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Bhutanese Culture

Cultural & Religious Tour

The country was almost entirely isolated from the modern outside world until the early 1960s and has subsequently undergone partial integration in line with the measured and balanced development policy pursued. It is only one generation removed from what might be termed a pre-modern condition, and for many their overall situation - although considerably improved in certain important respects - has not changed that dramatically. The prevailing culture, therefore, not only draws on certain aspects of the past for inspiration, but also bears an unusually close resemblance to a long-established undiluted tradition. Within this context neither the positions occupied by religion and the monarchy, or the perpetuation of dress, architecture, handicraft and overall social organization appear as particularly outdated throwbacks.

There is a rare coherence and sense of balance in current cultural conditions. Throughout the world pockets of indigenous culture perpetuate. However, it is unusual that an entire nation remains collectively so connected to its traditions, and significant dislocations have not yet occurred across time and space. Much of Bhutanese history retains direct contemporary relevance, rather than being a record of a remote and incongruent past. Furthermore, a complete division has not yet occurred between modern urban and traditional rural cultural systems. Individual identities remain firmly rooted within established structures and belief systems, reflected in a lack of self-consciousness, an underlying self-confidence and the high return rate of students studying overseas.

The relationship between religion and culture remains particularly intimate due to the both the holistic approach to life that Buddhism implies, and the enhanced significance attributed to religion within traditional societies. In the sense that Buddhism, especially in its tantric form, lays out a blueprint for correct thoughts and actions (and therefore correct values), it has strongly informed the development of political and social institutions. There remains an unusual consistency between respective elements of a supporting cultural system. Furthermore, since the natural environment, art forms, rituals and ceremonies are all connected to religion, Buddhism has been the fundamental influence on material as well and psychological aspects of culture.

Politics and religion remain deeply interrelated. Whereas Bhutanese society is predominantly egalitarian, the legitimacy to rule is divinely determined. This implies a very steep natural hierarchy, with a significant division between those to whom divine legitimacy has been attributed - high Rinpoches, the King and blood relations - and everyone else. Those in authority possess an awareness of their responsibility and the reciprocal nature of implied relationships. Around these centers a system of court politics has developed, where power is given through the nature of the relationship with the source. This implies a very vertical and narrow central political hierarchy. Although the political system is being reformed - and new hierarchies are developing related to wealth and more broad-based notions of status - power remains concentrated. More aesthetic other cultural forms are essentially passed from the top-down, for example fashion and architectural style.

Contact Information

Post Box No. 445, Thimphu, Bhutan
Mobile No: +975-17128816/17166464
Fax: +975-2-337627

Travel Information