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Bhutanese culture is one of the distinctive cultures in the world. As a tiny country with a very small population the need to preserve culture and tradition is amplified. This unique culture is a means of protecting the sovereignty of the nation. The distinctiveness of the culture and tradition is visible in the everyday life of the Bhutanese.

Birth:
The birth of the child is always welcomed without difference on gender. The outsiders, normally, do not visit the child for first three days as the house is considered polluted by kaydrip (defilement by birth). Thus, a purification ritual (Lhabsang) is conducted in the house, after which the outsiders come to the house to see the new born baby. Gifts are brought for the newborn and the mother. The gifts range from rice and dairy products in the rural places to clothes and money in the urban.

The child is not immediately named. Generally, the names are given by religious person. The child is also taken to the temple of the local deity (natal deity) and the name associated with the deity is given. In some cases, the child is given the name of the day on which the child is born. The horoscope of the baby known as kye tsi is written based on Bhutanese calendar. It details out the time and date of the birth, predicts the future of the child, rituals to be executed at different stages in the life of the child as remedy to possible illness, problems and misfortune.

Traditionally, the culture of celebrating birthdays did not exist. However, it has now become popular especially among the town and city dwellers.

Funeral:
Death is the most expensive affair as it does not mean the end. On the contrary, it is merely passing on to another life. Thus many rituals are performed to help the departed soul get a better rebirth. Rituals are performed after the 7th day, 14th day, 21st day and the 49th days of the death. Cremations are done only on a favorable day prescribed by the astrologer but in habitually before the 7th day ritual. Elaborate rituals are also conducted on the death anniversary for three consecutive years with erection of prayer flags in the name of the deceased. The relatives and people of the locality come with alcohol, rice, or other sundry items to attend these rituals.

Eating Habits:
Bhutanese eat with hands. Eating with spoons is an imported culture. The family members sit on the floor in a circle and the mother serves the food. Most of the Bhutanese still use traditional plates made of wood (dapa/dam/dolom) and bamboo (bangchungs). Before eating they toss some morsels of rice in the air as offering to the deities and spirits. The favorite Bhutanese dishes are Ema Datsi (chili with cheese), Paa (sliced pork and beef) and red rice. No dish goes without chili. People also drink salted butter tea (suja) and alcohol. Doma (betel leaf and areca nut eaten with a dash of lime) is also carried by many in their pouch. Offering of Doma to someone is an act of friendship, politeness and a mark of generosity.

Marriage
Until just a few decades ago arranged marriages were common and many married among their relatives. In eastern Bhutan cross-cousin marriages were also once common, however, this practice is now becoming less common place among the literate masses and most marriages are based on the choice of the individuals.

Marriages are simple affairs and are usually kept low-key. However, elaborate rituals are performed for lasting unions between the bride and the bridegroom. As the religious ceremony comes to an end, parents, relatives and friends of the couple present the newlyweds with traditional offerings of scarves along with gifts in the form of cash and goods.

In the Western Bhutan, it was commonplace that the husband goes to live in his wife’s house after marriage while the practice in Eastern Bhutan is for the wife to move into the husband’s home. Of course, the newlyweds may also choose to live on their own. Divorce is also an accepted norm and carries no ignominy or disgrace within the country.

Bhutanese dress
One of the most distinctive features of the Bhutanese is their traditional dress.One of the most distinctive features of the Bhutanese is their traditional dress, unique garments that have evolved over thousands of years. Men wear the Gho, a knee-length robe somewhat resembling a kimono that is tied at the waist by a traditional belt known as Kera. The pouch t which forms at the front traditionally was used for carrying food bowls and a small dagger. Today however it is more accustomed to carrying small articles such as wallets, mobile phones and Doma (beetle nut).

Women wear the Kira, a long, ankle-length dress accompanied by a light outer jacket known as a Tego with an inner layer known as a Wonju. However, tribal and semi-nomadic people like the Bramis and Brokpas of eastern Bhutan generally wear clothing that differs from the rest of the Bhutanese population. The Brokpas and the Bramis both wear dresses woven either out of Yak or Sheep hair.

Bhutanese still wear long scarves when visiting Dzongs and other administrative centers. The scarves worn vary in color, signifying the wearer’s status or rank. The scarf worn by men is known as Kabney while those worn by women are known as Rachus. Below is a brief breakdown of the different kabneys and their associated rank.

The Rachu is hung over a woman’s shoulder and unlike the scarves worn by men, does not have any specific rank associated with its color. Rachus are usually woven out of raw silk and embroidered with beautiful rich patterns.

Festival
Bhutan is rich in cultural diversity and this richness is further enhanced by the wide variety of elaborate and colorful religious festivals that are celebrated throughout the country. Every village is known for their unique festival though the most widely known is the annual Tshechu, meaning a religious festival. As the Tshechu begins, the villagers and the general populace dress in their finest clothes and congregate at their local temples and monasteries were these festivals take place. Tshechus are usually occasions to mark important events in the life of the second Buddha, the Indian/Pakistani Tantric master known as Guru Rinpoche or the Precious Gem. Various mask dances are performed together with songs and dances for three days.

These religious celebrations are lively, high-spirited affairs during which people share meals of red rice, spicy pork, Ema Datshi and Momos (pork dumplings) whilst drinking the heady traditional rice wine known as Ara. These occasions provide the villagers with a respite from the hard labor of their day to day lives and give the community an opportunity to catch up with family and friends.

Tour Packages offered by Bhutan Flying Bird Tours and Travels

Cultural Tours »

Cultural Tours

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Festival Tours »

Festival Tours

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Trekking Tours »

Trekking Tours

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Other Tours »

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Destinations

Western Bhutan

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Central Bhutan

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Eastern Bhutan

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