Culture and Tradition

Mask-dance.jpgThe Buddhist faith influences the Bhutanese way of life-social, cultural and ethical fabrics of the Bhutanese society and people. Spiritual practices, pursued for personal well-being and of others, are daily norm for many people. Throughout the country, chorten or stupas and prayer flags mark the beautiful landscapes. They indicate that Buddhism as a faith is very much real and alive. They manifest a high level of spiritual devotion and practice among the Bhutanese people. People circumambulate temples and stupas with prayer beads and prayer wheels in their hands. Most Bhutanese family has a special altar room (chosham) for prayers and rituals. Many go on pilgrimage during auspicious days and offer prayers and butter lamps in the temples and shrines.

Different communities observe annual festivals and rituals like tsechue, dromchoes, lha-sel, lha-bon, chodpa and so on. They are dedicated to various Buddhist saints and local protective deities. Some are observed to uphold Buddhist teachings while others pertain to folksy life and reverence to nature. Most Bhutanese worship natural environment as the abodes of supernatural beings. Rituals are performed to ward of evils, solemnize births, deaths and wedding and consecrate new construction.

Trongsa_dzong.JPGBhutan’s unique cultural identity is manifested through art, architecture and craft, religion, dress, textiles, foods, moral and behavioural etiquettes (driglam namzha), performing arts, traditional ceremonies and many other Bhutanese ways of life.

The traditional beliefs and customs underscore respects to all forms of life. This engenders practice of positive values such as compassion (nyinje), tolerance (zepa), generousity (jinsem) and equanimity (tang nyom). Hospitality is an extremely important component of the Bhutanese culture. It is customarily expected that Bhutanese families treat their guests with best hospitality. Bhutanese, in general, are friendly, open and polite.

Until mid-twentieth century, most parts of the country were sealed from the outside world. The 21st century has opened up Bhutan to the world in a bigger way. Bhutanese are traveling the globe and outsiders are penetrating into remote communities. However, the majority of Bhutanese still inhabit rural villages, maintaining subsistence farming as predominant occupation. In high pastures, nomadic livestock farming is vibrant. Rural folks lead a simple life while urban people are fast embracing consumerist culture.

The preservation of culture and tradition is one of the four pillars of GNH development paradigm. It is believed that Bhutan can protect its independence and sovereignty through exertion of its unique national identity than through military force or economic means. With Bhutan modernizing fast, key question whether future generation can sustain the unique culture and tradition arises.