Culture is strongly integrated into the lives of Bhutanese people and is directly associated with religion. Culture in Bhutan is displayed in attire, architectures, daily rituals, languages and as simple as behavior among each other.
Culture is Bhutan is not only a tradition but a matter of habit. Almost 70% of the Bhutanese follow Buddhism and rest of the population practices Hinduism. Culture in Bhutan is celebrated and displayed throughout the year, most excessively in festivals and auspicious days in the Buddhist calendar. Everyday lifestyles of the Bhutanese display their culture and traditions. Eating habits such as chewing of Doma (betel nut), constructing traditional houses with unique architectural designs and playing traditional games such as “archery”, “khuru” and “degor” are all part of the culture.
The National banner of Bhutan is slantingly divided in two, yellow upper half and an orange lower half, with the white thunder dragon in the center holding gems in its paws. Upper half yellow signifies the secular part of the government and the King and lower half orange the spiritual part of religion. White Dragon is the symbolic figure of the country which represents purity and wealth.
The formal dress of the kingdom is the national dress “go” for men and “Kira” for women. People still wear traditional dresses in the offices and schools. Best range of dresses could be seen during festivals worth more than thousand dollars. The Long outfit which is pulled up to the knees and tied around the waist is called ‘Gho’ for men and boys, and ankle length dress down from neck similar to Kimono is called ‘Kira’ for women and girls. One needs to wear the gho and kira in all official occasion as well as formal gatherings. Except for the police and the army, all citizens of the country should abide by the policy of dress code. Additional to the dress, there are two types of scarf like piece of clothes worn along with the official dress known as “ kabney” for men and “rachu” for women. Colors define the rankings of the officials. The yellow color is reserved for royalty, and all other laymen are supposed to wear white for men and red for women.
Festivals (Tsechus) are great events in the country where people get socialized from all around the country. This is time for one to experience Bhutan’s living culture such as the mask and folk dances which would be performed by the monks and other laymen. The festival would be held every year in every district in Dzongs (fortresses) and temples varying the dates and months from one another. It normally is the day tenth of a month in the astral calendar.
Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal is still regarded as the founder of the nation in the 17th century, unification of the country was achieved only in the early 20th century after many internal strives and turmoil. Bhutan was then ruled by local leaders called “penlops”. Bhutan's unique cultural and traditional values serve as a powerful tool for distinguishing its people from rest of the world. The identity of the nation is carried by each individual in their minds and also in their practice. For a small country located between two most populated countries of the world, India, and China, the preservation and promotion of its distinct cultural identity are seen as an important means for its survival as an independent and sovereign Kingdom. It was this identity that has protected and sustained Bhutan and also provided the foundation for its major policies. Having always been politically independent, a rich and distinctive culture has developed in the country over the ages which make every Bhutanese stand out in the crowd.
In the Buddhist perspective, culture, tradition and beliefs and the environment are dynamic phenomena that are interwoven tightly in the web of life. As a Buddhist philosopher say, “Culture lies not in objects or monuments but in the mind and compassion towards all sentient beings”.
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