With an area of 47,000 Sq Km, Bhutan is bordered to the north by Tibet (China), to the south by Assam and Bengal, to the east by Arunachal Pradesh and to the west by Sikkim in India. Bhutan can be divided into three zones, the southern foothills, central belt and the highlands. The climate is hot and humid in the foothills with altitude varying up to 3000 ft above sea level. With temperate coniferous forest, the altitude in central belt varies from 3,000 ft to 10,000 ft above sea level. The northern zone includes the Himalayan mountain ranges with altitude varying from 10,000 ft to 24,000 ft above sea level. Bhutan lies between 880 45’ and 92010’ longitude east and between 26040’ and 28015’ latitude north.
Unlike many countries, traditional arts, age-old ceremonies, festivals, social conduct and structures are not remnants of a bygone age. Traditional arts and crafts are still practiced as they were done hundreds of years ago, vibrant festivals are celebrated and social principles are still evident because they continue to have a special significance in the daily lives of the people.
Bhutanese language and literature, arts and crafts, drama, music, ceremonies and events, architecture, and basic social and cultural values draw their essence from Buddhism. Just as the Kingdom’s history is characterized by religious landmarks, the influence of religion is highly visible in everyday life. Hundreds of sacred monasteries, stupas, religious institutions, prayer flags and prayer wheels mark the countryside, providing a strong infrastructure and atmosphere for the teachings of their living faith.
Architecture is also a significant feature of the Bhutanese identity. Dzongs (fortresses), Lhakhangs (temples), Goenpas (monasteries), chortens (stupas), palaces, bridges and vernacular housing that can be seen across the countryside form the diverse but harmonious architectural expressions of the cultural heritage and living traditions of the Bhutanese people. The unmatched combination of engineering skill and aesthetic beauty is reflected in all structures. Traditional shapes, colours and patterns on the walls, doors, windows, places Bhutanese architecture in a class of its own.
The Dzong represents a unique architectural marvel. Hundreds of wooden planks are joined together without a single nail and no formal architectural plan goes into its construction.
Secular architecture in Bhutan finds its main form in traditional farmhouses. Bhutanese houses have a distinct character from those of other Himalayan countries. Due to steep terrains, they are usually built as scattered houses or in clusters, rather than in rows. Most traditional houses are relatively spacious and take advantage of the natural sunlight. Windows and doors are normally painted giving the house a very festive appearance. Floral, animal and religious motifs are mainly used as themes for colorful paintings. The typical construction materials used in traditional Bhutanese houses are timber, stone, clay and bricks.
3. Population & Race
According to the recent population survey, the Population of Bhutan is estimated at 700,000 and the density of population is greater in the valleys. The original inhabitants of Bhutan are the Monpas, a Mongoloid race who lived in the dense forest of southern Himalayas. The race still exists in central Bhutan.
Milo is a race who inhabited the western part of the country in the 9th century from Tibet. Lhotshampa or the southerner, originally from Nepal migrated to southern Bhutan for good.
The Bhutanese society is free of class or caste system and any inhibition that is detrimental for a society to progress. Slavery was abolished by the Third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck in the early 1950s through a royal edict. Though, few organizations to empower women have been established a few years back, in general, the Bhutanese have always been gender sensitive. In general, ours is an open and a good-spirited society.
Living in a Bhutanese society generally means understanding some basic norms like Driglam Namzha, the traditional etiquette. This is a norm that desires members of the society to conduct themselves in public places. Wearing a scarf when visiting a Dzong or an office, letting the elders and the monks serve themselves first, offering felicitation scarves during ceremonies such as marriages and promotions, greeting elders or senior officials are some simple manners that harmonize and binds together the Bhutanese society.
Normally, greetings are limited to saying Kuzuzangpo amongst equals. For seniors and elders, the Bhutanese bow their head a bit and say kuzuzangpola. But, the western ways of shaking hands has become an accepted norm.
The Bhutanese are also fun-loving people. Dancing, singing, playing archery, stone pitching, partying, social gatherings etc. are common things that one observes. Visiting friends and relatives at any hour of the day without any advance notice or appointment clearly depicts the openness of the Bhutanese society.
