Dear Sithar and Bhim,
Greetings from England
It was very good to meet you both the other day and we thank you for the kind gift of the book on Bhutan, it has pride of place on our coffee table in our lounge and has already been admired by family and friends.
We would also like to thank you very much for the excellent arrangements that made our tour so very memorable. It is the first time we have arranged this type of holiday directly with a tour operator in the country we are visiting, however you not only made it very easy, the communication was always clear, concise and timely. This gave us great confidence and we loved the flexibility in putting the itinerary together.
I know originally we were going to fly back from Bumthang to Paro but flights were not available because of the festival. We are really glad this was the case in the end as it gave us more time to spend with Lal and Dawa and it would have been an anticlimax to part in Bumthang.
Both Lal and Dawa are a credit to Yak holidays, they made the trip very special and even the long drives were filled with laughter and didn’t seem long at all. We have made 2 friends there and are keeping in touch.
Dowa’s driving was very safe and comfortable and at the same time we made good progress. We very much appreciate Lal’s guiding skills and know we got to do and see more than many other tourists.
We were treated as friends, not just guests, at every hotel both Lal and Dawa ensured we had the best possible room and ensured we were settled in before they left us. Lal briefed us both each evening and first thing the following morning ensuring we were happy and to discuss anything we wanted to see or buy during the trip.
We appreciate the hard work by all at Yak holidays, many thanks from us both.
Martin and Dee
GROSS NATIONAL HAPPINESS: Bhutan abounds in monasteries, prayer flags and scenic beauty. And the outside world wasn’t aware of this until five decades ago. It was only in the 60s that Bhutan opened its doors to the outside world after centuries of isolation.
Ever since, it has gained an almost mythical status as a real-life Shangri La and generated a lot of curiosity around the world largely for its developmental philosophy of Gross National Happiness (GNH).
Bhutan is the only country that has rejected GDP as the one and only way to measure progress. In place of it, it has championed a new approach to development that is guided by the philosophy of GNH. Envisioned by His Majesty King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the developmental philosophy simply strives to balance material growth with mental and spiritual enrichment within a stable environment.
In short, GNH suggests that happiness is the ultimate objective of development. And because it recognizes that there are many dimensions to development other than those associated with GDP, development needs to be understood as a process that seeks to maximize happiness rather than just economic growth.
To explain it in a nutshell, GNH focuses on four pillars, namely: Sustainable and equitable economic development, Conservation of the environment, Preservation and promotion of culture and, Good governance. This very essence is based on the principle that true development takes place only when material, emotional and spiritual well-being occur side by side to complement and support each other to promote development, environmental sustainability, cultural integrity, and good governance.
Conventional approaches to development tend to focus only on the means, in the belief that an increase in GDP will automatically result in the attainment of happiness. However, this may not be the case. As we have witnessed, such approaches have not been able to avoid the unintended consequences of irreversible damage to the environment and to cultures. Not only are countries continuously destroying the ecosystem services that form earth’s life support system, they are pursuing material gains and economic growth at the cost of human security.
Therefore, for a holistic growth of the individual and society, the Bhutanese believe it is essential that development achieves a sustainable balance between the economy, and the social, emotional, spiritual and cultural needs of the people. This has led to the objective of viewing development as a continuous process towards achieving a balance between the material and intangible needs of individuals and society.
In a world beset by collapsing financial systems, gross inequality and wide-scale environmental destruction, Bhutan’s developmental approach is attracting a lot of interest. In 2010, the United Nations adopted Bhutan’s call for a holistic approach to development – a move endorsed by almost 70 countries, and included happiness as the Ninth Millennium Development goal. A UN panel was also formed to consider replicating Bhutan’s GNH model across the globe.
Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan, sprawls along a valley at an altitude of 2,300 meters. In 1961, Thimphu replaced Punakha as the capital. It is estimated that about 100,000 people reside in Thimphu making it is the most populated Dzongkhag in the country. Thimphu is a mixture of residents from all over the country as Thimphu is the center of government, religion and commerce.
The city is unique. After Pyongyang, North Korea, Thimphu is the only other national capital in the world with no traffic lights. Small and secluded, the city is quiet and the traffic jams are hardly a thing of concern. There is so much to see in Thimphu that you can spend several days here. The proximity of many of the sights makes it possible and easier to travel in the town on foot and provide you with the chance of observing the culture and the Bhutanese way of life. Unlike many modern cities, Thimphu has kept a strong national character in its architectural style.
