I recently attended the Indo- Bhutan Youth Summit and interacted with several youth from Bhutan. I realized that though India and Bhutan are very close geographically, there is very little that we know about the rich culture of Bhutan. Bhutan is one country which I had not imagined doing an exchange program with because the countries in my mind included Paris, Amsterdam, Spain and Costa Rica. However, I was intrigued to have attended the program and I can say that it was the best decision of my life. I want to share these 7 unique things about Bhutanese culture which I learned and which have left me more intrigued than ever.
Bhutan is a constitutional monarchy –
Bhutan may just be the exception in the monarchy vs. democracy debate. The people of Bhutan love their King very dearly and respect him a lot. I was very intrigued to see how much people knew about the Royal Family of Bhutan. The King and the Queen often take part in ceremonies in the city with everyone else. It was interesting to hear about my friends’ interactions with the King during ceremonies in Thimpu. After talking to my friends, it is now one of my dreams to meet the King of Bhutan and interact with him about policy making in the country. I am also especially fascinated with K4 (the fourth King of Bhutan) who is popular among everyone and is loved immensely.
They have a festival called Rainy day Harvest season –
Most people from Bhutan are religious and they celebrate festivals throughout the year. There is a festival called Rainy day Harvest season during which the Bhutaneese citizens keep a bucket of water outside in the rain and bathe with that the next day. This water is considered holy by everyone and the day is very auspicious.
Ema Datsi is a dish made only out of chillies and cheese –
This is one dish which you have to try when you visit Bhutan. It is made of cheese and chillies. There is a saying “Indians eat their food with some chillies and Bhutanese eat chillies with some food”. No matter how much spices are consumed by them, they always need more. They beat us at their spice game. This dish is the definition of Bhutaneese culture and your trip there is incomplete without trying this. I cannot wait to go to Bhutan and try this dish the traditional way it is prepared there.
Bhutan has a Gross National Happiness (GNH) index –
Just like India calculates GDP in economic terms, Bhutan calculates GNH which is calculated based on how happy people are in the country. It is an innovative concept which places value on people’s happiness in the age of social media and technology. Because of GNH, the youth of Bhutan places value on simple things in life. I found them to follow a philosophy similar to the people residing in the mountainous regions in India.
Mc Donald’s and other multinationals do not operate in Bhutan –
Many brands like McDonald’s and Domino’s do not operate in Bhutan because they impact the culture of Bhutan differently. The youth is very attached to their culture. They prefer having Yak Burger which comes from Yak meat instead of having burgers from dominos. Moreover, the government stresses on Gross National Happiness in the country and they believe that multinational food brands will impact Bhutan negatively. I’m sure it is very interesting to live in a place where local food takes precedence over multinational cuisine. It also reduces the stress on farming and increases sustainability.
Making buildings traditionally is incorporated in the law of Bhutan –
The buildings in Bhutan are made traditionally. Incorporating traditional architecture in construction is present in the law of Bhutan. I visited the Royal Embassy of Bhutan in Delhi and it couldn’t fascinate me more. The architecture was stunning.
Many people from Bhutan are very fluent in Hindi –
The love which Bhutan’s youth has for the Indian language is unprecedented. Many students from Bhutan grew up watching Bollywood movies because of which they are fluent in Hindi. Moreover, their exposure to Bollywood has also taught them about Indian culture, cinema, actors as well as more about the people in India. If you ever go to Bhutan, you can strike a chord with some friends by bonding over Hindi language and cinema.
I hope that everyone who reads this article was equally fascinated by the culture of Bhutan as me! I cannot wait to pack my bag and explore the country!