The last “Shangri-la” is a name for Bhutan, which is the last surviving Buddhist kingdom. This little country situated in the eastern Himalayas is all about its strong rooted traditions and the vast cultures and the unity of these diversities.
One of the most interesting facts about this country is that it counts the prosperity of the nation based on the gross national happiness rather than the gross national income like in most countries.
Bhutan may also be the only country with a carbon-negativity. The food that Bhutanese people eat is mostly organically produced and is enriched in the most fertile soils.
Trekking enthusiasts flock to trek in this haven for the aesthetics this land has to offer are astounding. Trekking in Nepal is a versatile haven for trekking enthusiasts as it has a piece if trekking for everyone’s budget and lengths, but trekking in Bhutan is a class apart, the treks here, will lead you through cliffs for a thrilling adventure and the picturesque alpine forests that blanket you, are a treat to the senses.
Have you heard of the Takin? It is an animal with the face of a moose, the horns of a yak and the body of a wild goat. The Takin is the national animal of Bhutan.
Here are 5 cultural experiences to immerse your-self in, once in Bhutan.
- The nomadic settlements:
Laya is the highest settlement of nomadic lives, in Bhutan. This place hosts the Royal highlanders’ festival. It is a festival that brings together different highland settlers from all across Bhutan to celebrate their sustainable life styles. Apart from their lifestyle this festival also celebrates the sustainable and vibrant highland economy and livelihood. It showcases exhibits and innovations of the highlanders’. The various highlander tribes exchange the best skills, knowledge and practices related to highland farming and yak rearing.
In Laya you can also take a nice and warm dip in the Gasa Hot Spring. This hot spring is known to cure ailments such as sinusitis and even arthritis. So head on to this wonderful festival to gorge your eyes on beautifully decorated yaks, horse race, the huge mastiff highland dogs, traditional arts and crafts exhibition, native poetry, dance and cultural sessions.
Tshechus are a communal gathering that happens in large grounds where the Bhutanese celebrate in festivities. It is a time for the locals to interact and unite in celebration of these festivals. This is where you will witness the famous traditional mask dances and folk dances performed by people dressed in elaborate Bhutanese attires and intricately woven textiles.
You can take pictures and fall in love with the alight vibe that these gatherings hold. Tshechus happen all throughout Bhutan in different places all year round.
- Archery tournaments:
Archery is Bhutan’s national sport and almost a manic obsession with this sport can be witnessed here. The fact that contestants consult shamans and occult practitioners to secure a victory and even to know the opponent’s field and range of directions, tells you the kind of devotion this sport holds in Bhutan. Archery is a test of manhood, poise and in the field; real science goes into playing a good match.
To increase the obstacles in this game, the opponent’s cheer team hurl insults and yanks at the archer so that the archer can prove his poise by keeping cool even in the noise. This crazy event rewards the victor with nationwide fame and praises.
- Zorgi chusum:
This traditional institute that teaches 13 different forms of art craft ranging from textiles, jewellery to even architecture, takes 5-6 years off a student’s life to completely master a particular form of art. While in this institute, you will find students in their classrooms or work areas and you can not only take pictures but also interact with the students about their work. If you are an arts enthusiast, this place is a must visit as it brings together the 13 arts and crafts in Thimpu.
- A visit to the monastery of the Divine Madman:
There is monastery for a divine monk who wanted to prove that one could attain enlightenment without giving up on all worldly pleasures. His name was Drupa Kunley, in his shrine, worshippers who plan to get a child or those who want a child go to receive blessings. They are blessed with a pat of a huge wooden penis on their head. All across Bhutan you will notice phallic symbols; the Bhutanese believe that phallic symbols are very effective in warding off evil spirits.
This is why there are so many yak penises found hanging off the shrine of His Holiness Drupa Kunley. The phallus is an extremely devotional subject for the Bhutanese. The divine madman’s phallus is referred to as the “Thunderbolt of flaming wisdom”.