywhere. After his death, Bhutan was plunged into a civil war that has hardly stopped for two hundred years. The British actively intervened in intra-Bhutanese conflicts.

King Ugyen Wangchuck was able to unite and strengthen Bhutan again by founding a new dynasty in 1907 (which still reigns today). He made peace with England, recognizing it as suzerain in exchange for full autonomy and non-interference by England in Bhutan’s internal affairs. From this time begins a period of isolation, during which Bhutan managed to avoid participating in two world wars.

After India’s declaration of independence in 1949, Bhutan also became independent. Because of its isolation, however, Bhutan was not represented in the UN and international organizations and was mistakenly regarded by the world community as an Indian dominion. Later, Bhutan had to fight to join the UN and prove its legal independence.

The fourth king of the dynasty, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, acceded to the throne in 1972 and instituted a series of reforms. A limited number of foreign journalists and tourists were allowed into Bhutan. The king tried to provide the country with infrastructure (electricity, telephone, radio, roads) with minimal impact on the environment. In 2002, Bhutan established national television (before that television was banned). In recent years, the country’s prosperity has gradually improved, and infrastructure has been improved and modernized. Nevertheless, Bhutan has a strong hold on tradition.

Since 1989, it has been compulsory for Bhutanese to wear the national dress in public places. The material of clothing and the color of the scarf can be used to judge a person’s status.

In Bhutan travel is extremely restricted, tourists need to travel only with an escort, they are also forbidden to enter nature reserves and large monasteries. Also in this country mountain climbing is forbidden.

Bhutan is a country without poverty, hunger and crime; it is forbidden to cut forests and kill animals; smoke and use chemical fertilizers. This country stands out for its special attitude to its nature, striving to preserve its pristine appearance from Western influence.

Coming here to rest your soul, clear your mind and be filled with new experiences is priceless!

Archery is a favorite sport of Bhutanese. Each village has its own archery field. No festival or festival is complete without an archery competition. The distance to the targets is about 120 meters. Targets are carved out of wood and brightly painted. The main competition takes place once a year, during the celebration of the Bhutanese New Year, Losar.

March 20, the day of the vernal equinox, was declared the International Day of Happiness by the Kingdom of Bhutan. This idea was supported by all the states of the UN General Assembly. The Kingdom of Bhutan is the only country in the world that measures its achievements by reference to GNH – Gross National Happiness.

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King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck of Bhutan and Queen Jetsun Pema of Bhutan

Attractions of the Kingdom of Bhutan

Taktsang Lakkhang Monastery

The symbol of the Kingdom of Bhutan is the Taktsang Lakkhang Monastery, which seems to be suspended in the air at an altitude of 3,120 meters. The name of the monastery translates as “the nest of the tigress”. First erected in the 17th century, Taktsang Luckhang attracts crowds of tourists from all over the world because of its location and the amazing stories associated with it. According to local beliefs, the great Indian teacher Guru Rinpoche, revered as the second Buddha, once flew to this place on the back of a tiger his wife turned into and meditated here in the caves for three months. The legend gave these rocks a mystical aura of sanctity and influenced mass pilgrimages to these places long before a monastery was founded here in 1692, the name of which also reflects the ancient legend.

Motitang Takin Reserve

Motitang Takin Reserve is one of the main attractions in Thimphu. It was established on November 25, 2005 to preserve and breed the amazing animal, the takin, which has been recognized as the national symbol of Bhutan. There are no enclosures or cages and the takins can roam freely all over the park, which is about 0.034 square kilometers. For tourists, there are well-equipped viewing platforms, on which you can watch the measured life of these amazing creatures. On the territory Motitang Takin have strict rules – it is forbidden to frighten, feed and approach the animals, as well as leave small children without supervision.

The Takin is a little-known but very cute and original-looking cloven-hoofed animal. It is found at an altitude of 2000-4000 m, in the bamboo forests of the Himalayas, in India, Nepal, China and Bhutan.

The appearance of the Thakina is associated with the Buddhist mentor, Drukpa Kyunle, a real-life man who transformed into a folkloric character because of his eccentricity and peculiar behavior. According to legend, when Drukpa Kunle arrived in Bhutan, enthusiastic people gathered around him, asking him to perform a miracle. The saint demanded that he be served lunch first and ate a whole cow and goat with gusto. He then took the head of the goat and the bones of the cow, snapped his fingers… and the resulting creature grew flesh and began to graze peacefully, as it continues to do to this day.

