The estimated population of the country is 7, 50,000 with the growth rate of 3.1% per year. Bhutanese economy is agrarian and almost 65% of the total population lives in rural areas. The life expectancy of the Bhutanese people is 67.3 years. The overall literacy rate of the country is 63%. Bhutanese people can be generally categorized into three main ethnic groups. The Tshanglas, the Ngalops and the Lhotshampas.
The other minority groups are the Bumthaps and the Khengpas of Central Bhutan, the Kurtoeps in Lhuentse, the Brokpas and the Bramis of Merak and Sakteng in eastern Bhutan, the Doyas of Samtse and finally the Monpas of Rukha villages in WangduePhodrang.
Three main ethnic groups constitute its population: Ngalops : Ngalops are descendants of Tibetan immigrants who arrived in Bhutan from the 9th century and settled in the west of the country. The common dialect among the ngalops is Dzongkha which is also the national language of the country. Ngalops are settled in the west of the country such as Thimphu, Wangdi, Paro, Punakha, and Haa. The Ngalops who have settled mostly in the six regions of western Bhutan are of Tibetan origin. They speak “Ngalopkha”, a polished version of Dzongkha, the national language of Bhutan. Agriculture is their main livelihood. They cultivate cereals such as rice, wheat, barley and maize along with a variety of other crops. In the regions of Thimphu and Paro apples are also cultivated as a cash crop. They are known for Lozeys, or ornamental speech and for Zheys, dances that are unique to the Ngalops.
Lhotshampas : lhotshampas are the people of the south as the name translates to “ southern dwellers”. They are believed to have settled in the southern foothills in the 19th century from neighboring Nepal. The Lhotshampa represents different Nepali speaking ethnic groups primarily Brahman, Chettri, Gurung, Rai, and Limbu. Lhotshampas also have diversity in religion among themselves, although there could be variations in the numbers. chhetris and Brahmins are predominantly Hindu whereas sherpas , lepchas and Tamangs follow Buddhism. Other groups such as Rai , Limbu and Ghalley are predominantly following kirath dharma. Some of the cash crops grown in southern Bhutan are Cardamom, Oranges, and Areca nut.
Tshanglas: The Tshanglas or the Sharchops as they are commonly known are considered the aboriginal inhabitants of eastern Bhutan. Tshanglas are according to historians, the descendants of Lord Brahma and speak “Tshanglakha”. They are common inhabitants of Mongar, Trashigang, Trashiyangtse, Pema Gasthel and Samdrup Jongkhar. Besides the cultivation of maize, rice, wheat, barley and vegetables, the Tshanglas also rear domestic animals to supplement their living. Weaving is a popular occupation among their women and they produce beautiful fabrics mainly of silk and raw silk.
They belong to the most populous part of the country and are of Indo-Mongoloid origin. They are believed to have migrated from the nearby areas of India such as Arunachal Pradesh and Myanmar. They are Buddhist by religion and have a unique dialect called as “ sharchop” and is the most spoken language in the country next to Dzongkha.
The Bumthaps, Mangdeps and Khengpas: The people who speak Bumtapkha, Mangdepkha and khengkha respectively inhabit the central areas of Bhutan. The Bumthaps cultivate buck wheat, potatoes and vegetables. A section of this population also rear yaks and sheep and produce fabrics of wool and yak hair. The Mangdeps depend on the cultivation of rice, wheat, maize, vegetables, etc besides rearing domestic animals. The khengpas are also dependent on agriculture much like the Mangdeps, however, they are also known for the bamboo and cane craft.
Kurtoeps: Kurtoeps inhabit the eastern part of the country. Specifically, the district of Lhuentse and the villages are found spread along the banks of Kurichu. Khoma women are expert weavers and are known for their skill in weaving the grandiose Kushithara.
The Brokpas and the Bramis: The Brokpas and the Bramis are a semi-nomadic community. They are settled in the two villages of Merak and Sakteng in eastern Bhutan. They mostly depend on yaks and sheep for their livelihood and do not typically grow crops due to the high altitude zones they inhabit. They speak a different dialect and have their own unique dress that is made of yak hair and sheep wool. They are also experts in cane and bamboo crafts. The Layaps: To the extreme north are the Layaps who speak “layapkha”. Like the Brokpas, they are semi-nomadic and their livelihood is dependent upon yaks and sheep. They use the products of their herd animals to barter rice, salt and other consumables with the people of WangduePhodrang and Punakha.
The Doyas: A tribal community that has settled mostly in southern Bhutan. They are considered the aboriginal inhabitants of western and central Bhutan, who over the years migrated to and settled in the present areas in Dorokha. They have their own unique dialect and style of dress.
Monpas: The Monpas are a small community in Rukha under WangduePhodrang. Together with the Doyas they are also considered the original settlers of central Bhutan. They have their own unique dialect but it is unfortunately slowly dying out as they are now being absorbed into the mainstream Bhutanese society.
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