This chorten was built in 1974 in the memory of the Third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk. The paintings and Images inside the monument provide a very rare insight into Buddhist philosophy. The National Memorial Chorten is situated near the Jigme Dorji Wangchuk National Referral Hospital, next to the Jangchhub Lam. It is a good place to visit in the evenings when the chorten is crowded with people doing koras (rounds) of the Chorten for their religious beliefs, while some come for the healthy brisk walk.
The Tashichhodzong is the largest dzong in Bhutan and is situated near the Wang Chu River. The Dzong which was initially built in the 17th century by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, was rebuilt in early 1960s by the third King, Druk Gyalpo Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, as the permanent capital of Bhutan. It houses the secretariat and the throne room of the King of Bhutan. It is also the headquarters of the clergy in the capital along with being the summer quarters of the monk body and the Je Khenpo, the spiritual leader and head of the monk body. The dzong is open to visitors during the Thimphu tshechu.
The foundation of the dzong was laid in 1629 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, and was built by Tango Chhoje Mipham Tshweang Tenzin. It was completed in 1631, making it the first dzong ever built in Bhutan. It was rebuilt in 2008, with great emphasis on retaining the original architectural structure intact. At present, it is used as the Royal Institute of Dzongkha Language where Buddhist studies are conducted.
It nestles on a lofty ridge about six kilometers south of Thimphu.
The National Library
Built in the 1960s, the library is located in Chubachu above the golf course and was established to preserve the literary treasures of the Kingdom. The library has a vast collection that includes thousands of manuscripts and ancient texts of Bhutan along with other foreign books. The largest book in the world about Bhutan is also on display.
Bhutan was once known as Lho jong men jong, literally the ‘’southern country of medicinal herbs’’, as Bhutan has an abundance of medicinal herbs. In an attempt to preserve the rich culture and tradition and for the welfare of the people, an indigenous dispensary was opened on 28 June, 1968 at Dechencholing. In 1979 it was upgraded as the National Indigenous Hospital and was shifted to Kawajangsa. In 1988 it was renamed as the National Institute of Traditional Medicine. In 1998, it was upgraded as the Institute of Traditional Medicine Services. In the institute patients are treated using the various traditional medicines and age old methods. The Institute also imparts the art of herbal medicines to students.
Zorig Chusum, School of 13 Traditional Arts
The school was established in 1971 to preserve the 13 traditional arts of Bhutan. The Zorig Chusum which literally means the 13 arts, includes paintings, carpentry, wood carving, sculpture, casting, metal work, bamboo carving, gold and silver work, weaving, embroidery, masonry, leather work and paper making. However, at the school only seven of the 13 are undertaken. It is located above the National Library and is open to visitors interested in observing Bhutanese traditional art. There is also a small gift shop selling the art work of the students.
The Centenary Farmer’s Market
Thimphu’s weekend market is the biggest market in the country, operating from Friday afternoon till Sunday. A wide range of agricultural produce and other food products from Thimphu and other parts of the country are brought here for trading. A variety of local arts and crafts are also sold at the market. Prices are inflated on Fridays as the vegetables are fresh and as Sunday approaches the prices usually come down. Chilies are the most common of the vegetables sold and one can witness the wide range of in the market.
The Textile and Folk Heritage Museum
Both the museums, opened in 2001, are dedicated to the traditions and lifestyle of Bhutanese. While the Textile Museum beautifully displays the Bhutanese garments from the 1600s up to the present, the Folk Heritage Museum delves into portraying the daily life of the rural folk and allows you to examine a traditional Bhutanese home.
Zangtopelri temple is located next to the Changlimithang Stadium. It is thought of as one of the sacred passes to heaven according to the sacred books of Guru Rinpoche. Renovated in 1960s, the temple possesses some impressive murals and art treasures. The site was a former battleground in 1885 that was crucial in proving the political supremacy of Sir Ugyen Wangchuck, the first hereditary king of Bhutan. Therefore, the temple was built to appease all kinds of evil.
This unique animal, with an appearance between a cow and a goat, is the national animal of Bhutan. There are a number of Takins in the zoo which is located in a serene, natural environment in Upper Motithang. The walking pavement all around the area offers a tranquil leisurely walk. Legend has it that the animal was created by the great Buddhist yogi, Drukpa Kinley.
