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Bhutan - Culture & Tradition

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Embraced in the folds of the Himalayas, Bhutan is the most secluded and isolated country. Because of its complete geographic isolation, this country has been stayed away from outside cultural influences. Bhutan tourism shows you that even though this sparsely populated tiny country is closely bordered with India to the south and China to the north, they have maintained a strict policy of isolationism, both culturally and economically. The main aim for doing so is so as to protect its own culture and century old traditions. It was in the late 20th century when they allowed foreigners to visit the country but that too was restricted to few numbers. In this way, Bhutan has successfully preserved many aspects of their culture which dates directly back to the mid-17th century. If we delve into Bhutan’s culture we come to know that Bhutanese culture is derived from ancient Tibetan culture. As there are few traces in bits and pieces. The main Bhutanese languages are Dzongkha and Sharchop and they both are closely related to Tibetan.

Besides, the Bhutanese monks read and write the ancient variant of the Tibetan language known as chhokey. If you think that comparison is enough then you are wrong as you will be surprised to know that the Bhutanese people are also physically similar to the Tibetans. However, historians have no concrete evidence as of when they crossed over the Himalayas and settled in the south-draining valleys of Bhutan.

Furthermore, both Tibetans and Bhutanese revere the tantric guru Padmasambhava’ the founder of Himalayan Buddhism in the 8th century. Coming back to Bhutanese society, it is primarily centered on the practice of Tantric Buddhism and also many religious beliefs are evidenced in all aspects of life. When you travel and tour Bhutan you will notice that this place looks best and scenic when the prayer flags flutter on hillsides offering up prayers to benefit all nearby sentient beings. This scene makes the whole atmosphere pious and full of energy. Also you get to see houses fly a small white flag on the roof indicating that the owner has made his offering payments to appease the local god.

This peaceful country has also got an array of festivals, but its tsechhu, their religious festival which heads the list. During this festival villagers come for numerous days of devout observances and socializing while contributing propitious offerings to the lama or monastery of the festival. But talking about central activity it is a fixed set of religious mask dances, or cham, held in a large courtyard. Each individual dance takes up to several hours to complete and the whole set may last two to four days. It is widely said that the observations of the dances directly blesses the audience and also serves to pass on principles of Tantric Buddhism to the villagers. The dances here can be traced directly back to Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal himself, the founder of Bhutan, and have been passed down essentially unchanged since the mid-1600s.

On the concluding day of the tsechu a huge tapestry, or thongdrel, is unfurled in the courtyard of the dzong for several hours. Then the thongdrel is rolled up before the rays of the morning sun can strike it. It is only through Bhutan tourism that you can relive these moments to the fullest

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