Bhutan is a Buddhist country and people refer to it as the last stronghold of Vajrayana Buddhism. Buddhism was first introduced by the Indian Tantric master Guru Padmasambhava in the 8th century. Till then people by and large worshipped all forms of nature, remnants of which are still evident even today in some remote villages in the country. The older form of religion was referred to as Bon and was accompanied by offerings of animal sacrifice and worshipped a host of deities invoking and propitiating them. They believed in invisible forces and considered them as the rightful owners of different elements of nature. Mountain peaks considered as abodes of Guardian deities (Yul lha), the lakes as inhabited by lake deities (Tsho mem), cliffs resided by cliff deities (Tsen), land belonging to the subterranean deities (Lue), land inhabited by (Sabdag), water sources inhabited by water deities (Chu gi Lhamu), and dark places haunted by the demons (due) etc.
With the visit of Padmasambhava, Buddhism began to take firm roots and especially led to the propagation of the Nyingmapa (the ancient or the older) school of Buddhism.
The visit of Phajo Drugom Zhigpo’s from Ralung in Tibet to Bhutan in 1222 marks another milestone in the history of Bhutan and in Buddhism. He was instrumental in introducing yet another school of Buddhism – the Drukpa Kagyu that is today the state religion of the country. His sons and descendants were also instrumental in spreading it to many other parts of western Bhutan.
By far the greatest contributor was Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyal. His arrival in 1616 from Tibet marks another landmark. He was not only able to bring under his domain the various Buddhist schools that had cropped up in many parts of western Bhutan but unify the country as one whole nation-state and give it a distinct identity.
Buddhism is still vibrant and alive. The Dzongs, monasteries, stupas, prayer flags, and prayer wheels punctuate the Bhutanese landscape. The chime of ritual bells, the sound of gongs, people circumambulating temples and stupas, fluttering prayer flags, red robed monks conducting rituals, among many others are all living case in point to reveal that Buddhism is an essential ingredient of a Bhutanese life.
5. Arts and Craft
Zorig Chusum: the thirteen traditional crafts of Bhutan
When considering the history of human dwellings, the use of timber predates the use of stones. Evidence of buildings framed with timber can be found in many countries, including even the pyramids of Egypt. Most virgin primeval forests that existed were used for the structural framework and this began to develop into an art. Large temples were built simply using timber and without any metal fasteners. Instead, they were joined together using notches with thick pegs and nails made of wood, and these wooden structures were designed to last for centuries. Slowly, in many countries, woodwork became a profession and the craftsmen became the engineers, architects, carpenters and builders of their age. However, by the mid-nineteenth century, this craft began to disappear from many parts of the world as mechanization of works began when many industries appeared.
While most people across the world are trying to rediscover and learn the secrets of this old tradition, the Bhutanese still practice this ancient art termed shingzo. The master craftsman known locally as Zow Chen and Zows are instrumental in fashioning intricate designs that go into the construction of our fortresses-the Dzongs, our palaces, our temples and monasteries and the traditional Bhutanese farmhouses. The Dzongs that have its origin in the 17th century features some of the most elaborate woodworks and designs that draw appreciation not only from the Bhutanese populace but from outside visitors as well.
People interested in becoming carpenters serve as an apprentice under a master carpenter for a few years till they develop the confidence to practice the skills on their own. Master carpenters are found all over the kingdom and for every important structure to be raised they are called upon to contribute. A master carpenter who is still revered today is the Zow Balep, whose architectural skills can still be witnessed today in the ancient fortress of Punakha Dzong.
Par zo or carving is another traditional art that has been perfected by the Bhutanese. The major carvings are carried out on stone, wood and slate. The traditional designs crafted on these materials create some distinctive artworks.
Since Bhutan has been blessed with an abundant variety of wood, woodcarving is seen in a variety of forms. The wooden masks that feature during the annual religious festivals are all carved out of wood beside the many traditional motifs that are engraved on the Bhutanese houses and on Dzongs. Besides, a unique wood carving that draws attraction are the phalluses of various sizes and shapes that are hung on the four corners of the Bhutanese houses and stuck onto the main entrance of the doorways. These carved wooden phalluses are also displayed by the Acharyas- the clowns during the religious festivals as a sign to bless the spectators and drive away the evils and misfortunes.
Another important art that is being practiced is the art of slate carving. The master craftsman is known as Do Nag Lopen and the material used is the slate found in abundance in both western and Eastern Bhutan. While slate carving is not as diverse as stone and woodwork, yet one can come across many religious scriptures, mantras and images of deities being carved onto slates besides the religious figures. Slate works are fund mostly in religious places such as Dzongs, temples and chortens.
Another important craft that has survived in Bhutan is the stone carving. While it is certainly less evident, yet the water driven grinding mills are classic examples of stone works. The huge grinding mills are still used by people in the far flung villages of Bhutan. One can also come across hollowed – out stones used for pounding grains and troughs for feeding cattle and horses.