Constructed in the 15th century, the lhakhang is considered as one of the oldest temples in Thimphu. Only a few minutes of walk up from the road, it offers a magnificent view of the city below. The main chamber of the monastery houses the graven image of Avalokiteshvara, the Buddha of Compassion.
Tango Goemba, founded by the grandson of the Divine Madman, Drukpa Kinley, is one of Bhutan’s historical monasteries in the Kagyu tradition. It is a 40-minute drive from Thimphu towards Begana, then a one hour hike up the hill. It houses some important relics related to the Kagyu tradition. The visitor can also enjoy spectacular views from the monastery.
Cheri Goemba is said to be the first Drukpa Kagyu Monastery in Bhutan. A steep climb of about 40 minutes, the monastery is located on the hill opposite Tango monastery. It is also the place where Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal is said have gained enlightenment.
The Botanical Garden is located in Serbithang, about a 10 km drive south of the city. The lush garden covers the hillside offering a peaceful and relaxing environment. It is a paradise for plant enthusiasts as there are wide varieties of indigenous trees, flowers and herbs. The garden also serves as a terrific picnic spot.
Coronation Park is located below the Changlimithang stadium on the bank of Thimphu River. With the area covering over five acres, the park offers a quiet and relaxing environment. Visitors can either stroll through the park or sit and watch the river flow. One section of the park is devoted as a fun area for kids.
There are several handicraft shops in Thimphu offering various selections of hand-woven and crafted products. Visitors will find beautiful weaves in wool, silk, cotton and basketwork. Thangkas and other traditional crafts are also available, including Bhutanese antiques and various souvenirs. There are also special selection of books on Buddhism and modern English writings by Bhutanese authors.
Founded in the 13th century by Phajo Drugom Zhigpo, a yogi from Tibet, this monastic complex is about a four hour hike from Motithang or the BBS Tower. The area is famous for its sacred spring water. There are also several sacred lakes, which is a full day’s circular hike. Located at a height of over 3,600 meters, the view of the Thimphu city is spectacular. There are also beautiful locations ideal for camping.
Also called Drubthob goemba, is one of the few nunneries in Bhutan. Located in Zilukha on a high hill above Tashichhodzong, it houses over 70 nuns. The name Drubthob is of Thangthong Gyalpo, popularly known for building iron bridges during the 15th century. One of his later reincarnations founded the nunnery.
Thimphu Golf Course
Stretching about 2,800 yards, a par 33 golf course is deemed very challenging by golf enthusiasts. The course is well set up with many obstacles like trees, uneven grass and man-made water pools. Along with the game, players can also enjoy beautiful views of the surrounding valleys with Tashichhodzong right beside the course. There is a clean and homely restaurant where visitors can take a break and also savor some varied local dishes.
Dochu-la is the first mountain pass in the western part of Bhutan under Thimphu District. The ridges are clad with thousands of colorful prayer flags further levitated by the 108 Druk Wangyal chortens, providing a spectacular view. On the hill top stands the Druk Wangyal Lhakhang overseeing the whole pass. On a clear day, the panoramic views of the Himalayan mountain range are simply breathtaking.
The great Nyingmapa scholar, Padmasambhava (the oldest of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism) visited Tibet and Bhutan in the 8th and 9th century. He used to convert opponents of Buddhism by performing rites, reciting mantras and finally performing a dance of subjugation to conquer local spirits and gods. He visited Bhutan to aid the dying king Sindhu Raja. Padmasambhava performed a series of such dances in the Bumthang valley to restore the king’s health – and the grateful king then helped spread Buddhism in Bhutan. Padmasambhava organized the first tsechu in Bumthang, where the eight manifestations of Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava being the human form) were presented through eight forms of dances. These became the Chams (dances) depicting the glory of Padmasambhava. The Chams were composed mainly to convey religious messages to the people.
Some were composed by Guru Rimpoche while others were created by Tertoen Pema Lingpa, Zhabdrung Rimpoche and other great saints. During the mask dances, the deities of the tantric teachings are invoked and through their power and blessings, misfortunes are removed. All evil spirits and demons that are preventing the spread of Chhoe “The Doctrine” are suppressed, so that the doctrine of Lord Buddha can flourish and bring joy and happiness to all sentient beings.
Below is a list of Tshechus that take place in Bhutan.
