KINGDOM OF BHUTAN
('Brug Rgyal-khab, འབྲུག་རྒྱལ་ཁབ་,
- Location: South Asia
- Capital: Thimpu
- Language(s): Dzongkha
- Population: 702,234
- Total Area: 38,816 sq km
- Currency: Ngultrum
- Curious Alcohol Fact: There is a local beer called chang and is made from rice.
- Annual Average Liquor Consumption Per Capita: 0.54 liters
- Most Popular Drink(s): Tea, chang
One of the most exotic kingdoms in the world, Bhutan (or Druk Yul) is located deep in the belly of the Great Himalaya Range in south-central Asia. The country is surrounded by India and China (Tibet). In Dzongkha, the nation’s official language, the name Bhutan means ‘Land of the Thunder Dragon’, and that is eloquently stated on the national flag, which is emblazoned with a fiery dragon. The country is a hereditary monarchy and since the early 20th century, it has been ruled by the Wangchuk royal family. Although small, the nation is of impressive geographical diversity. There are mountains, swamps, plains and jungles in various parts of the country. The Himalayas mountain range is the predominant natural feature in the country. Although once a secluded society, Bhutan is now opening up to the outside world and is a major tourist destination.
In terms of ethnic distribution, the country can be classified into four groups. These include the natives, Nepalis, Bhutia and Sharcops. The Bhutias are also known as the Ngalops and are the largest group in the country, forming almost two-thirds of the country’s population. Their language is Dzonghka which is also the nation’s official language. The Nepalis form about a quarter of the population and are called the Gurung in some other parts of the country. History tells us that the ancestors of the Nepalis were from Tibet. The Sharcops are widely regarded as the earliest inhabitants of the land and are also known to speak Hindi, since they are the closest to the Indian subcontinent. The predominant religion in the country is Buddhism which accounts for more than 70% while others are either Hindus or followers of traditional religions.
In Bhutan, there are places that you have to see and explore. A very good place to start the exploration is the capital city of Thimphu where the Royal Palace is located, in addition to the National Library. From there, you can head to any of the Buddhist monasteries located on the fertile valleys. These buildings are called dzongs and are found in various parts of the country. If you are a keen archer, then you are in the right place as archery is the national sport of the Bhutanese.
One thing with the Bhutanese when it comes to food is that they are in love with hot and spicy meals. Thus, if your tongue detests capsaicin, this is the country to ginger up, as many of the dishes will contain chili pepper. The most popular food in the Himalayan kingdom is called ema datse and is a hot combination of pepper and dairy products. Very hot and spicy, but delicious too.
Interestingly, tea is quite common in the country and you will also find various alcoholic drinks. Popular among the locals is a drink called chang and is made from rice. There is also Red Panda, a beer made from wheat.
You will appreciate the exotic nature of the country when you learn that the national sport is not football or cricket but archery. I think that was the first and only country I visited having archery as its national game.
- When King Jigme Wangchuk was crowned in 2006, he was the youngest monarch in the world.
- The country is home to the rare red panda, which has a beer named for it.
- Some of the most elaborate dance festivals in Asia are organized in Bhutan.
- Buddhism is the state religion.
- Once an absolute monarchy, Bhutan is now a constitutional monarchy.
Story By World By Shotglass
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Special thanks to our contributors:
Adebayo Ahmed Adebola (Ilorin, Nigeria)
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