Bhutanese paintings represent the quintessential of the Bhutanese art and craft tradition. An old art that has been practiced since antiquity, the painting captures the imagery of the Bhutanese landscape. The work of master painters known as Lha Rip is reflected in every architectural piece be it the massive Dzongs, the temples and the monasteries, the nunneries and the stupas or a modest Bhutanese home. Indeed, paintings and the varied colors and hues epitomize the Bhutanese art and craft.
The art of painting is revered and painters are believed to accumulate merit. Young novices are taught by the master Lha Rips and the huge scrolls of thangkha or thongdrols that depicts religious figures and displayed during religious festivals are some classic works. A mere sight of these huge scrolls is believed to deliver us to nirvana. Thus, it brings merit not only to the believers but for the painters as well.
The materials used in Bhutan are the natural pigmented soils that are found in most places in the country. These natural soil pigments are of different colours and are named accordingly. The black lumps of soil are known as ‘sa na’, and red lumps as ‘Tsag sa’, for instance.
Jim zo or clay work is an ancient craft having been practiced and passed on over the centuries. This artwork preceded other sculpture works such as bronze or other metal works. Statues of deities, gods and goddesses and other prominent religious figures in fact exemplify clay work in Bhutan. Every monastery, temple and the Dzongs have in them installed clay statues from where pilgrims and devout Buddhists draw their inspiration from. The master craftsmen are known as Jim zo lopen and the skill is imparted to the young novices through vigorous training spread over the years.
Besides the clay statues, the tradition of clay potteries is still alive though much of the potteries are now being used as showpieces and flower vases. While the art of modeling statues are confined to men, the art of pottery is normally the handiwork of women. While we find three distinctive types of clayware: earthenware, stoneware and the china-clayware, in Bhutan, we find only the first type, the earthenware.
What is required for success in the work on clay is the composition of clay by using balanced materials, skills in shaping the wet clay and firing to the correct temperature. The baked items were then coated with lac to render them waterproof. While this tradition is almost dying the women of Lhuentse and Paro still try and keep this tradition alive.
The period in history between the Stone Age and Iron Age is known as the Bronze Age because bronze was commonly used to cast containers such as cups, urns, and vases. People also shaped bronze into battle-axes, helmets, knives, shields, and swords. They also made it into ornaments, and sometimes even into primitive stoves. Bronze was developed about 3500 BC by the ancient Sumerians in the Tigris-Euphrates valley. Historians are unsure of how this alloy was discovered, but they believe that bronze may have first been made accidentally when rocks, rich in copper and tin, were used to build campfire rings. As fire heated these stone, the metals may have melted and mixed, forming bronze. This theory is supported by the fact that bronze was not developed in North America, where natural tin and copper ores are rarely found in the same rocks. Bronze appeared in both Egypt and China around 2000 BC. The earliest bronze castings were made in sand, and this method is still used today, even for casting bells. However, clay and stone moulds were developed later on. Clay is usually used nowadays for making bells.
Bronze casting in Bhutan was introduced only in the 17th century and was mainly spread through the visiting Newari artisans that came from Nepal. The Newars of Nepal were first invited by Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyal to cast bronze statues and religious items such as bells and water offering bowls. It was through these artisans that the art was introduced and today, a lot of Bhutanese people are into bronze casting.
The art of woodturning is known as Shag Zo and is traditionally practiced by the people of Trashiyangtse in eastern Bhutan. As a vibrant art, the master craftsmen are known as Shag Zopa. They are famed for wooden cups and bowls traditionally known as dapas and phobs. These wooden bowls made of special wooden knots known as Zaa are highly priced and till the advent of steel and brass plates were once used as plates by the Bhutanese people at large. Today they are being sold to the outside visitors and offered as gifts.
Another village that practices woodturning is the small village in eastern Bhutan known as Khengkhar. The villagers here are known for producing traditional wooden wine containers known as jandup.
The art blacksmithing began with the Iron Age when primitive man first began making tools from iron. Thus, the art of crafting the crude metal found in a certain type of rocks and soil into a usable implement has been around for a long time. Some of the tools that man used were spear or arrow-tips, crude axes and knives as well as agricultural implements.
Iron smelters were small furnaces built from rock that could withstand repeated heating. These furnaces looked like bee-hives with an opening at the top and an entrance on the side. The furnace was filled with iron-ore and charcoal and then set to fire. When the temperature rises above 2,800 Fahrenheit, the iron flows and forms balls, which are later hammered and made into various implements.
