Bhutan has a rich culture, the result of self-imposed isolation from the rest of the world until five decades ago. Even today the government strongly emphasizes promotion and preservation of its unique culture which is reflected through its magnificent architecture, dress, traditional ceremonies, everyday life of the Bhutanese people, and traditional beliefs. Bhutan follows Driglam Namzha to preserve its tradition and culture. It is a set of etiquette as what to wear, how to eat, talk, bow down and so on. It was introduced and implemented since the 90’s. Looking at the ancient infrastructure, textiles, farming traditions and way of living and the performing of cultural and spiritual rituals and ceremonies, we can say that Bhutan boasts of a singularly unique identity.
Dzongkha, meaning the language of the fort, is the national language of Bhutan. Dzongkha, widely spoken in the western region became the state language in 1971. Bhutan is a multilingual society. There are 19 different languages and dialects spoken throughout the country. Besides Dzongkha there are three other dominant languages – Tshanglakha also known as Sharchokpa, spoken in eastern Bhutan, Lhotshamkha also known as Nepali, spoken in the southern region and Bumthangkha, spoken in central Bhutan. English is widely spoken as it is the medium of instruction in schools. Hindi, the Indian language is also widely spoken and understood by most Bhutanese because of the Bollywood (Indian cinema) influence.
Small though it is, Bhutan has a rich and diverse culture. The country’s difficult topography succeeded in keeping each ethnic group separate and vibrant. The majority of the Bhutanese are divided into three main ethnic groups: the Sharchops, people from the east, the Ngalops, people from the west and the Lhotshampas, people from the south. Tshanglas, the inhabitants of Trashigang, Mongar, Pemagatshel, and Samdrup Jongkhar are considered Bhutan’s earliest residents and their origins can be traced to the Tibeto-Burmese race. The Ngalops of western Bhutan are the later settlers who migrated from Tibet bringing with them Vajrayana Buddhism as it is still practiced today. Lhotshampas migrated into Bhutan from the south and settled in the southern plains in search of agricultural land and work in the early 20th century. Bumthaps and Khengpas of Central Bhutan, Kurtoeps of Lhuentse, Brokpas and Bramis of eastern Bhutan, Doyas of Samtse and Monpas of Trongsa and Wangdue constitute other minority groups.
Weather and Climate
Bhutan has four seasons and the climate varies depending on the altitude.
March to May is spring when the weather is pleasant and the flowering trees blossom. June to August is summer, also referred to as the monsoon season because there is plenty of rain. September to November is Autumn and December to February is winter.
Thimphu is located 2,200 meters above sea level and the temperature ranges from 15 to 26 degree Celsius in summer and -4 to 16 degree Celsius in winter.
Central Bhutan usually experiences cooler temperature in the summer and is colder in winter.
The climate in southern Bhutan is hot and humid ranging from 15 to 40 degree Celsius throughout the year.
Rain varies in different parts of the country and in different seasons and years. Similarly, while central Bhutan usually enjoys snowfall every year, in the western region it is unpredictable.
Plants and Animals
With 72 percent of Bhutan under forest cover Bhutan has a rich variety of plants and animals. Bhutan has three different zones: the alpine zone (4000m and above) above the tree line, temperate zone (2000 to 4000m) and subtropical zone (150m to 2000m).
Almost 60 percent of plant varieties found in the eastern Himalayan region is endemic to Bhutan. Bhutan has 5,400 varieties of plants which include 300 varieties of medicinal plants, and 46 varieties of rhododendrons.
Bhutan has 90 mammal species and some 770 species of birds. This includes some rare and endangered animals and birds.
The snow leopard, blue sheep, red panda, tiger, takin, marmot, musk deer are some of the species found in the high altitudes.
Birds like the black-necked cranes, white bellied heron, horn-bills and pheasants are some of the birds found in Bhutan.