THIMPHU DRUBCHEN AND TSHECHU
The eleven-day annual Lhamoi Drupchen, a rite performed to appease the protecting deity Pelden Lhamo (Mahakali), is held from September 12 to 16. Pelden Lhamo (whose name translates as “Glorious Goddess”) is the only female dharma protector common to all four schools of Buddhism and one of the three main protecting deities of Bhutan.
The clergy performs a three-day rite for the Thimphu Domchoe while the Lham Tsomo dance, a highlight of the Thimphu Domchoe festival, is performed in the large courtyard at the Tashichhodzong.
The Drupchen was instituted sometime between 1705 and 1709 by Kuenga Gyaltshen, the first reincarnation of Jampel Dorji, the son of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. According to legend, Pelden Lhamo appeared before him and performed the dances while he was in meditation. Based on these dances, Kuenga Gyeltshen initiated the Drupchhen.
According to the tradition of Lama Gongdue the annual Thimphu Tshechu was introduced in 1670 on the eighth month of the Bhutanese calendar during the reign of the fourth Desi, Tenzin Rabgye (1638-1696). The annual Thimphu Tshechu will take place over four day’s form September 17 to 19, to commemorate the anniversary of Guru Rinpoche. From the time of Gyalsey Tenzin Rabgye, based on various relevant biographies and autobiographies of saints and rulers of the past, compassionate mask dances in the form of peaceful and wrathful figures of most Ter-chams (sacred dances) have been composed and are presented for the well-being of those who attend the occasion.
Paro Tsechu is the most popular in Bhutan with its unique unfurling of the world’s biggest Thangka or Thongdrel ceremony. The pageantry is a unique experience and quite unlike anything you have ever seen before
The festival commemorates the deeds of the great saint Guru Rimpoche which are performed in the form of masked dances. The local people attend the festival to gain merit. It is also a festive time and people come dressed-up in their finest colourful costumes to socialize and make merry. This is not an event organized for tourists; it is an event that has been happening for centuries. “You may get the attention of the Atchara (clown), but people won’t stare at you like elsewhere.’’
Events inside Paro Rinpung Dzong commence with monks performing Shingje Yab Yum, the dance of the Lord of Death (Shingje) and his consort.
This is followed by Durdag, the dance of the lords of the cremation grounds; then Shanag, dance of the black hats, Drametse Ngacham, the dance of the drum from Drametse, De Gye Mang cham, the dance of the eight kinds of spirits, and finally Chhoeshey, a religious song.
Intermingled within these sacred dances, are also Zhungdra and Boedra dances performed by the Dzongkhag’s dancers.
PUNAKHA DRUBCHEN AND TSHECHU
The Punakha Drubchen is an annual festival introduced by Zhabdrung to commemorate the victories over the Tibetans. During the festival, the ‘Pazaps’ or local militia men, dress in battle gear and showcase a battle scene of this distant past recalling the days, when in the absence of a standing army, men from the eight Tshogchens -or great village blocks of Thimpu – came forward and managed to expel the Tibetan forces out of Bhutan ushering in a new-found internal peace and stability.
As for the Punakha Tshechu, it was started by the 70th Je Khenpo Trulku Jigme Choedra and the then Home Minister His Excellency Lyonpo Jigme Yoedzer Thinley in 2005, on the request made by Punakha District Administration and people for upholding the Buddhist teachings and keeping alive the noble deeds of Zhabdrung Rimpoche.
The Dromche (festival) generally include dances and this festival is dedicated to Yeshe Gompo (Mahakala) or Palden Lhamo, the two main protective deities of Drukpas (Drukpas = means people of Druk land or Bhutanese). The Punakha Dromche takes place in the first month of the lunar year and ends with the ‘Serda’, a magnificent procession which re-enacts an episode of the war against the Tibetans in the 17th century.
The religious dances performed during festival are called ‘Cham’ and there are a large number of them. Dancers wear spectacular costumes made of yellow silk or rich brocade, often decorated with ornaments of carved bone. For certain dances, they wear masks which may represent animals, fearsome deities, skulls or just simple human beings. These dances can be grouped in three categories; (I) Instructive or Didactic Dances, (II) Dances that purify and protect a place from demonic spirits, and (III) Dances that proclaim the victory of Buddhism.