Blacksmithy in Bhutan began sometime in the late 14th century and it is believed that it was introduced by a Tibetan saint known as Dupthob Thangtong Gyalpo. He has been revered as the master engineer for his skill in casting iron chains and erecting them as bridges over gorges. In Bhutan, he is supposed to have built about eight suspension bridges and one can still come across a bridge over Paro Chu linking the highway to the famous Tachog lhakhang in Paro. One can also come across the remains of these once highly used iron chains in Trashigang and at the National Museum in Paro.While blacksmithy is almost a dying art, yet one can still come across the Tibetan settlers especially in Trashigang practicing this art.
Troe zo Ornaments are widely used by the Bhutanese women and the tradition of making ornaments is still vibrant in Bhutan. Master craftsmen who skill in shaping beautiful ornaments are regarded as Tro Ko Lopen. Using precious stones such as corals and turquoise, silver and gold, these master craftsmen shape out ornaments such as necklaces, bangles, earrings, rings worn on fingers, brooches, amulets to contain ritual objects, traditional containers to carry the much chewed beetle nuts, ritual objects and many more.
Most of the forests in Bhutan are richly stocked with bamboos and canes of various species. Taking advantage of the abundant natural resources, people have mastered their skills in weaving cane and bamboo products. Widely known as Tshar Zo, this art is spread throughout the country products such as baskets, winnowers, mats, containers are known as Palangs and bangchungs are all made of bamboo. However, the people of Kangpara in eastern Bhutan and the Bjokaps of Central Bhutan are pioneer master craftsmen. Their products are now sold out to tourists earning them an additional income.
Paper-making is another art that has found roots in Bhutan. People engaged in producing the traditional Bhutanese paper or De zo are known as Dezop. Traditional papers were widely used in the past and most of the religious scriptures and texts were written on Dezho’s using traditional Bhutanese ink and at times in gold. While the presence of readily available modern paper has overtaken the market, yet people still produce Deshos which is used as carrying bags, wrappers for gifts and even used as envelopes. The art still continues in Trashiyangtse where the raw material is readily available.
Tzhem zo or the art of tailoring is a popular art amongst the Bhutanese. This art can be broadly classified as Tshem drup or the art of embroidery, lhem drup or the art of appliqué and Tsho lham or the art of traditional Bhutanese boots. The art of embroidery and appliqué are normally practiced by the monks. Using this art they produce large religious scrolls known as Thangkas that depicts Gods and Goddesses, deities and saints.
Traditional boots are normally the work of Bhutanese laymen. These boots worn by officials during special functions and gatherings are made of leather and cloth. While boot making is an old craft, its origin is unknown. Special craftsmen in the villages also make simple boots from uncured leather. However, this is a vanishing practice in the villages though it has picked up recently in the urban centers with support from the government.
The third category is the simple tailors that skill in sewing the Bhutanese traditional dresses known as Gho and Kira.
An integral part of the Bhutanese life is the textile. As such the art of weaving is widely practiced in Bhutan. However, women of eastern Bhutan are skilled in weaving and some of the highly priced textiles are all woven by them. In the past, textiles were paid as tax to the government in place of cash and people from western Bhutan travelled all the way to Samdrup Jongkhar to buy woven textiles. Textiles are woven of cotton, raw cotton and silk and intricate motifs are woven into the cloth.
Khoma village in Lhuentse is famous for Kushithara, while Rahi and Bidung are known for bura textiles namely Mentsi Matha and Aikapur. One type of cotton fabric woven in Pemagatshel is the Dungsam Kamtham. Decheling village in Samdrup Jongkhar is known for their cotton fabric as the Decheling Kamtham derived from the name of their village.
Adang village in Wangdue Phodrang is known for textiles such as Adang Mathra, Adang Rachu and Adang Khamar while the Bumthaps in central Bhutan is known for Bumthap Mathra and Yathra, both textiles are woven out of Yak and sheep hair. People of Nabji and Korphu in Trongsa are known for textiles woven out of nettle fibers. Weaving is also a vocation amongst the Brokpas of Merak and Sakteng. Men contribute in spinning wool into threads. They weave from yak hair and sheep wool.
There are four types of looms that are used by the Bhutanese weavers. They are the blackstrap looms, the horizontally fixed looms, the horizontal framed looms and the card looms. The predominant type is the back strap loom and is used mostly by weavers from eastern Bhutan. They are set up on the porches or in thatched sheds to protect weavers and the cloth from the sun and rain. Card looms and horizontal frame looms are also used. The back straps are the indigenous looms while the horizontal frame looms and the card looms made their entry into Bhutan from Tibet.
