Tourism promotion for destination Bhutan hinges a lot on its unique culture and traditions. Tourists across the world pay a premium to visit Bhutan and experience this authentic antiquated culture which dates back to mid-17th century. Cultural assimilation prevalent across the globe due to globalization, a destination that offers a way of life unaffected by the modern development does serve as a great unique selling point for destination Bhutan. Buddhism in the medieval period and possibly before that played a significant role in people’s lives. Therefore most of the Bhutanese culture is deeply rooted in its Buddhist heritage.
The preservation of its ancient culture is largely credited to Bhutan’s geographical isolation and persistent effort by its leader and the Government.
Dzongs (a medieval fortress) are ubiquitous in Bhutan. The mega structure stands gloriously amidst the modern development that has sprouted over the last half a century. Every Dzongs in the country have key association with the formation of this nation symbolizing solidarity and defending its sovereignty against foreign invasion. The constructions of these fortresses were mostly guided by the spiritual leaders including Zhabdrung among other. Most Dzongs in the country were strategically built on a ridge. Higher elevation provided better vantage over the valley and made it inaccessible from most sides of the Dzongs. A Dzong consists of multiple shrines and temples all guarded by high impenetrable thick walls making it the exterior structure of the Dzong. The nature of its construction in such a way proved extremely effective during times of war.
Dzongs were used for multiple purposes. It served as the seat for district administration and also housed the central monk body for the district. The open courtyard was used for congregation on important social and spiritual events. The Dzongs also housed important shrines of local deities and during the times of foreign invasion, it turned into a defense fort.
Rice and maize are the staples of the Bhutanese cuisine. Farming and livestock still remains the primary livelihood for majority of Bhutanese. Due to easy and abundant accessibility, local cheese and butter are central to most Bhutanese cuisine. Local diet also includes beef, pork, chicken and fish. Local delicacy includes Ema Datshi which is local chili cooked with cheese and butter and supposedly is the national dish of Bhutan. Air dried pork belly and sun dried beef are also considered a delicacy.
The national dress of Bhutan dates back to the 17th century. Men wear a knee length robe tied with a belt at the waist and women wear an ankle length dress. The art of weaving is one of the 13 arts and crafts of Bhutan. Generations of weavers have curated many textural designs for the robe and the dress. Today the design and the quality of the fabrics are often associated with social status.
Arts and Crafts
The architectural aesthetics of the Dzongs encapsulates what is termed as the authentic Bhutanese architecture. The hands on skills that went into the construction are identified as the traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan. A common man’s house might reflect these aesthetics ostensibly but regulations mandate a minimal traditional design in an effort to preserve this unique culture. A visit to the Dzong or a palace, tourists will notice the art of painting, sculpting, masonry, woodwork, calligraphy and metal casting among others.
The most popular festival is Bhutan is the tsechu (masked dance festival). The monks perform a series of religion inspired dances. Religious faithful believe the dances invoke deities to bless the congregation. Tsechus are a spiritual social gathering. The tsechus are held in the open courtyard of the majestic Dzongs across the country. This color fest event is a must visit for travellers to witness the Bhutanese culture.