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About Bhutan

1: Over View of Bhutan. Bhutan is secluded in the folds of the great Himalayan Mountains, with about 700,000 people living harmoniously with Nature. It is perhaps the only country, which resembles a huge park. Known as Drukyul (Home of the Dragon), the country is immensely rich in flora and fauna, culture and icon of a country that has blended the modern with the traditional.


2: Why Bhutan is Unique. The country's age-old tradition is still living and it is still the part of the day-to-day life. While the world mourns the loss of its ecology, Bhutan has emerged as an example to the international community, an icon of preservation policies, with about 70 percent of its land still under forest and a great variety of rare plant and wildlife species. Its Constitution mandates that under any circumstance 60 percent of its area should remain under forest cover. Bhutan is one of the ten biological hotspots of the world, and home to over 5,400 species of plants, including 300 species of medicinal plants, some thriving even at 3,700m above. It has 369 species of orchids, of which 82 are unique to the mountain country. It boasts of 46 rhododendron species. It is home to endangered species like the Satyr Tragopan, Ward's Trogon, Himalayan Monal, Blood Pheasants, Beautiful Nuthatch, Ibisbill, Rufous-necked Hornbill, White-bellied Heron, varieties of Wren Babblers, and others. Bhutan is home to some of the most endangered flora and fauna, such as the White Bellied Heron, Royal Bengal Tiger and others. Bhutanese development philosophy is Gross National Happiness (GNH) and not Gross National Product. There is a story behind every aspect of Bhutanese life. Soaked in religion, Bhutanese culture is unique in many ways. The Phallus is highly revered and Bhutanese homes are filled with drawings of different types of phalluses. Blessings from the Phallus are sought, especially by partners who cannot conceive. Dzongs (Fortresses) are massive structures built way back in the 17th century. Every district has a Dzong, with architecture that will melt the hearts of the world's best architects. All Dzongs have been built without use of a single nail. Humility is a Bhutanese trait. People are also very honest and welcoming. What is more most Bhutanese speak English. Bhutan built its first roads in 1961 only. Today, it has become a modern nation state, envied by the world. Trotting on a unique approach to development, Bhutan retained its jewels embodied in the hundreds of prayer flags, temples and stupas that dot the country and epitomised in its name as a haven for protected flora and fauna. Bhutan could be called a museum showcasing what the world has lost. It was for this very reason that Bhutan's policy is a "High Value Low Volume" tourism policy, especially to keep at bay the "Hippie Culture." Propagator and the spring of Gross National Happiness (GNH), the Himalayan Kingdom is today one of the most sought after high end tourist destinations. And there is no reason why it should not be, for Bhutan is an unparalleled nation of the 21st century.


3: History of Bhutan. Bhutan's early history is steeped in mythology and remains obscure. Some of the structures provide evidence that Bhutan existed as early as 2000 BC. The country's political history is intimately tied to its religious history and relations among the various monastic schools and monasteries. Bhutan is one of only a few countries which have been independent throughout their history, never conquered, occupied, or governed by an outside power (notwithstanding occasional nominal tributary status). The consolidation of Bhutan occurred in 1616 when Ngawanag Namgyal, a lama from western Tibet known as the Zhabdrung Rinpoche, defeated three Tibetan invasions, subjugated rival religious schools, codified the Tsa Yig, an intricate and comprehensive system of law, and established himself as ruler over a system of ecclesiastical and civil administrators. After his death, In 1885 Ugyen Wangchuck was able to consolidate power, and began cultivating closer ties with the British in the subcontinent. In 1907, Ugyen Wangchuck was elected as the hereditary ruler of Bhutan, crowned on December 17, 1907, and installed as the head of state, the Druk Gyalpo (Dragon King) and presently Bhutan is under 5th king, Jigme Kheser Namgyel Wangchuk.

