Ancient Bhutan Tours & Treks | People, Culture and Tradition
People, Culture and Tradition
People
Bhutanese are friendly and hospitable people. The Bhutanese are the Drukpas meaning the inhabitants of Druk Yul. The large majority of Bhutanese people are homogeneous group divided linguistically into three broad sub-groups. These are Sharchops, (eastern region) Ngalong (western region) and Lhotshampa (southern Region). The dialect spoken by most of the people in the eastern region is called Sharchopkha. The people of Western Bhutan speak Dzongkha, which is the national language. The lhotshampas are the people of the south who began settling in southern Bhutan in the beginning of the 20th century. They are of Nepalese origin and speak Nepali.

Besides there are a number of smaller groups, many with their own language, which form about one per cent of the population. Some groups are: Bumthap in Bumthang, Layapas in the north-west, Brokpas in the north-east and the Doyas in the south west Bhutan.

Culture&Tradition
Bhutan has a rich and unique cultural heritage that has largely remained intact because of its isolation from the rest of the world until the early 1960s. One of the main attractions for tourists is the country’s culture and traditions. Bhutanese tradition is deeply steeped in its Buddhist heritage. Hinduism is the second dominant religion in Bhutan, being most prevalent in the southern regions. Both religions co-exist peacefully and receive support from the government, and enjoy royal patronage. The government is increasingly making efforts to preserve and sustain the current culture and traditions of the country. Because of its largely unspoiled natural environment and cultural heritage, Bhutan has been referred to as The Last Shangri-la.

The National Dress for Bhutanese men is the gho, a knee-length robe tied at the waist by a cloth belt known as the kera. Women wear an ankle-length dress, the kira, which is clipped at one shoulder and tied at the waist. An accompaniment to the kira is a long-sleeved blouse, the toego, which is worn underneath the outer layer. Social status and class determine the texture, colors, and decorations that embellish the garments. Differently colored scarves and shawls are important indicators of social standing, as Bhutan has traditionally been a feudal society. Jewellery is mostly worn by women, especially during religious festivals and public gatherings.

To strengthen Bhutan’s identity as an independent country, Bhutanese law requires all Bhutanese citizens to wear the national dress in public areas and as formal wear.

Rice, buckwheat, and increasingly maize, are the staple foods of the country. The local diet also includes pork, beef, yak meat, chicken, and mutton. Soups and stews of meat and dried vegetables spiced with chillies and cheese are prepared. Ema datshi, made very spicy with cheese and chilies, might be called the national dish for its ubiquity and the pride that Bhutanese have for it. Dairy foods, particularly butter and cheese from yaks and cows, are also popular, and indeed almost all milk is turned to butter and cheese. Popular beverages include butter tea, tea, locally brewed rice wine and beer. Bhutan is the only country in the world to have banned the sale of tobacco.

Rigsar is an emerging style of popular music in Bhutan, played on a mix of traditional instruments and electronic keyboards, and dates back to the early 1990s; it shows the influence of Indian popular music, a hybrid form of traditional and Western popular influences. Traditional genres include the zhungdra and boedra.Chaam, sacred masked dances, are annually performed during religious festivals.

Characteristic of the region is a type of castle fortress known as the dzong. Since ancient times, the dzongs have served as the religious and secular administration centers for their respective districts.

Bhutan has numerous public holidays, most of which centre around traditional seasonal, secular and religious festivals. They include the winter solstice (around January 1, depending on the lunar calendar), the lunar New Year (February or March), the King’s birthday and the anniversary of his coronation, the official start of monsoon season (September 22), National Day (December 17), and various Buddhist and Hindu celebrations.

Masked dances and dance dramas are common traditional features at festivals, usually accompanied by traditional music. Energetic dancers, wearing colorful wooden or composition face masks and stylized costumes, depict heroes, demons, death heads, animals, gods, and caricatures of common people. The dancers enjoy royal patronage, and preserve ancient folk and religious customs and perpetuate the ancient lore and art of mask-making.
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