Bhutan Culture of Faith
Bhutan presents an array of festivals all year round that portray its true cultural essence.
Bhutan is one of the few countries in South Asia that possess an aura of mystery so alluring that it attracts scores of visitors from around the world each year. Also known as, ‘The Land of the Thunder Dragon’, Bhutan lies in the eastern Himalayas, tucked away from the pull of modernity typical of the western world and is the only country in the world to retain the Tantric form of Mahayana Buddhism, specifically Drukpa Kagyu – the school of Buddhism which holds that the combined belief of its followers will eventually be great enough to encompass all of humanity and bear its salvation.
A form of religion based entirely on the need for spirituality in one’s life, the Buddhist faith plays an integral role in the cultural, ethical and sociological development of Bhutan and its people. It is perhaps on the basis of these beliefs that, in 1972, Bhutan’s fourth Dragon King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, coined the term Gross National Happiness (GNH) as a signal of commitment to building an economy that would serve Bhutan’s culture based on Buddhist spiritual values instead of the western material development that was represented by gross domestic product (GDP). This is a concept that has inspired a modern political happiness movement and has even compelled the United Nations to pass a resolution, placing ‘happiness’ on the global development agenda.
A major part of Bhutan’s culture constitutes numerous festivals also known as tshechus which are held every month for people to gather and watch masked dancers boisterously recreating Buddhist tales, which they believe invoke the blessings of deities, while reaffirming every person’s place on earth.
It is indeed a sight to behold. The entire area is filled with red-robed monks and their families who are kept entertained with stories of yesteryear by jesters known as atsaras. For visitors, these festivals are an unrivalled opportunity to understand the roots of Bhutanese culture while becoming immersed in the celebratory spirit and have thus been one of the major reasons for attracting so many people from across the globe. In 2013, Bhutan had nearly 120,000 visitors – the highest in its history, according to the Bhutan Tourism Council. Americans make up the largest foreign market with about 7,000 visitors, despite the daily $250 tariff (which includes basic food, accommodations, transport and a guide). In terms of annual visitors, people from India still dominate as they are largely excused from that tariff. Top Festivals Around Bhutan Punakha Tshechu – March Held every year in March in