People & Culture
The Bhutanese culture is one most cautiously protected and well conserved cultures in the world. The people of Bhutan realize that other than their centuries old culture and revered values, there is little else that is exclusive to their small and less developed country. In a bid to prevent their ancient customs from being influenced by the West, the Bhutanese government has made it mandatory for all Bhutanese to wear only their national dress in public.
All Bhutanese art-dance, drama and music-is steeped in Buddhism. The paintings are not produced for tourists, but for religious purposes; festivals are not quaint revivals, but living manifestations of a national faith; and almost all art, music and dance represents the struggle between good and evil. These traditions can be seen in all their glory at Bhutan 's spectacular religious festivals called Tsechus.
The largest and most colorful festivals take place at Bhutan's dzongs and monasteries once a year, especially in honor of Guru Rimpoche. They are normally celebrated in spring and autumn. Tsechus consist of up to five days of spectacular pageantry, masked dances and religious allegorical plays that have remained unchanged for centuries. Besides being a vital living festival and an important medium of Buddhist teaching, tsechus are huge social gatherings. Bhutanese revel and exult together, dressed in their finest clothes and jewelry, in a welcoming ambiance where humor and devotion go hand in hand. For guests, the tsechu provides an ideal opportunity to appreciate the essence of the Bhutanese character.
The Bhutanese diet is rich in meat, dairy, grain (particularly rice) and vegetables. Emadachee, made with green hot chilies and cheese stew, is considered the national dish with many interpretations to this recipe throughout the kingdom. Meat dishes, mainly pork, beef and yak, are lavishly spiced with chilies, and it is common to see bright red peppers drying on rooftops in the sun. Salted butter tea, or suja, is served on all social occasions. Though there is plenty of white rice, Bhutanese prefer a local, slightly nutty, red variety. At high altitudes, wheat is the staple. Several Tibetan-style dishes are common, including momos (dumplings), and thukpa (noodles). Pork fat is popular in the wilds because of its high-energy content. Chang, a local beer, and ara, a spirit distilled from rice, maize, wheat or barley, are also common and widely favored. Doma or betel nut is offered as a customary gesture of greeting.