Besides others that Bhutan can offer to the world, is its pristine environment that is almost intact. Our ecosystem is rich and diverse, because of its location, great geographical and climatic variations. Bhutan’s high, rugged mountains and valleys boast of spectacular biodiversity, earning it a name as one of the world’s ten most important biodiversity hotspots.
Recognizing the importance of environment, conservation of its rich biodiversity is one of its development paradigms. The government has assured of maintaining 60% of its forest resources for all times to come through the recently enacted law passed by the National Assembly. As of today, about 65% of the total land area is under forest cover and about 26% of the land area falls under the protected area. The protected area comprises of four parks that are designated as the home for the wildlife sanctuaries.
Bhutanese economy is characterized by its small size given its small population size. With the majority of the Bhutanese people illiterate and residing in rural areas, about 31% of the population still lives under poverty line. However, in general, all Bhutanese have a shelter and are self – sufficient to a large extent. With rapid modernization, the living standard of the people has also started to grow in the recent years and every village has now access to basic amenities such as Schools, Basic Health Units, feeder roads and electricity. Plans are also underway to connect even the remotest villages with a good network of telecommunication and mobile phones.
Bhutanese economy is dominantly agrarian. With a bulk of the population being farmers, agriculture is the mainstay of their sustenance followed by a large extent with animal husbandry. Animal products such as cheese, butter and milk not only form a major diet for the farmers but also contribute to their income. With many farmers groups and cooperatives being encouraged by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forest, people have been encouraged to set up cooperative stalls where they can easily market their farm products.The main crops are rice, maize, wheat and buckwheat while cash crops are predominantly potatoes, apples, and citruses such as oranges, cardamom, ginger, and chili. With the setting up of a fruit based industry in the capital, farmers from the nearby areas are able to market their fruit products and thereby earn additional revenue.
Given the rich bio-diversity, Bhutanese have also been able to tap the forestry resources. Cane and bamboo work therefore form a source of income. Various cane and bamboo products now find their way into the market that is usually bought by the urban dwellers and the tourists.
In the recent years, however, a major contributing factor to the Bhutanese economy has been the tourism industry. Since its opening in 1975, the country has made significant expansion in the tourism industry. It not only generates the much needed revenue for Bhutan but to an extent has been able to create employment for most Bhutanese graduates and the educated lot.
But undeniably, the power sector has been the biggest contributor to the Bhutanese exchequer. The Chhukha Hydro Power Corporation, the Tala Hydro Power Corporation, the Baso Chu Hydro Power Corporation and the Kurichu Hydro Power Corporation under the umbrella of Druk Green Power Corporation are some of the mega projects that churn out about 1500 MW of power, most of which are exported to our neighboring country India. With abundant water resources, Bhutan still has the capacity to generate about 30,000 MW of electricity.
Another sector that contributes to the revenue is the contribution from the manufacturing sector. With the industrial sector established in Pasakha, some of the small scale industries that have cropped up are cement plants, calcium and carbide, steel and Ferro silicon, coca cola and also wood based industries.
As a result of the economic development, with US $ 1,321, today we have one of the highest per capita incomes in South Asia.
8. Political system of Bhutan.
The political system of Bhutan has evolved over time together with its tradition and culture. From a fragmented and a disoriented rule of the different regions by chieftains, local lords and a clan based rule, today we have a parliamentary democracy in place.
The first move towards a systematic scheme of governance came in 1616 with the arrival of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal from Tibet. He introduced the dual system of governance with the Je Khenpo as the head of the spiritual and the Desids, as the head of the temporal.
But a major breakthrough came about in 1907 when the people unanimously enthroned Ugyen Wangchuck as the first hereditary King of Bhutan. He was the man who had proved his mettle bringing together the different Dzongpons and Penlops (governors of the fortress) and the much needed stability and peace in the country. Since then, the country was ruled by the successive monarchs of under the Wangchuck dynasty.
With the move to ensure a more democratic governance of the country, the Third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck instituted the National Assembly (Tshogdu) in 1953. Every gewog had an elected member representing the National assembly. It became a platform where the people’s representatives enacted laws and discussed issues of national importance.
The establishment of the Royal Advisory Council (Lodoe Tshogde) in 1963 as a link between the king, council of ministers and the people was another move towards democratization. It also advised the king and the council of ministers on important issues and ensured that the projects were implemented successfully.
