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Bhutan

Geography & Topography

Capital: Thimphu

Area: 38,394 km2

Population: 742,737

Language: Dzonkha, Tibetan and Nepali dialects

Religion: Lamaistic Buddhist, Hindu

Currency: Ngultrum, Indian rupee

History

Bhutan is a tiny, remote and impoverished country between two powerful neighbours, India and China. Violent storms coming off the Himalaya gave the country its name, meaning “Land of the Thunder Dragon.” The culture of Bhutan is among the oldest, most carefully guarded and well preserved cultures in the world. Even today, Bhutan has been able to retain its old world charm.

Bhutan is made up of three main ethnic groups – the Sharchop in the east, who originated from the tribes of Northern Burma and Northeast India; the Ngalops in the west, who introduced Buddhism to Bhutan after migrating from Tibet; and the Lhotsampas in the south, originally from Nepal.

As a traditional society, the Bhutanese follow a highly refined system of etiquette, called “driglam namzha.” This traditional code of conduct supports authority respect, devotion to the marriage and family institution and dedication to civic duty. It governs various behaviours including how to speak to those in authority and how to dress. This system is officially legislated in 1989 as a means of preserving a distinct national identity and a national dress code.

Performing Arts

Music

Music plays an important role in the Bhutanese culture and transmitting its social values. Traditional Bhutanese music includes a variety of genres, ranging from folk to religious song and music. Some genres of traditional Bhutanese music intertwine vocals, instrumentation, theatre and dance, while others are mainly vocal or instrumental.

The most recognizable instruments in traditional Bhutanese music are:

Piwang

Piwang

Piwang: A two-stringed bow instrument that has a rounded-cylindrical resonance box, covered with a skin which acts as a resonance membrane. It has some resemblance with the Chinese er-hu.

dramyin

Dramyin

 

Dramyin: A long-necked, double-waisted fretless lute. It is usually hollowed out of a single piece of wood and has a varying length from 60 cm to 120 cm. Unlike a contemporary guitar, the dramyin does not have a round sound hole in the wooden sounding board but rather rosette-shaped ones like a lute. Dramyins are equipped with a single bridge. Resonance is achieved with thick animal skin. It is often ornately and colourfully painted or carved with religious symbols and motifs.

Dance

Examples of traditional Bhutanese dances are:

Cham Dance

Cham Dance

Cham Dance: A lively masked and costumed dance associated with some sects of Buddhism and is part of Buddhist festivals. The dance is accompanied by music played by monks using traditional Bhutanese instruments. It is usually performed during an annual religious festival known as Tsechu which is held in each district. Only monks or male members of the Royal Academy of Performing Arts are allowed to perform this dance.

 

 

Some interesting facts:

  • Bhutan is the first country in the world with specific constitutional obligations on its people to protect the environment. Among its requirements are at least 60 percent of the nation must remain under forest cover at all times.
  • The dragon on Bhutan’s national flag represents Druk, the Tibetan name for the Kingdom of Bhutan.
  • The currency of Bhutan is Ngultrum. However, Indian Rupee is also accepted in the country.

Bhutanese Community in Australia:

More information on the Bhutanese community: