Bhutan holds many surprises. This is a country where the rice is red and where chillies aren’t just a seasoning but the main dish. It’s also a deeply Buddhist land. To date, Bhutan has retained many of its traditional social structures and has actively sought to preserve its cultural identity in the face of modernisation and increasing external influences. Get affiliated with the Bhutanese way of life…
The music scene in Bhutan is small and the most popular music, rigsar, is still evolving. Rigsar is typically performed on modern instruments, notably electric piano and synthesiser. Rigsar blends elements of traditional Bhutanese and Tibetan tunes, and is influenced by Hindi film music. Contemporary and traditional Bhutanese music is widely available from little booths throughout Bhutan.
Doma is an integral part of Bhutanese culture. A popular gift throughout the society, it is made up of three main ingredients: doma or areca nut (Areca catechu), pani or betel leaf (Piper betel) and tsune or lime (calcium carbonate). Eating doma was an aristocratic practice, with the various ingredients kept in ornate rectangular silver boxes called chaka, while lime had a separate circular box with conical lid called trimi. Today people may keep their doma in bamboo bangchung or a cloth pouch called a kaychung.
Dzoe – Spirit Catcher
Sometimes you will come across a strange construction of twigs, straw and rainbow- coloured thread woven into a spider-web shape. You may see one near a building or by a roadside, with flower and food offerings. This is a dzoe (also known as a tendo), a sort of spirit catcher used to exorcise something evil that has been pestering a household.
The Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal established a code of etiquette for monastic and government officials. Over the centuries this system of etiquette spread to lay people. Called driglam namzha, the code of conduct specifies how to dress when visiting a dzong (fort-monastery), the polite way to greet one’s boss and officials, the correct way to sit, eat and so forth. Many of the ceremonies performed at the start of an official event (chipdrel, marchang), or an archery match are part of driglam namzha.
Dress: Gho & Kira
Bhutan’s traditional dress is one of the most distinctive and visible aspects of the country. It is compulsory for all Bhutanese to wear national dress in schools, government offices and on formal occasions. Men, women and children wear traditional clothing made from Bhutanese textiles in a variety of colourful patterns.
Men wear a gho, a long robe similar to the Tibetan chuba. According to tradition, men should carry a small knife called a dozum at the waist. Traditional footwear is knee-high, embroidered leather boots, but these are now worn only at festivals.
Women wear a long floor-length dress called a kira. This is a rectangular piece of cloth that wraps around the body and is fastened at the shoulders with elaborate silver hooks called koma and at the waist with a belt that may be of either silver or cloth. Over the top is worn a short, open, jacket-like garment called a toego. Women often wear large amounts of jewellery. The whole ensemble is beautiful and Bhutanese women are very elegant in their finery.