Bhutan: The Land of Gross National Happiness- A Place You Must Visit!

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Bhutan

Have you ever been so mesmerized by the beauty of a place and it’s people, that you know the memories will forever be etched in your mind? Or has it ever occurred to you? the longing for going back to that place which not only filled your heart with happiness but also every thought of it makes you nostalgic? Well, Bhutan is one such place which will not only fill your heart with awe because of it’s scenic beauty but also make you realize the fact that yes, it is the “happiest country in Asia”.

The government’s foremost policy has been to preserve and protect its natural environment. Hence, every decision is taken keeping in mind the benefits of its people. Though, It may come as a surprise to many. How the country had kept itself isolated from the world and rapid modernisation for centuries. This is done in order to protect its culture. It has successfully managed to keep its cultural roots strong and intact. It was not until 1970 that foreign tourists were allowed in the country. But until date, a close eye is kept on foreign influences by the authorities.

Where is Bhutan Located?

The small country of Bhutan lies along the lofty ridges of the eastern Himalayas in south-central Asia. It is landlocked between India, on the east, south, and west, and the Tibet Autonomous Region of China.

All That You Should Look Forward To:

PARO VALLEY:

Paro
Image Credits: Ayesha Dixit

Paro is a town in the Paro valley of Bhutan. It is a historic town with many sacred sites and historical buildings. These buildings are scattered throughout the area and also home to Paro Airport, Bhutan’s sole international airport. The view from Rinpung Dzong that overlooks the Paro valley is completely breathtaking.

MUSEUMS AND MONUMENTS:

Valley
Image Credits: Ayesha Dixit

The Ta Dzong (watchtower) which is unusually round in shape, was constructed in 1649. It was later renovated in 1968 as the National Museum of Bhutan. The museum displays some very impressive paintings called thangkas. It depicts some of the important Buddhist saints and teachers. Along with these, there is a room full of magnificent fierce looking festival masks. They are all arranged according to the traditional tsechu dance form.

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Image Credits: Ayesha Dixit

The Dzongs are magnificent fortresses. They are home to some of the finest ancient hand printed scripts, carvings, sculptures and rare artifacts. The chief architectural elements of a Dzong are its massive stone walls, intricate woodwork on windows and wooden cornices. It’s the main purpose was to keep enemies at bay. However, it has also held a lot of importance in the religious and cultural front. Most Dzongs have monasteries that serve as residence to the monks and also where they are given religious teachings. These Dzongs will also give you a museum-within-museum feel of the culture.

THE TSECHU DANCE FESTIVAL:

Tsechu Dance
Image Source: Tsechu Dance

The Tshechu is a religious dance festival which is performed on the tenth day of a month according to the lunar calendar. It is a grand event in which all the communities come together to witness the mask dance, receive blessings and to socialize. The dance is performed by monks as well as village men. As per belief, everyone must attend a Tshechu and witness the mask dances at least once in order to receive blessings and wash away their sins. This mask dance contains different meanings and stories, which are taken from the 8th century, during the life of Guru Padmasambhava.

THE TIGER’S NEST MONASTERY (TAKTSANG GOEMBA):

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Image Source: Tiger’s Nest

The Tiger’s Nest Monastery is the holiest and iconic landmark of Bhutan. It is located at an altitude of 3,120 meters, 10 km north of Paro. Tourists need to walk for 2-3 hours through the shady pine forest in order to reach the spot. Your trip would most certainly remain incomplete without visiting this heritage site.

A “ZESTY” CUISINE:

Bhutanese Cuisine
Image Source: Bhutanese Cuisine

Bhutanese cuisine has taken some inspiration from its neighbours, China, India, and Tibet, but like the country, it’s the cuisine too has its unique characteristics. Though they are less oily and simple to look at but can really give you a fiery mouth like a dragon’s because of its spiciness. Ema Datshi (in picture) stands for a dish prepared with chilies, cheese, and potatoes, is often considered as the national dish of Bhutan, also some say if you haven’t tried this, you haven’t been to Bhutan. apart from this, some other must-try dishes include Jasha Maroo (spicy chicken), Dumplings, Red Rice.

THE PUNAKHA DZONG: 

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Image Credits: Ayesha Dixit

The Punakha Dzong is the most beautiful Dzong in the country. It was the second Dzong that was built and was the capital and the seat of the government until the mid-1950s, all of Bhutan’s kings have been crowned here and still remains as the winter residence of the official monk body. During spring, the Dzong is surrounded by the Jacaranda trees that bloom mauve flowers, and that definitely serves as a sight for sore eyes.

A SPIRITUAL RETREAT AND GROSS NATIONAL HAPPINESS:

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Image Credits: Ayesha Dixit

In Bhutan, Buddhism is not considered as a religion; it is a way of life. Perhaps, Buddhism is ingrained in the people of Bhutan which is why they are as calm and peaceful. If one would want to get away from the chaos of the city, they should definitely try Bhutan’s meditation retreats.Bhutan is known for it’s “gross national happiness” because it has continually ranked as the happiest country in Asia and the 8th happiest country in the world. According to Bhutan’s development philosophy, gross national happiness is measured by Buddhist values that measure the quality of life and the mental well-being of the people. Although it doesn’t reject the conventional method of measuring development (GDP). But it does pursue GNH as an alternative development philosophy.

Bhutan is definitely a must visit place, it will surely make one realize that materialistic things are not what will give us ultimate happiness and that life is, no less good, without it. As per personal experience and interactions, one thing can be said for sure, that the people in Bhutan are contented with their lives which are closely connected to their cultural roots. Less materialistic, rather more fulfilling. 

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