Culture & Tradition
Bhutan with its rich cultural heritage and traditions holds the root for the country being independent. To the pressing challenges against drastic modernization and developing change, cultural preservation serves an important foundation for nation’s sovereignty. It is also a unique identity that describes the nation. It was this identity that has protected and sustained Bhutan and also provided the foundation for its major policies.
Bhutan, a serene place which has numbers of the Buddhist monasteries all over the places, the lush valleys, the rocky mountains and the pristine rivers holds the unique and strong cultural values. The unique culture of Bhutan fascinates every person who visits Bhutan. And even more, it is the Bhutanese people and Government’s determination to preserve and promote the cultural values as an national identity. This is why we can still see the old aged culture and traditions in every nook and corner of Bhutan.
01. Bhutanese National Dress
Gho and Kira is the national dress of Bhutan. Bhutanese wear the national dress as in pride of being Bhutanese everyday . Bhutanese men wear the GHO(a knee length ,belted robe) and the women wear the Kira ( an ankle length dress, belted at the waist). If one has to visit temples, Dzongs or Government offices, the men and women are required to wear scarves. The Kabney for men and Rachu for women are also mandatory dress code while visiting the scared places or the government offices.
02: DriglaM NamZha (Code of Etiquette)
Bhutan has a Code of Etiquette (Driglam Namzha) ,which determines the way we are.The way one conducts is considered very important here. The way Bhutanese greets, behaves, eats, talks are quite unique and is determine by the code of Driglam Namzha. The children, from a very young age, are taught the basic etiquette at homes and even in schools. The Government also has a Ministry responsible for maintaining the standards and pre-requisites of clothing, eating, speech, and respect to officials and the Buddhist clergy.
Dzongkha is the official and national language of Bhutan. Dzongkha, the national language, is closely related to the Tibetan language. Dzongkha is spoken and written widely by the many Bhutanese. Royal Government of Bhutan has established a commission called “Dzongkha Development Commission, to promote and preserve the National Language of Bhutan.
There are several other major languages which are widely spoken in Bhutan such as Sharchopkha (Tshangla) the language used by the people in Eastern region of Bhutan, Trongsap and Bumthap, the language of central region of Bhutan, Lhotshampakha, the language of people of southern Bhutan, and Khengkha, the language of Kheng region of Bhutan. In addition to these languages, there are less popular languages in Bhutan.
The Bhutanese national sport of Archery, is firmly rooted in the cultural heritage of the country. Archery matches/contests are regularly held during festivals and involve as much a social element as a competition. The matches are usually followed by ladies dancing, sumptuous food, drinks. The traditional bow and arrow are made from bamboos. With modernization, the Bhutanese are also using compound bow.
05: Religion of Bhutan
Religion in Bhutan is predominantly Vajrayana Buddhism. As a result, Bhutanese culture is very much influenced by Buddhist values. Bhutanese live by religious values and respect their Gods and deities a lot. Hence, there is no dearth of monasteries, Stupas, Lhakhangs etc in the country. The colourful prayer flags adorn hillsides, entrances of monasteries etc, which are considered sacred. Dzongs are a unique combination of fortress and temples are present in every district (Dzongkhag) of the country. Buddhist monks reside in monasteries located high up in the mountains. They lead a very simple life, with no luxuries. A monk is generally admitted in the monastery at the age of six to nine and take lessons under a master. In a common family, a small morsel is kept on the floor as an offering to deities before eating. So, religion plays a very important role in deciding the lifestyle of people.
06: BIRTH & Marriage (WEDDING)
Bhutanese culture is quite festive when it comes to the birth of a child. It is one of the very few countries in the world which does not discriminate between a boy and girl. However, no outsider is allowed to enter the house for 3 days after a baby is born. It is only after a purification ritual that guests can enter. Name of the baby is usually bestowed by a local religious leader, and there was no family name till recent times. Instead, the name was usually a combination of two traditional names and gender is usually indicated by the second name.
In Bhutan, marriage is not usually a big deal and hence, the wedding ceremony is kept simple. Marriage between cousins were quite common in the past in the east but the educated masses discourage it now. In some parts of Bhutan, it is the groom who goes to his wife’s home, instead of the other way around.
06: Festivals of Bhutan
Festivals in Bhutan are exciting affairs in the life of Bhutanese and an integral part of the unique culture of Bhutan. The most important Bhutanese festival are Tshechus. Every district has its own Tshechu, which lasts for 3-5 days. It falls on the 10th day of the Tibetan calendar/Lunar Calendar. It is generally held in the Dzongs, where people from the entire district and the surrounding places gather together in harmony to be a part of a mass celebration. Masked dances (chham) are the major attraction of a Tshechu . Monks and laymen wear silk robes, animal masks, and enact the moments of Guru Rinpoche’s life in the form of dances. The last day of the Tshechu usually witnesses the unfurling of a silk Thongdrel (a giant Thangka), which translates to “Liberation on Sight“. Seeing the Thongdrel is believed to wash away one’s sins.
Check out the festivals date for 2023
06: TRADITIONAL DRESS OF BHUTAN
Bhutanese culture mandates that the traditional dress be worn on special occasions and in government offices. Bhutanese men wear ‘Gho’ and women wear ‘Kira’. Gho is a heavy knee-length robe, tied by a belt. Kira is an ankle-length dress, over which a short jacket may be worn. These dresses have evolved over time. For example, the small pouches on the front of the dress were used to carry food bowls and small daggers, whereas now mobile phones, etc are kept into it. These dresses are made up of cotton or wool, and dresses made out of silk are worn on special occasions. As per traditions, it is necessary to carry a scarf in a dzong or an administrative center. Men’s scarf is called kabney and women’s scarf is called rachu.