Customs and traditions
In the predominantly Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan, great importance is attached to cultural heritage and traditions. The country has long been very isolated and although it has opened up to the outside world in recent decades, conscious efforts are being made from an official point of view to preserve its own cultural identity.
The preservation of traditions and the reverence for nature creates a kind of old-world charm that easily fascinates the foreigners who visit the country. One downside is that the Buddhist heritage and traditions are not shared by the large group of Southern Bhutanese, Lhotshampa, who are mainly Hindus and originate in Nepal. It has paved the way for ethnic contradictions (see Population and Languages).
- Countryaah: Overview of the capital city of Bhutan, including information about its population, economy, geography, history and map.
According to Abbreviationfinder, the term “gross national happiness” is used to reflect the pursuit of a harmonious and prosperous society based on Buddhist values. These values are expressed, among other things, in orders for how buildings should look and how people should dress.
The state’s order for clothing is called driglam namzha and also regulates how one should behave in a variety of public contexts. These include how to hand over and receive gifts, how to address a parent, how to serve and eat food, and so on. The state urges people to dress “traditionally” in public and at festivals.
The man should dress in a gho that reaches the ground but is held up to his knee length with a sharpening so that a large pocket is formed on his stomach. For that he has knee socks. The woman wears a kira, a foot-side dress that consists of a square piece of fabric that is wrapped around the body and fastened with brooches at the shoulders. During this, she has a long-sleeved blouse and on top of a short, open jacket. Social status is marked by shawls and jewelry.
Visiting foreigners should think about using relatively well-worn clothing. Long trousers or skirts and long-sleeved tops are recommended when visiting dzones (fortified monastery facilities) or temples. Everyone must also take off their shoes. One should not enter a dzong without explicit permission.
Whoever hands over or receives anything uses the right hand or both hands. To point, one uses the entire hand with the palm up, not one finger. It is considered offensive to point to someone with their feet, and to sit with crossed legs. Around buildings with religious shrines and prayer wheels you always go clockwise.
The polite offered food first covers the mouth and refuses. Only after one or two jolts are you thanked yes.
Rice and chili have a prominent role in Bhutanese cuisine. Chili is considered a vegetable rather than a spice. Strong green chili in cheese sauce, ema datse, is something of a national dish and eaten at any time of the day. Vegetables such as spinach, cabbage and onions are also often cooked with a piece of cheese. The Bhutanese also eat a lot of meat, from pork, beef, chicken, goat, sheep and yak.
Red rice, a native variety, is basic food for many. At high altitudes where rice does not grow, buckwheat and corn are common. Rice or other crop is also used to make macaw or raksi, a brandy that is often served warm with eggs in. It is used in both religious and social contexts. Alcohol consumption is high in Bhutan and is increasingly seen as a serious social problem. Another popular drink is suja, a salt tea with butter in it.
Traditions and holidays
A long line of holidays are celebrated in Bhutan. The winter solstice is noticed around our New Year, while the lunar calendar New Year is celebrated in February-March. Royal birth and coronation days are holidays. National Day, December 17 is celebrated in memory of the First King’s throne entry in 1907.
According to Countryaah, many religious holidays are also observed. Among the more important is tshechu, when celebrating guru Rinpoche, one of the forefront of Tibetan Buddhism. A central feature is the dances and performances that monks and laymen perform wearing masks. They teach Buddhist doctrine and give the spectators protection against accidents and evil. Participating in tshechu is considered to bring happiness, and also plays an important social function for many who live in remote villages. The holiday lasts for several days and falls at different times as determined by the Bhutanese lunar calendar. It is also celebrated at different times in different districts. A number of other Buddhist celebrations are celebrated similarly, while Hindus in the south have their feasts.