The institution of Dzongkhag Yargay Tshogdu (District Development Assembly) in 1981 and Gewog Yargay Tshogchung (County Development Assembly) in 1991 by the Fourth King Jigme Singye Wangchuck was another move towards decentralization.
But the devolution of the power of the King in 1998 to the cabinet ministers was the highest form of decentralization. The King, thereafter, began to serve as the Head of the State while the government was managed by the Prime Minister.
In November 2001, on the advice of the Fourth King, a committee chaired by the Chief Justice of Bhutan, was formed to draft the constitution of Bhutan. The constitution was launched in 2008 and with it, a parliamentary democracy introduced. The progression from Hereditary Monarchy to that of a Parliamentary Democracy has been gradual from the institution of National Assembly in 1953 to all the decentralization that followed suit. Thus, in 2008 Bhutan witnessed a major shift in its political system with the first elections launched countrywide. The Druk Phunsum Tshogpa was mandated by the people to head the new government with a major victory. Today with 45 elected members, Lyonchen Jigme Y Thinley steers the government with just two opposition members from the People’s Democratic Party.
The organs of the Bhutanese government comprise of the Legislature, Judiciary and the Executive. The ruling political party, the opposition and the National Council now forms the legislative body.
Bhutan’s national sport is Dha, or archery. Matches are conducted regularly in most villages.It differs in some ways from Olympic standards including technical details such as the placement of the targets 140 feet away, as opposed to 55 yards in the Olympics. Fans cheer and dance for their teams while they belittle their opponents with chants about their parentage and sexual prowess.
The National Flag is rectangular and divided diagonally into two parts with a white dragon in the middle. The upper yellow half signifies the country’s secular authority of the King in fruitful action in the affairs of religion and state. The lower saffron orange half signifies the religious practice and spiritual power of Buddhism manifested in the Drukpa Kagyu and Nyingmapa traditions. The Dragon symbolizes the name of the country, locally known as Druk Yul meaning the land of Thunder Dragon and its white color signifies purity and loyalty of the Bhutanese people.
The National Emblem, contained in a circle is composed of double diamond thunderbolt placed above a lotus surmounted by a jewel and framed by two dragons. The double diamond thunderbolt represents the harmony between secular and religious power. The lotus symbolizes purity, the jewel – sovereign power and the two dragons – a male and a female stand for the name of the country – the Land of Thunder Dragon (Druk Yul).
Bhutan’s national currency is called Ngultrum (1 Ngultrum = 100 Cheltrum) and was introduced in 1974. The Ngultrum is pegged with the Indian Rupee. One United States Dollar fluctuates between Ngultrum 45 to 50.
The national flower is Blue Poppy (Meconopsis Grandis). It is a delicate blue or purple tinged blossom with a white filament. It grows to a height of 1 meter, on the rocky mountain terrain found above the tree line of 3500-4500 meters. It was discovered in 1933 by a British Botanist, George Sherriff in a remote part of Sakteng in eastern Bhutan.
The national tree is cypress (Cupressus torolusa). Cypresses are found in abundance and one may notice big cypresses near temples and monasteries. Cypress is found in the temperate climate zone, between 1800 and 3500 meters. Its capacity to survive on rugged harsh terrain is compared to bravery and simplicity.
The national bird is the raven. It ornaments the royal crown. aven represents the deity Gonpo Jarodongchen (raven headed Mahakala), Rone of the chief guardian deities of Bhutan.
The national animal is the Takin (burdorcas taxicolor) that is associated with religious history and mythology. It is a very rare mammal with a thick neck and short muscular legs. It lives in groups and is found in places above 4000 meters high on the north-western and far north eastern parts of the country. They feed on bamboos. The adult takin can weigh over 200 kgs.
Bhutan is a multi-lingual society. Today, about 18 languages and dialects are spoken all over the country. The state language is Dzongkha which in the olden times was spoken by people who worked in the Dzongs that was the seat of temporal and spiritual power. Later, Dzongkha was introduced as the national language of Bhutan.
The national anthem was first composed in 1953 and became official in 1966. It is known as Druk Tshenden Kepay Gyalkhab Na (In the land of the Dragon Kingdom, where cypress grows).
17th December is celebrated as the National Day of the country that coincides with the crowning ceremony of Gongsa Ugyen Wangchuck as the first hereditary king of Bhutan, in Punakha Dzong on 17 December 1907. It is a national holiday and every Bhutanese celebrates the day with pomp and festivity throughout the country.