Bhutanese Culture

Bhutanese take their culture very seriously. A law decrees that traditional dress will be worn in daylight hours. Men wear a heavy robe, tied at the waist by a sash (gho) and folded to create a pocket in front of the stomach. Women wear colourful blouses, over which they fold and clasp a large rectangular cloth (kira), creating a long skirt. Men must also wear a white sash from left shoulder to right hip when visiting a dzong or temple.

Bhutan is a Buddhist nation, with a strong monastery system. Decorations, prayer flags, sculptures of deities, all echo buddhist teachings and practices.

Traditions are kept alive by constant practise, so all the old festivals are still held, with dancers in each area joining together to bring health, happiness and prosperity to their homes and farms. Traditional crafts are maintained through a craft school in Thimphu, the capitol city. Artisans are trained in painting, sculpture, textiles, woodwork, and so on. Paper for sacred texts is hand made from daphne bushes that grow on the mountains. Every home has an altar for prayer and practises to maintain harmony and balance in life.

Land and houses are owned by women. On marriage the husband goes to live with the wife’s family. Women have respect equal to that of men in Bhutanese society. Food is simple and delicious, usually red rice, vegetables, lentils, chillies and cheese.

Archery is the national sport, enjoyed by all as a social occasion, s of course we had a chance to try it. Darts is widely played too, here is a photo of young boys playing using stumps of wood as a target. I have tried to illustrate some of the customs of the Bhutanese people, without going into too much detail. If you are interested to learn more try the Wikipedia article. It is a marvellous place to visit, with wonderfully friendly people but you need to take precautions against car-sickness as there are no straight roads, only winding ones!

20 thoughts on “Bhutanese Culture

    • in 2007 i won a travel prize and chose to visit bhutan, nepal (volunteering) and rajasthan … i was practising dzogchen at the time and was fortunate to have a guide who also practised, so he took us to some incredible sacred places off the tourist map … i don’t usually share much of that but there are a few posts i can point you too when i refind them … or use the search button and try ‘bhutan’!

    • at that time when you went to bhutan you paid a flat rate per day, that provided you with a car, driver and guide, all your accommodation and meals … it was wonderful, and of course our guide was happy to adjust the usual trail to our interests … all carefully controlled to prevent western contamination of their unique culture 🙂

  1. Terrific choice Christine! I never knew about the legislation on national dress during the day (I suppose that’s anywhere out and about in public?, though I see your guide’s wife is wearing her skirt at home).

  2. What a privilege to visit this wonderful place. I think its great that they preserve their culture instead of becoming the same as everyoe else, long may it continue. Your post is brilliant Christine, and thanks for the wiki link, the naming system is particularly intriguing.
    Wonderful! 🙂

  3. It’s wonderful they take their culture seriously and is refreshing that the land and houses are owned by women. I’m learning a lot about culture from your travels, Christine.

  4. Your photos are just wonderful. You’ve described a peaceful and cooperative culture of people that I can imagine were very welcoming. I’m sure you travel back there in your thoughts and memories of that wonderful travel opportunity every chance you get. 🙂

  5. Bhutan is an excellent example for ‘culture’ Christine. Their commitment to preserving their dress and way of life is remarkable. Tourism is apparently still controlled. We hope to visit sometime in the near future.

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