The Thongdroel unveiled during this festival is of enormous significance. Measuring 83ft x 93 ft, the Punakha Thongdrol (a painted religious scroll) is the largest ever made. Composed entirely of appliqué on more than 6,000 meters of silk brocade, it took 51 artists, two years to complete. Depicting 20 of the greatest gurus and sages around the central figure of Shabdrung, the top half of the Thongdroel is devoted to the 11 manifestations of Shabdrung’s lineage. The bottom half depicts Bhutan’s spiritual leaders including the current Je Khenpo (chief abbot).
Dance and music play a very important part in the cultural life of Bhutanese people. Each village and community has a rich tradition of dance that marks the passing seasons, communal occasions and shared experiences. The Trashigang Tsechu is performed in the winter months. Many people gather at the Trashigang dzong to witness the Tsechu. People from Marak and Sakten with their unique costumes can also be seen during the Trashigang Tsechu. Many tourists also visit this festival and it is an excellent time to mingle with the people from eastern Bhutan.
Another remarkable tshechu in Tashigang is the Kholong tshechu, which begins in Yonphu, Kanglung gewog, on November 23. This tshechu draws plenty of attention not because it is one of the oldest in the east, but because of its name. Kholong, a literal translation from Sharchopkha, means a ‘fight’. So a precise interpretation would be the “fighting tshechu”.
As such it is not surprising to find people wondering if there are going to be fight competitions during the tshechu
Bumthang – Jambay Lhakhang Drup
The festival is held for duel reasons; to commemorate the establishment of the Jambay Lhakhang (temple) in 7th century and to honor Guru Rimpoche, a saint who introduced a Tantric form of Buddhism in Bhutan. A variety of traditional and mask dances are performed and each dance has a specific meaning and importance.
This festival is one of the most important in Bhutan and the highlight is the ‘Mewang” – the fire ceremony and the “Tercham” – a religious dance. A fire dance is held in the evening to bless infertile women so that they may bear children. The festival dances were composed mostly by Terton Pema Lingpa, the great treasure discoverer of the 15th century.
The first evening’s program begins around 7pm, with the “Jinsi” the burning of the sacred fire, Shana Cham with Ging Cham, Tseking Karna, Tshok Cham and Mewang (the sacred fire ceremony).
Day two of the festival begins around 9.30am with a “chipdrel” traditional reception. The Astara (clown) welcomes the audience and the marchang ceremony. Shinji Yab Yum is the first mask dance of the ceremony followed by Youelem Peling Ging Sum – Driging, Juging, Ngaging Durda Cham and then takes break for lunch around 1pm. After lunch the dances resume and Jachung ends the day with the Boechung dance Pacham.
The third day of the festival begins with the Atsara (clown) dance Dola Pangtoy, Shazam, Shana Phurcham with Durda and Shana Ngacham. After lunch the festival resumes beginning with the Ging and Tsholing Cham (the dance of the sacred war between the Gods and the Demons), Tsecho Gingcham (Tercham), Damitse Ngacham (the famous drum beat dance originating from Dramitse) and Pholey Moley Cham.
The final day begins with the Chungtsam Cham, Gicham, Dorling Ngacham (Tercham of Terchen Dorjilingpa), Raksha Gocham, Raksha Mangcham (this dance symbolizes life after death, at the court of the Lord of the Dead), and ends the festival of Jambay Lhakhang with the Ten Wang (Blessings from the sacred statue of Terton Dorjilingpa) .
The Domkhar Festival in Chumey valley in Bumthang district was established by lam Kuenkhen Longchen Rabjam in the 16th Century. Longchen Rabjam (1308-63), a pre-eminent the scholar of Dranang, Tibet was revered as the great redactor and dexographer of Nyingma teaching. He promoted the special teaching of Dzongpo Chenpo (great perfection). Towards the end of his life, he founded eight monasteries throughout the country. The festival is observed every year from April 23-25 at Domkhar village temple.
The festival is held inside the Jakar dzong. It is a relatively new festival organized by the Jakar monastic body and lasts for five days from October 15-18, during the nine month of Bhutanese lunar calendar.
Tangsibi is a village near Ura valley in the Bumthang district. The festival is held in the small village temple starting from September 22- 24.
First of all, it is important to know what sets Bhutan apart as a tourist destination. Many people, including those working in the tourism industry think that it is the untouched natural scenery and our culture that sets Bhutan apart from other tourist destinations. They are only partially right. There are many places on earth which surpass Bhutan by far in terms of natural beauty. And culture, every country and region has one. What really sets Bhutan apart from other countries is the atmosphere of peace and tranquility heightened by the Bhutanese people’s warmth and their general sense of being at ease with themselves.
Sogyal Rinpoche described that when he was in Bhutan he felt like he used to feel when he was in the presence of his Masters like Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. Although it may be hard to describe it exactly, many visitors express such a feeling. A Lonely Planet travel forum poster wrote, “I recently returned from an absolutely incredible and life changing trip to Bhutan (I don’t use those words lightly)…..Nepal was quite high on my list of destinations, but after Bhutan I am cautious. … I’m a bit afraid that the cultural, spiritual and environmental purity of the people and country combined with my lack of seeing other visitors set the bar a bit too high. Don’t get me wrong, Bhutan is not perfect – but the Shangrila effect was much greater than I anticipated being even possible.” In addition, a Japanese friend who visited Bhutan in 2009 told me one of the things he found different in Bhutan was that no souvenir vendors chased him shouting “ten dollars, ten dollars” in Bhutan.
If we lose this atmosphere peace, tranquility and warmth, Bhutan will lose the competitive edge it enjoys as a high-end tourist destination.
Below are some basic facts about Bhutan for the discerning visitor
The Raven (Corvus Corax Tibetanus) represents one of the most powerful deities of the country, Jarog Dongchen, hence the local name Jarog. Jarog Dongchen, along with Yeshey Gonpo (Mahakala) and Palden Lhamo (Mahakali) form the Divine Trinity and protects the King and the people of Bhutan from harm and safeguards their well-being. Therefore, the Raven holds a significant and permanent place on the Royal Crown, also interpreting reverence for the bird and faith in the protective deity.
The Cypress (Cupressus Torulosa) is known as Tsenden shing to the Bhutanese. An evergreen tree revered as sacred, its branches and needle-shaped leaves are used as incense. Apart from the natural forests, cypress is also found planted outside Dzongs, monasteries and religious surroundings. The wood, being hard, durable and resistant to termites and insects, holds a humble place in Bhutanese sentiment.
Takin (Burdocas Taxicolor) is locally known as the Drong Gyem tse. The Takin was selected as the national animal for its uniqueness and association to the religious myth that surrounds its origin. It is believed that Lam Drukpa Kuenley created it by sticking a goat’s head on to the body of a cow. Takins live in herds at a high altitude of 4,000 meters.
The national flag of Bhutan is divided diagonally with a white Dragon in the center. The upper diagonal section is colored yellow representing temporal power and the secular authority of the Monarchy. The lower section is orange and represents the spiritual power of Drukpa Kagyupa religion. The white color of the Dragon stands for peace. Its snarling mouth symbolizes the protection of the country and the people from worldly evils. The Dragon, clutching the Bhutanese symbol of jewels in its claws, represents the country’s wealth and prosperity.
Blue poppy (Meconopsis Grandis) grows on the rocky terrain above the tree line, which ranges from 3,500 to 4,000 meters. It is locally known as Eugelma Metog Hoem. In times past people considered the Blue poppy to be part of a myth as its existence was not confirmed. It was first discovered in Bhutan by a British botanist, George Sheriff, in 1933 in the remote mountain region in Sakteng.
Archery (or Dha) is a well-loved sport throughout Bhutan. Traditionally, bows and arrows were made of bamboos. The players are always men, and women participate in traditional dancing and singing to encourage (or put off) the archers. The two competing teams, wearing traditional dresses, pursue highest number of hits at the wooden targets that are placed 140 meters apart. If the player makes a hit his team mates rejoice by dancing and singing. The opponents are often critiqued and made fun of. The number of hits is depicted by the number of colored scarves around the players’ waists.
There is an annual Dakpa Kora (circumambulation of the Chorten by the Dakpas) festival held on the 15th of the first lunar month, and a Drukpa Kora (circumambulation of the Chorten by the Bhutanese) festival held at the end of the first lunar month, which celebrates the stupa. These festivals are attended by Dakpa people of the neighboring Tawang District of Arunachal Pradesh in India, and Bhutanese from Tashiyangtse, Tashigang, and Kurtoe.
A popular belief is that when the stupa was constructed, a pious Dakini princess from neighboring Arunachal Pradesh in India entombed herself within, as the Yeshe Semba, to meditate on behalf of all beings. A popular Bhutanese (Dzongkha language) film “Chorten Kora” is based on this legend.
