Perched atop the mighty Himalayas, the hermit kingdom of Bhutan is Southeast Asia’s one of the most prized treasures. Sandwiched between India and Tibet, this mountainous nation has evolved in isolation from the rest of the world over centuries. From intricately carved monasteries to steep valleys and ravines, this landlocked nation stands tall, uncontaminated by the wave of modernity. The pristine Buddhist heritage of the nation, delectable cuisine and flamboyant festivals have made it stand apart from the crowd. Renowned as ‘Land of the Thunder Dragon’, Bhutan has its own story to tell. Here is a collection of a few astounding facts about this abode of peace and calm.

Bhutan is a Leading Power in Promoting Environment Conservation

As the dominant powers of the world in 21st century are scrounging ways to halt forest depletion, Bhutan has become the first nation of the world to design specific constitutional obligations for the people to preserve the environment. As per the legislation, atleast 60 percent of the nation must remain under forest cover mandatorily at all times.

There Are No Traffic Lights in Bhutan

In case you visit Thimpu, the capital of Bhutan, then don’t worry about flouting traffic rules because there are no traffic lights to mediate the traffic. Instead of the usual red, yellow and green signals, there are traditional outposts at the intersection on the roads. At these traditional outposts, a policeman stands, mediating the traffic manually, because Bhutanese prefer to have things in a much traditional way.

Here Happiness is Valued Over Money

Bhutan is one of those rare nations of the world where the quality of life is of utmost importance. There Gross Happiness index is more important than Gross National Product. The former king of Bhutan, Jingme Singye Wangchuck, is accredited to introduce the tradition of introducing the Happiness Index. This concept highlights the importance of non- economic aspects in analysing the wellbeing of the people of a country.

Bhutan Has a Uniform Dress Code for Entire Country

Bhutanese are obliged to wear their traditional outfit to work as well as to the monasteries. Men wear a traditional outfit called gho, judo styled suit and women wear a kira, an ankle-length dress to work. As formal wear, men don a Kabney draped over the Gho. Kabney is a symbol that signifies different groups or professions, so there are different colours and designs of a Kabney for different professions and levels

Television and Internet Services Made Their Way Into Bhutan Lately in 1999

Bhutan has always considered television and internet as a corruptive force to its national and traditional Buddhist heritage. To this date, it has restricted contacts with the outside world. Bhutan had banned television in 1992. But as the country stood at the threshold of the new millennium, the former king Jingme Singye Wangchuck showed a green signal to the television and internet services.

No Smoking in Public Areas

Bhutan emerged as the first country on the planet which banned smoking and use of tobacco in any other form in public areas such as dzongs, chortens, parks, hotels, restaurants, markets, cinema halls etc. Public transports, such as buses, are covered under non-smoking zones. Any citizen found guilty of selling of using tobacco in public is subjected to imprisonment.

Halt Before You Eat

In case you end up as a guest at a Bhutanese house then be cautious not to start gulping down the morsel immediately after it is served! This is because in Bhutan there is a custom of refusing food for the first time when it is served. The country has an interesting list of customary rules to remember when eating. For example, when offered food, one is supposed to say meshu- meshu while covering your mouth as if refusing the offer. On the second or third offer, you can accept.

An Ode to Matriarchy

In Bhutan, feminism of its own kind blooms. Traditionally, it is women who inherit family property and after marriage, it is the husband who moves in with his wife in the latter’s ancestral place. In the realm of decision making, women have considerable involvement. Their participation is often as high as 70% at grassroots level. A considerable number of women are also present as landowners.

Bhutan- A Safe Haven for Tourists?

As Bhutan is deep-rooted traditionally, culturally and spiritually in Buddhism which propounds the values like love, compassion and peace, the crime rates here are comparatively low. There are fewer occurrences of grave crimes committed statistically.

Bhutanese Celebrate Birthday on New Year

Do you often keep forgetting people’s birthdays? Well if you do, then get acquainted with Bhutanese who do not have to worry about the birthday calendar. In Bhutan, Citizens turn a year older on January 1st of each year. In case they forget their special day due to illiteracy, the government ensures that they do not miss the celebration on the new year. They give more relevance to year than month or date which has given birth to the tradition.

To Conclude…

Bhutan has emerged as one of the stalwarts leading the battle of environmental sustainability. It has emerged as a nation which stands apart from the crowd in terms of the laws and enactments passed by the government. Moreover, what makes this event special is that all these measures have contributed to an increase in the bar of living of the people in general wherein each citizen leads a contended and satisfied life.

Even though these rules and regulations might sound restrictive and bizarre to ordinary people, the Bhutanese have tremendous respect and reverence towards these customs and traditions. They have accepted their land, religion and the constitution with open arms. Even though the tourism industry has boomed in this serene country, there is a lot more left to explore its culture, traditions and natives. Thus this tiny Himalayan kingdom situated amidst misty mountains still remains an enigma for the larger world

Manya Jaisinghani

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