By the way, in terms of taxonomy, the closest relative of the takin is the musk ox.

Thimphu chorten monastery

Thimphu Chorten is a unique Buddhist monastery located in the central part of Thimphu, near the Indian military hospital. It was built in 1974 in memory of Jigme Wangchuck, the third king of Bhutan. This beautiful chorten is very eagerly visited by tourists and Bhutanese, and is one of the most sought-after attractions in the city. Unlike many similar structures, it does not contain the remains of the king. The Thimphu chorten contains only a photograph of the deceased ruler in fine ceremonial garb. The design of the Memorial Chorten is by renowned architect Dungse Rinpoche and was executed in accordance with all the traditions of the Nyingma school.

Inside the chorten is a unique altar with the Tantric deity and Buddha Samantabhadra in the center. On its sides are several dozen other deities, often presented in sullen form. The chorten is topped by a golden spire, above which rises another small spire. Large prayer wheels are placed to the right of the structure. The complex has four entrances, but unfortunately only one of them is open to visitors.

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Chagri Dorjeden Monastery

Chagri Dorjeden Buddhist Monastery was built in 1620 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the founder of the Kingdom of Bhutan. It is now the main teaching and retreat center for the southern branch of Drukpa Kagyu, one of the most important divisions of the Tibetan Buddhist school. It is situated on a steep hill, 15 kilometers from the town of Thimphu, so it is not easy to reach. According to Bhutanese religious lore, this place was first visited in the 18th century by Padmasambhava. In the early 13th century it was visited by Tibetan lama Phajo Drugom Shigpo who founded the Drukpa Kagyu tradition in Bhutan. Chagri Dorjeden is the first monastery founded by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, he was 27 years old at the time. Shabdrung spent about three years here, and also often stayed at the monastery throughout his later life. In 1623 it was at this monastery that he founded the Drukpa Kagyu monastic order.

Punakha dzong

The Punakha Dzong is the second largest dzong (fortress) built in Bhutan and was known in ancient times as the “Palace of Great Happiness.” This structure was built in 1637. Punakha Dzong is located in a valley where Bhutan’s two main rivers, Pho Chu and Mo Chu, converge and it is 1200 meters above sea level. Two rows of steep and large steps lead up to it, and they end at a colossal gate, studded with steel rivets, near them are small tunnels drilled into the thick wall. Above them, like loopholes, one can see narrow openings through which at all times the surroundings were observed. Punakha seems completely impregnable, as it is nestled in a mountain valley and cut off from all sides by winter snows and summer floods, and indeed in the history of this dzong no one could conquer it. Because of its location, at the confluence of two rivers, this dzong is regularly exposed to floods. Now, however, it is protected from flooding by deepening the riverbeds and raising the level of the embankments.

Laia Village

Laya is an amazing village located at the northernmost point of Bhutan. The village is among the highest altitude villages in the country, located at an altitude of 3,700 meters, on the slope of Mount Tsenda Gang.

This village is surrounded by high mountain pastures (the average altitude of these places reaches up to 4600 meters), beautiful valleys, as well as the Himalayan peaks, which are covered with snow. The local inhabitants of this village are the Layap people, who can be recognized by the conical bamboo hats of the local shepherds.

This ethnic group has about 800 people. This group has its own language, customs, and clothing. The women from the Layya village wear beautiful yet specific bamboo hats with an unusual bamboo spike on top, black wool jackets, national beads, lots of silver jewelry, and long wool skirts.

The village of Laia is one of the favorite places of many tourists who come to this area from all corners of the globe. You can reach the village of Laia only by quite long caravan trails or by helicopter.

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Among the animals that live in this area, you can highlight the rare snow leopard, and rare and very beautiful blue sheep.

Wangdi Phodrang Palace

Wangdi Phodrang, a palace located in western Bhutan. Experts recognize its uniqueness in that in the architecture and in the meaning of this palace, the characteristics of a fortress and a Buddhist monastery are remarkably intertwined.