Devotees from Tawang in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh joi their Bhutanese counterparts in the Namgang Kora, one of eastern Bhutan’s oldest religious festivals, which is held annually at the Chorten Kora, Trashiyangtse.
The biggest religious event in the Dzongkhag, the Namgang Kora (circumambulating the Chorten on the last day of the auspicious first month) is preceded by the Tse-Chenga Kora, a similar celebration on the 15th day of the first month of the Bhutanese calendar.
Lam Dorji of Rigsum Goenpa who organizes the festival, said that the tradition of circumambulation began after the present chorten was built by Lam Ngawang Lotey, the nephew of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel. The physical structure of the chorten was copied from the Bodi Chorten in Nepal.
Once a deeply spiritual tradition, the event today has been commercialized and diluted, according to devotees. With hundreds of shops set up in huts and tents, Chorten Kora appears more like a bustling fair than a spiritual venue.
This year one of the main attractions at the festival has been the five video parlors run by diesel generators that screen three to four of films a day. Food and game stalls, cloth show rooms, diverse wares both made locally and imported line the way to the Chorten.
Dzongkha is the national language of Bhutan. The word Dzongkha means the language (Kha) spoken in the Dzong. Dzongs are the fortresses established throughout the kingdom by Zabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in the 17th century.
Although there are over 18 languages in Bhutan that belong to the Tibeto-Burman group and Lhotsamkha (Nepali) – Indo-Aryan group, the lingua franca of Bhutan is Dzongkha which is the native language of Bhutan.
Written Dzongkha follows a script similar to Tibetan and consists of 30 consonants and four vowels. The modern Dzongkha writing uses the alphabet system first introduced by Thonmi Sambhota. He was the son of Anu of the Thonmi clan from central Tibet; Sambhota was a minister of the religious Tibetan King Songtsen Gambo.
After mastering linguistics in India, Sambhota returned to Tibet and introduced the Tibetan alphabet system which comprises 30 consonants and four vowels. The sound system and the structure of the alphabets were based on Devangiri, a script used for many modern and older languages of India, including Sanskrit, Hindi and Nepali. Although the writing system of modern Dzongkha namely Jogyig was brought to Bhutan by Dematsema on the invitation of Sindhu Raja, the origin of the Bhutanese alphabet has to be traced back to Sambhota.
Dzongkha consists of 30 consonants termed as Selje Sumchu. These are used in combination with prefixes, suffixes and post suffixes. The words are formed with characters which are sub-joint and surmounted on the basic letter. Thus a simple word in Dzongkha may look complex with sub-joints, surmounts, prefixes and suffixes.
Written Dzongkha may be similar to Tibetan but spoken Dzongkha is very different. Spoken Dzongkha consists of various articulations and is relatively easy to learn, speak and follow. Dzongkha has limited vocabulary and many modern words are still being introduced and some are still made up by a combination of terms. The separate honorific vocabulary exists for use in respect with the elders, for example the Dzongkha verb ‘to speak’ when used with people with same status is Lap where as when used in reference with elders it would change to Zhu.
Like many other languages of the region, Bhutan too has many dialects depending on the region in which they are spoken. The difference is very minimal and can be understood. As the language is still developing, the vocabulary is limited and influenced by a combination of terms. There is an increasing trend of usage of English with Dzongkha in day to day conversation as the mixing of languages is easy to speak and understand.
Dzongkha is a developing language and the Dzongkha Development Commission is the body which is implementing the language policy and making it more user friendly through many projects like dictionaries and glossary of terms and computer fonts.
Examples of conversational Dzongkha:
Hello: Kuzuzangpo la
Welcome: Joen pa leg so
How are you? Ga day bay zhu yoe ga?
I am fine: Nga leg shom bay rang yoey
Good wishes: Tashi Delek!
Thank you: Kadrinche la
- A brief background:
Bhutan is a small country in the Himalayas with total land area of 38,394 square kilometers.
Though the country is small, Bhutan has world’s most rugged topography that varies from 100 meters in the south to over 7,500 meters above sea levels in the north thereby bestowing Bhutan with outstanding landscapes of natural environment and biodiversity both rich and diverse. Today global community recognizes Bhutan as one of the 10th Global Biodiversity Hotspot.
