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Culture of Bhutan




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Bhutan's culture is rich and unique. The country briefs culture in every corner, doing so since ancient times. Coloured frescos adorn most homes and religious building with creatures, flowers, abstract patterns and fertility symbols. The sturdy male member is believed to protect the occupants of the house from harm, as it has happened for the saint Lama Drukpa Kunley and his unusual form of wisdom. Bhutanese traditional culture has been influenced by a strong Buddhist heritage, and everyone visiting the country will experience the charm and magic of one of the world’s most enigmatic countries. No wonder why Bhutan has been named the ‘last Shangri La’.

Prayer flags in Bhutan flutter high above the valley, any of them is filled with a feeling of eternity. They symbolise the reality and pervasiveness of people belief, hoisted to share and auspice happiness, long life, prosperity, luck and merit. There is much to say about prayer flags, as curious and enigmatic as they are in a world of significance. The prayer flags hang in the open air, moved by the wind of life, “When the wind blows, it carries the prayers on the flags blessing to all beings”. You will notice them everywhere and while heading to the local monastery.

Monasteries in Bhutan are characterized by long worshiper lines offering in a ceremony, like the one in Pangri Zampa, organized to bless Bhutan for the year ahead. It will be one of the best occasion to see the Bhutan's national dress, unique garments evolved over long time and introduced around the 17th century. Just to know, in the 1980s Bhutan began to implement a series of laws and the national dress in public became enforceable by law (above all for Bhutanese government employees). Men have the gho, a knee-length robe somewhat resembling a kimono and tied at the waist by a cloth belt (kera). Women wear the kira, an ankle-length dress clipped at the shoulders with two identical broaches (koma) and tied at the waist. An accompaniment to the kira is a long-sleeved blouse (wonju) worn underneath the kira; the dress is accompanied by a light outer jacket known as a Tego. Rachu (for women) and kabney (for men) are the coloured scarves, an important indicators of social status.

Architecture, music and sport are all aspect of the same cultural background, mostly influenced by religion. Bhutanese architecture remains mainly distinctive in tradition and practicality, using no nails or iron bars in construction. The most characteristic type of ancient structures is the the 'dzong', a castle like fortress for religious and secular administration. Dzong architecture reached its height in the 17th century with the lama Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the great leader and the first to unite Bhutan into a single country. Trongsa Dzong is to be considered the finest example of Bhutanese traditional architecture. Overall, throughout its history, Bhutan has mainly followed the Tibetan tradition of Buddhist architecture.

The music of Bhutan is divided into traditional and modern, with Zhungdra (an entirely endemic Bhutanese style) and Bödra (evolved out of Tibetan court music), the two main styles of traditional Bhutanese folk music. The modern Rigsar is played as popular modern music, dates back to the late 1960s and originally has been played on a dranyen (a kind of folk guitar). Modern rigsar often use electronic approximations of drums and guitars. There are thirteen traditional arts and crafts that have been practiced from time immemorial in to Bhutan, we will talk about them in a more detailed separated section. Living in Bhutanese society generally means understanding the Driglam Namzha, the traditional code of etiquette, a code of conduct for a respectful society. We also have a Bhutanese literature dedicated section, that broadly classified the literature in Dharma histories and religious literature (Chhoejung), Religious biographies (Namthar), Historical chronicles or genealogies (Gyalrab), Records of history of chronicles (Logyu), Treasure texts (Terma), Epics (Srung), Folk songs (Glu), Religious poetry (Nyam gyur), and others.

Bhutan's national sport is archery, and competitions are held regularly in most villages. A highly sociable sport, where women assume often the role of 'cheerleader' like and attempts to distract an opponent include standing around the target and making fun of the shooter's ability. Traditional sport of Bhutan also include the Digor, similar to shot put and horseshoe throwing. Also Cricket has gained popularity in Bhutan.