Wangdi Phodrang was built in 1638 by Shabdrung and is located on the mouth of the Punakkh Chhu River. Wangdi is among the most beautiful as well as the largest palaces of Bhutan. Its huge courtyard allows for various large-scale official ceremonies as well as Buddhist festivals – tsechu.

Trashi Cho Dzong Monastery

This monastery is not just a religious building: it serves as the residence of the Supreme Lama. It also serves as the seat of the government and the country’s chief court. This combines perfectly with the sermons of the monks who inhabit Trashi Chho Dzong. At least 2,000 people live here permanently. Recently, they are no longer considered people closed off from the world: they actively communicate with local residents, strengthening their faith and guiding them on the right path. They often organize fun festivals for children and their parents.

The Trashi Cho Dzong Monastery is very similar to other buildings in Thimphu. The same straight and graceful lines, unusual roofs and remarkably clean colors are still recognizable. It has not lost its splendor and reliability despite its respectable age. The building was built without the use of glass and concrete, and that makes it a unique government house: other similar buildings in major metropolitan areas have a modern style.

This monastery houses Bhutan’s largest library, which contains important historical documents in Tibetan. Unfortunately, tourists cannot see them, as the lamas treat them very jealously. However, access is completely open to locals.

Foreign visitors can only enter the monastery during the celebration of Thimphu Tsechu, that is, in early autumn. This celebration completely transforms Trashi Cho Dzong. A colorful and memorable show focusing on local culture and traditions is put on for all visitors. It is aimed not only at tourists but also at locals.

Jigme Dorji National Park

One of the main natural attractions of Thimphu is Jigme Dorji National Park, which is the largest protected area in the country. The park is named after Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, the third king of Bhutan who died in 1972. The park was founded in the middle of 1974 and is located at an altitude of 1,400 to 7,000 meters, which allows it to be in three climate zones at the same time. Jigme Dorji Park is home to approximately 6,500 people who are mainly engaged in agriculture. It is home to rare animals, such as the Himalayan bear and irbis. The park has a geothermal activity center, which is the largest in Bhutan, as well as many historical monuments.

Bhutan, a kingdom on the southern slope of the Himalayas

monastery in Bhutan

Bhutan is a small mountainous country. The capital city is Thimphu. Many tourists ask: Where is the country of Bhutan? The answer is simple – in Asia, between the two great powers: India and China. It is located on the southern slope of the Himalayas. Right in the center of Bhutan stretches the Black Mountains. Bhutan’s airport is the only flat place in the state.

The fascinating and mysterious country of Bhutan, whose photos you can see at the link, is landlocked. It is located on the eastern slopes of the Himalayas. Because of this, the country’s terrain is mountainous and densely forested.

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The head of state with the form of government of a limited monarchy is the king. The second ruler of the state after the king is the Supreme Lama. The Council of Ministers as well as the Royal Consultative Council play an executive role. The National Assembly, consisting of one chamber, represents the legislature.

The history of Bhutan goes back thousands of years. Previously the surrounding countries did not know of the existence of this state. The culture was born here in 747 thanks to Rinpoche, a spiritual teacher who came from Pakistan. He spread Buddhism among the inhabitants. In 1616 all the disparate parts of Bhutan were united thanks to Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, who came from Tibet. This is the most significant event in the history of the state. In the 17th century Bhutan was attacked twice by the Mongols. However, thanks to Shabdrung, the attacks were repelled. After his death, Bhutan fell into turmoil. It ended in 1907 when the first king came to power. Since then, power has been handed down by succession. The country is no longer closed to the outside world and allowed visits of tourists in 1974.

Bhutan

The people of this fascinating kingdom are no less beautiful than Bhutan itself. They are responsive and hospitable. They are peaceful and not spoiled by the poverty and vices of the modern world. Bhutanese love to have fun. Archery has become a local sport. Archery fields have been built all over the country. When a player hits a target, his cheerful support team runs out to him and sings a song of praise.

All Bhutanese walk in their national costumes. The King and Queen of Bhutan are very much concerned with the observance of traditions . If a resident doesn’t wear the traditional costume, he won’t get to an appointment with some very necessary authority. If it were not for the monarch’s care, many of the inhabitants might have long since drunk and suffered from smoking. It was the king who banned smoking all over the country.

