Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A memorable visit to Bhutan- the land of dragons ( Part-2)

More about Bhutan
Bhutan is a tiny and remote kingdom nestling in the Himalayas between its powerful neighbours, India and China. The Bhutanese name for Bhutan, Druk Yul, means "Land of the Thunder Dragon". The Wangchuck hereditary monarchy has wielded power since 1907. Bhuddhism is the major religion of the country which also has a small percentage of Hindus and Christians but no Muslims!

Bhutan is known mainly for its monasteries, fortresses (or dzongs) and dramatic landscapes that range from subtropical plains to steep mountains and valleys. In the High Himalayas, peaks such as 7,326m Jomolhari are popular trekking destinations. Paro Taktsang monastery (also known as Tiger’s Nest), currently the most popular tourist spot.
For years, the country cut itself off, fearing that outside influences would undermine its monarchy and culture. The third monarch changed all that in 1970. Radio broadcasting began only in 1973 and the television and internet arrived only in 1999.
The term "Gross National Happiness" was famously coined by the fourth king of Bhutan, Jigme Sing Wangchuck, in the early 1970s. The four GNH pillars  are: economic self reliance, environmental conservation, cultural preservation and promotion and good governance. GNH is distinguishable by collective happiness as the goal of governance.
The current ruler of Bhutan is the 38 year old Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck who succeeded in December 2006 as the fifth monarch of the dynasty, was responsible for introducing democracy in Bhutan in 2008.
The official language of Bhutan is Dzongkha but most people are fluent in English. Most of the youngsters speaking fluent Hindi- result of watching Hindi movies and serials on television. Social and educational opportunities are not affected by rank or birth. Bhutanese women enjoy equal rights in every respect.
With help from Indian Engineers Bhutan had constructed big dams on its perennial rivers which generate Hydro power. Today export of power to India is a major source of income for Bhutan followed by Tourism.  Maintaining clean environment is an obsession with the government.
Education is free till secondary school level. Government supports bright students with scholarships with the strict proviso that they have to come back and serve the country.
Medical facilities are free for the people of Bhutan. There is a big government run hospital in Thimphu. District level hospitals serve the people from small towns and villages. Tourists from India are offered free medical facilities, if required.
Most of the marriages are love marriages. There is no dowry system. After the marriage the bridegroom is expected to move into his In law`s house to live with his wife`s family. Joint family system is still in vogue.
Rice is a staple food for the Bhutanese. It can be white, sticky or brown. They have rice as a part of breakfast, lunch and dinner with the side dishes depending upon the time of the meal. Local noodles and Momos are also popular dishes. By and large the Bhutanese are non vegetarians.  Being Buddhists they don't kill animals.  All meat including fish is imported from India. But they eat very pungent food.
Bhutan is also well known for its Rice Wine which is called ARA and a Butter Tea called SUJA made of Tea, hot water, butter and salt instead of sugar. There is no prohibition in Bhutan.
While Archery is the national sport , youngsters also indulge in their love for cricket, foot ball and volley ball..
Thimphu the new capital houses all important business establishments. The city is dotted with multi-storied apartments. The traffic is moderate. The cars we saw were either SUVs or small cars. There were very few Sedans seen on the streets of   Thimphu. You hardly see any policemen or security personnel. No visible signs of poverty anywhere. There are few night clubs operating over the weekends where the youngsters come and unwind. Crime rate in Bhutan is very low- so far!
.To keep the traditional culture alive the Bhutanese wear their traditional clothing that has been worn for centuries. Bhutanese men wear a GHO a long robe tied around the waist by a small belt called Khera. A woman`s knee length dress is called KIRA. Throughout our stay in Bhutan I did not find any Bhutanese wearing modern clothes. The youngsters swear by their culture and tradition and they were generally happy and a contented lot. However thanks to growing popularity of social media and consequent growing aspirations some of them did say that they were looking for a better future and hoped that the government will help them in the process.
Though Bhutan currently is a sparsely populated country where we are able to breathe pure air and move around without any stress or tensions, will commercial considerations resulting out of growing tourism keep the country pristine in the future is a question.

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