Culture Of Bhutan: 1: Architecture One of the most striking physical features of Bhutan is its architecture. Bhutanese architectural forms comprise of chortens (stupas), stone walls, temples/monasteries, fortresses, mansions and houses. The characteristic style and color of every building and house in the kingdom is a distinct source of aesthetic pleasure. What makes the Bhutanese architectural landscape unique is the consistency of traditional designs found in both old and new structures. Thus the ancient fortresses and temples seem to merge with the modern day structures thereby creating a consistency in the architectural landscape. The dzongs themselves imposing 17th century structures built on a grand scale without the help of any drawings and constructed entirely without nails  are outstanding examples of the best in Bhutanese architecture. Patterns of rich colors adorn walls, beams, pillars and doors in traditional splendor. 2: Arts & Crafts As with its architecture, art and crafts are important aspects of Bhutanese culture and they bear testimony to the spiritual depth of Bhutanese life. Generations of Bhutanese artisans have passed down incredible artistic skills and knowledge. There are thirteen forms of traditional arts & crafts known as Zorig Chosum (Zo means "to make", Rig means "science", Chosum means "thirteen"). The thirteen art forms include: woodwork, stonework, sculpture, carving, painting, black smithy, silver & goldsmithy, fabric weaving, embroidery/appliqué, bamboo & cane craft, paper making, masonry and leather work. 3: Festivals One of the main attractions of the kingdom is its annual religious festivals, the tsechus celebrated to honor Guru Padmasambhava (more commonly referred to as "Guru Rinpoche"). All of Guru Rinpoche's great deeds are believed to have taken place on the 10th day of the month, which is the meaning of the word tsechu. Tsechus are celebrated for several days and are the occasion for dances that are clearly defined in religious content. The religious dances called "cham" can be grouped into three broad categories: dramas with a moral, dances for purification and protection from harmful spirits and dances that proclaim the victory of Buddhism and the glory of Guru Rinpoche. The dancers, either monks or laymen, wear spectacular costumes of bright silk or brocade, ornate hats and extraordinary masks. Another highlight of the Tsechus are the Atsaras or clowns who are believed to represent Acharyas, religious masters of India. They confront the monks, toss out salacious jokes, and distract the crowd with their antics whenever the religious dances begin to grow tedious. They are the only people permitted to mock religion in a society where sacred matters are treated with the highest respect. For the Bhutanese, attendance at religious festivals offers an opportunity to become immersed in the meaning of their religion and to gain much merit. The festivals are also occasions for seeing people, and for being seen, for social exchanges, and for flaunting success. Festivals are held all the year round at temples, dzongs and monasteries throughout Bhutan. Attendance at one of these religious events provides an opportunity for the outsider to experience the extraordinary.


4: Peoples Of Bhutan Bhutanese communities settled in the valleys with limited communication in the past. This factor led to the development of a strong sense of individuality and independence, which is an innate characteristic of the people. It is because of the very same reason that, Bhutan has developed a number of languages and dialects, despite its very small population. Physically strong and fiercely independent by nature, Bhutanese are an open minded people with a ready sense of humor. Hospitality is an in-built social value in Bhutan. Bhutan's population can be called in many ways, one large family. Living in scattered sparsely populated villages of the Himalaya's rugged terrain, more than 70 percent of the people live on subsistence farming. Rice is the staple diet in the lower regions, and wheat, buckwheat, and maize in other valleys. Farming is done in narrow terraces cut into the steep hill slopes.


5: Geography of Bhutan The constitution mandates the need to keep a minimum of 60percent of country's land area under forest cover for all times to come, but 71 percent of the country is under forest cover confirmed and its landscape consists of a succession of lofty and rugged mountain ranges separated by deep valleys. Thick forests cover most of the slopes. Several rivers flow southward into the Brahmaputra River in India. The panoramic scenes of the snow capped mountains in the north reaches a height of over 7500 meters above sea level. The northern belt is inhabited by few nomads and yak herders who move to the warmer places in the winter and bring back their livestock for grazing in the summer. The snow fed rivers in the alpine region provide pastures for the livestock in the summer. In the inner Himalayas the elevation reaches from 1500 meters to 3500 meters. All the major towns like Thimphu, Paro, Punakha, etc. are situated in this zone. From June to September, which is the monsoon season, the valleys become lush and green. In the south, the Southern Hills are covered with dense deciduous forest, alluvial lowland river valleys, and mountains that reach around 1,500 meters above sea level. The Southern Foothills in the north have dense vegetation and abundant wildlife. The border towns are all in the southern foothills which shares borders with India. The climate is humid and subtropical in the southern plains and foothills, temperate in the inner Himalayan valleys of the southern and central regions, and cold in the north, with year-round snow on the main Himalayan summits.

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