Bhutan – the land of happiness

Since all religions except Buddhism are forbidden in the country, the king considers it his duty to make every citizen of the country happy. For this purpose, the “Commission for General People’s Happiness” was established in 2008. In the census, citizens are asked the question: Are you happy? The majority of those surveyed systematically answer positively.

Bhutan has a Ministry of Happiness. Happiness is at the head of national policy. GDP has been replaced by gross national happiness.

Bhutan is a really happy and bright country. It is open to others.

Yogini with Bhutanese girls

The official language is Dzong-ke. It, like Bumthang – the language used in peripheral areas and in the east of the country – has no written norms. Tibetan has been used for these purposes since ancient times. In the last few years, English has been taught in schools and is gaining momentum in its diffusion in Bhutan. An interesting fact is that road signs here are drawn by hand! Often they are signed, also by hand.

Bhutan – a country that is environmentally friendly

Interestingly, at every step there are garbage cans with the words “do not forget about me” and “use me. This is how the authorities are fighting for cleanliness in the state.

It is forbidden to kill animals and cut down forests in the state. Trees, on the contrary, are constantly being planted. It is also forbidden to bring chemical fertilizers into Bhutan, so all the plants that grow here are environmentally friendly.

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Due to these prohibitions, most of the country is a nature reserve, untouched by the hand of man.

flowers in Bhutan

Bhutan has almost no domestic production. Everything is imported from India. It is thanks to this state does not pollute the environment.

Interestingly, television is banned in the entire country. Few people have televisions and they are used to watch videos.

The signboards of the various establishments are not diverse or creative. They are all the same, regardless of the type of activity: wooden rectangular signs with blue stickers and white inscriptions.

Bhutan – the land of gingerbread houses

In the mid-seventies, the king ordered that all houses be painted. Therefore, Bhutan is often referred to as the country of gingerbread houses. The motifs mostly consist of ornaments. They are complemented by images of animals and plants. ResidentsBhutan compete with each other in decorating their homes.

Traditionally, all houses consist of three floors. The first floor is the stable, the second floor is the bedroom, the prayer room and the kitchen, and the third floor is a place for drying hay.

The symbol of this mountainous state is a large beautiful butterfly called the Glory of Bhutan. Its wingspan is 12 cm.

butterfly on a flower

Bhutan – country of rice, tea and pepper

The mainstay of Bhutan’s cuisine is rice. It is consumed everywhere and always. Most of the people are vegetarians. The use of beans and chili peppers is widespread. After a spicy meal, the inhabitants of this mountainous country prefer to drink tea with oil and salt called souza. Tea is drunk both black and green.

If you are going to Bhutan, this trip will certainly not leave you indifferent. Here you find yourself outside of time and space. Happiness and silence reigns here. There is no hustle and bustle. In the forests on the slopes of the Himalayas a large number of Buddhist monasteries.

yogis in Bhutan

The time difference with Moscow is three hours. There are no direct flights from Russia to Bhutan. You can reach the kingdom by connecting in Delhi, Singapore, Mumbai and Kathmandu.

In most cases, tourists move around Bhutan by transfers booked in advance by tour operators. Locals use buses to get around. You can often see Bhutanese voting. Despite the difficult terrain, the roads here are in excellent condition.

The official currency is BTN. In the central region of the country is accepted by any world currency and checks of any company. In peripheral areas it is virtually impossible to exchange foreign currency.

Tipping is not accepted in the country. Despite this, the hotel staff, tour guides will be immensely grateful for even the smallest remuneration from tourists.

Haggling Bhutanese are not able, and do not want to. Prices are fixed everywhere.

Particular attention should be paid to altitude sickness, which appears when the tourist ascends above 2500 meters.

To visit Bhutan, you will need a visa. You have to fill in a declaration, which should necessarily include all imported photo, video, and electronic equipment. If any of the imported items remain in the country as a gift or a commodity for sale, the tourist will be required to pay customs duty on these items. It is forbidden to take local currency out of Bhutan. Tourists must declare the currency they bring into the country.

During a trip to Bhutan in 2017, a lecture by A. Verba was recorded. Enjoy watching it!

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