Bhutan at a Glance
The Buddhist Kingdom of Bhutan lies along the lofty ridges of the eastern Himalayas, bordering the Tibetan autonomous region of China in the North and India in the South. With an area of 38,394 sq. km, Bhutan is comparable to Switzerland both in its size and topography, being largely mountainous.
It was the mighty Himalayas that protected Bhutan from the rest of the world and left the Kingdom blissfully untouched. The Drukpa Kagyupa sect of Mahayana Buddhism provided the essence of a rich culture and fascinating history. The Bhutanese people protected this sacred heritage and unique identity for centuries by choosing to remain in a jealously guarded isolation
With a relatively small population of about 7,00,000 people, the Bhutanese enjoy a sustainable lifestyle which they inherited from their forefathers. Majority of the population still live in small villages sparsely scattered over rugged mountain terrain. Buddhism, prevalent in the country since the 7th century, continues to play an important role in their peaceful lives.
For centuries the Bhutanese have treasured the natural environment, looking upon it as the source of all life. This traditional reverence for nature has brought Bhutan into the 21st century with a pristine environment. More than 72% of the land area is under forest cover. Bhutan is one of the ten biodiversity hotspots in the world and one of the 221 global endemic bird areas. Its ecosystem harbors some of the most exotic species of the eastern Himalayas with an estimated 770 species of birds and 50 species of rhododendrons, besides an astonishing variety of medicinal plants and orchids. Many parts of the country which have been declared as wildlife reserves, are the natural habitat of rare species of both flora and fauna. Unlike other parts of the region, Bhutan’s natural patrimony of extensive and varied forests, limited yet fertile, productive farmlands and pristine water and air remains largely intact.
Druk Yul or the ‘Land of the Thunder Dragon’ as it is referred to by the Bhutanese, is a land replete with myths and legends. Like timeless images from the past, the traveler encounters the full glory of this ancient land through its strategic fortresses known as Dzongs, numerous ancient temples, monasteries and stupas which dot the countryside, prayer flags fluttering along the high ridges, foamy white waterfalls like ethereal showers and the warm smile of its friendly people. Each moment is special as one discovers a country which the people have chosen to preserve in its magical purity.
Bhutan’s beautiful and largely unspoiled Himalayan setting, its rich flora and fauna and its vibrant culture have made it an increasingly popular tourist destination. In addition to generating hard currency revenue, tourism is also providing the much needed resources to develop the service sector and ensure a balanced and sustainable development for all the Bhutanese.
Land area : 38,394 square kilo meters
Altitude : Between 240 meters and 7541 meters above Sea level
Language : Official language ‘Dzongkha’
Religion : Vajrayana stream of Mahayana Buddhism
Forest area : 72.5%
Capital : Thimphu
Currency : Ngultrum (equal to Indian Rupee)
Life expectancy : 66 years
Country code : 975
Local time : Six hours ahead of GMT and half an hour ahead of Indian Standard Time
National Emblem : The National Emblem of Bhutan is a circle protecting a double diamond thunderbolt placed above the lotus. There is a jewel on all sides with two dragons on vertical side. The thunderbolt represents the harmony between secular and religious power while the lotus symbolises purity. The jewel signifies the sovereign power while the dragons (male and female) stands for the name of the country Druk Yul or the Land of the Dragon.
National Flag : The National Flag is a rectangle in shape that is divided into two parts diagonally. The upper yellow half signifies the secular power and authority of the King while the lower saffron-orange symbolises the practice of religion and power of Buddhism, manifested in the traditions of Drukpa Kagyupa. The dragon signifies the name and purity of the country while the jewels in the claws stand for wealth and perfection of the country.
National Flower : The National Flower is Blue Poppy (Meconopsis Grandis), a delicate blue or purple tinged blossom with a white filament. It grows to a height of one meter, on the rocky mountain terrain found above the tree line of 3500-4500 meters.
National Tree : The national tree is Cypress (Cypressus torolusa), found in temperate climate zone between 1,800 and 3,500 meters. Its capacity to survive rugged harsh terrain is compared to bravery and simplicity.
National Bird : The national bird is Raven and represents the deity Gonpo Jarodongchen (raven-headed Mahakala), one of the chief guardian deities of Bhutan. The Raven, national bird also ornate the Royal Crown.
National Animal : The Takin (Burdorcas taxicolor) is the national animal of Bhutan, looking like a cross between a cow and goat and associated with religious history and mythology of the country.
National Day : 17th December is celebrated as the National Day that coincides with the crowning of Gongpa Ugyen Wangchuk as the first hereditary King of Bhutan, Punakha Dzong on 17th December, 1907.
National Anthem : 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). It is religious in essence with lyrics consisting of prayers for peace and prosperity in the country, long life of the King and propagation of Buddhism.
National Language : The state language is Dzongkha which in olden times was spoken by people who worked in the Dzongs that was the seat of temporal and spiritual power. Later, Dzongkha was declared as the national language of the country. Today, about 18 languages and dialects spoken all over the country.
National Sport : Archery was declared the national sport in 1971 when Bhutan became a member of the United Nations. Archery tournaments are among the most picturesque and colourful events in the country. Every village has its own archery range. High spirited competitions, usually accompanied by a banquet, are a part of all festival occasions.
National Dress : The national dress of Bhutan is called the ‘Gho’ for men and ‘Kira’ for women. It was introduced during the 17th century by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to give the Bhutanese unique identity. The ‘Gho’ is a long robe hoisted to the knee and held in place with a ‘Kera’, a woven cloth belt, wound tightly around the waist. The ‘Kira’ is a floor-length rectangular piece of cloth wrapped around the body over a blouse called ‘wonju’. The Kira is held from the shoulders by broach-like hooks called ‘Koma’ and is fastened at the waist with a Kera. The dress is complete with a short, open jacket-like garment called ‘Toego’.