A few facts about biodiversity of Bhutan as per information provided in National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plan 2014 are specified below:
- Ecosystem diversity:
- Forest Ecosystem: The country is divided into three eco-floristic zones with different forests types:
- Alpine zone (4,000+masl): Alpine meadows and scrubs forests
- Temperate zone 2,000-4000masl): Fir Forests (3,000+masl), Mixed Conifer Forests (2,500 – 3.500masl), Blue pine forests (1,500-3,200masl), broadleaf mixed with conifer forests (2,000-2,500masl).
- Sub-tropical zone ( 150-2,000 masl): Broad leaf forests (1,000-2,000masl), Chir pine forests (700-2,000masl), Tropical lowland forests (<700masl).
- Aquatic Ecosystem: The aquatic ecosystems of Bhutan consist mainly of rivers, lakes, marshlands and hot springs.
- Agricultural Ecosystem: Bhutan has six agro-ecological zones which includes Alpine (3600-4600 masl), Cool Temperate (2600-3600 masl), Warm Temperate (1800-2600 masl), Dry sub-tropical (1200-1800 masl), Humid sub-tropical (600-1200 masl) and Wet sub-tropical (150-600)
- Species diversity:
- Forest Ecosystem: The country is divided into three eco-floristic zones with different forests types:
- Ecosystem diversity:
Some figures on species diversity as recorded in National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plan are:
- Wild flora:
- Vascular plants: over 5600 species of which about 105 species are endemic to Bhutan.
- Pteridophytes: Over 410 species.
- Mushroom: Over 90 species
- Wild Fauna
- Mammals: over 200 species of which 27 species are globally threatened: eg Golden Langur, Snow Leopart, Takin, Bengal Tiger, Black naked crane, red panda etc.
- Avefauna: Over 678 species of which 14 species are globally threatened.
- Invertebrates (Butterlfly: About 140 out of estimated 800-900 species identified
- Fish: over 50 species
- Domesticated flora/Agricultural crops:
There are wide levels of domesticated floral diversity encompassing ecosystem diversity, species diversity and genetic diversity. There are over 100 species that are cultivated in Bhutan which can be further divided into numerous varieties within species that are rich, diverse and unique. Important crops are rice, maize, wheat, buckwheat, barley, millets, legumes, oilseeds, all kinds of vegetables and fruits.
- Domesticated Fauna/Livestock diversity.
- Yak: 2 major categories
- Cattle: Nublang/Siri
- Horse: Yutha, Byotha, Jatha
- Pig: Sapha, Domphaetc
- Poultry: different strains
- Sheep: 3 (Saktenpa, Jakar and Sibsoo type)
- Bhutan for Biodiversity:
Bhutan is one of the few countries in the world that has entered into 20th century with biodiversity intact. This is due to various enabling factors and strong legal instruments that are in place to protect biodiversity in the country. These includes:
- A far sighted visionary leadership of our kings. “Throughout the centuries, the Bhutanese have treasured their natural environment and have looked upon it as the source of all life. This traditional reverence for nature has delivered us into the twentieth century with our environment still richly intact. We wish to continue living in harmony with nature and to pass on this rich heritage to our future generations.”- His Majesty the King Jigme Singye Wangchuck.
- A unique GNH philosophy of socio-economic development where in environment preservation is one of the four pillars of GNH. This ensures that development is never achieved at the cost of the environment.
- Constitution of Bhutan as Bhutan is only the country in the world where its constitution mandates 60% of its forest for all times to come.
- Strong conservation ethics and religious practices of the Bhutanese people living in harmony with nature.
- Many policy documents and action plans are in place which includes ‘Vision 2020’ for sustainable development, ‘robust Biodiversity Action Plans’ which is a guiding documents on biodiversity conservation and sustainable use across all sectors.
- Visit Bhutan to witness unique biodiversity
Bhutan is unique country with rich and diverse flora and fauna. Bhutan is a unique country with very strong commitment for conservation of biodiversity. Bhutan is a unique country with astonishing natural beauty with 72% forest cover. Bhutan is a unique country with carbon neutral policy. Therefore, do not delay in witnessing this world heritage of wild flora, wild fauna, domesticated flora and domesticated fauna in Bhutan with Yak Holidays Int’l.
Bhutan Tour Info
Post Box No : 1056
Street : Ladroe Lam
Thimphu : Kingdom of Bhutan
Office : +975-2-338198 / 338199
Mobile : +975-17726254 / 77280724
Fax : +975-2-338201