Bhutan is a little Himalayan country located in south Asia, north of India and south of China. With a population of only 800 thousand people, Bhutan has recently made the transition from absolute monarchy to constitutional monarchy.
Most of the countries use the Gross Domestic Product (GPD) to measure intern development. The fourth Bhutanese King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, introduced the concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH) in the beginning of the 1970’s. According to the Bhutanese culture, it is a much better index to measure the expansion of the country than the GDP. GNH attributes equal importance to the non-economic aspects of wellbeing such as spirituality, health, community, culture, knowledge and wisdom, culture and many others. This is the most important index in Bhutan and it directs the national policies of the government. In order to approve any project or policy in Bhutan, it must be shown that it will affect positively the Gross National Happiness. It is used a mathematical calculation for such purpose so it is not a subjective evaluation. If a certain score is not obtained by a project or policy, it will be revised or discarded.
Maintenance of biodiversity
Bhutan is seen as a model country for proactive conservation. The conservation of its natural environment is a part of Bhutan’s plan to increase Gross National Happiness. The constitution of the country states that it is a duty of every citizen to contribute to prevention, protection and conservation of ecological degradation. It also assures that a minimum of sixty percent of Bhutan’s total land is covered with forest.
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In 1988, only 25 percent of children were enrolled in primary school. Today, this rate is over ninety percent. Education is also a primary target of the government of Bhutan as it helps increase the Gross National Happiness index.
Unlike many other conservative Asian Countries, sex is not a big issue in Bhutan. Around the country, it is possible to find a great variety of phallic symbols. Houses and restaurants in villages are sometimes covered with pictures of penises. The phallic symbols are believed to repel evil spirits and to bring good luck.
Bhutan’s family system is matriarchal. When a new couple is formed, usually the groom moves to the bride’s family home. Generally, the daughters inherit the parent’s property, which is controlled by the woman in the figure of mother anchor.
Located between two Asian giants, China and India, the two most populous countries in the world, it would be expected that Bhutanese culture would be smashed. However, it is not so. Bhutan still manages to preserve its traditional culture, probably mainly because of the isolation from the rest of the world until the middle of the twentieth century. Bhutan only joined the United Nations in 1971 and until today has no diplomatic relations with any of the members of the permanent council. Things are gradually beginning to change though. Globalization reaches everywhere sometime and with more foreigners moving into Bhutan each year, the culture is slowly beginning to dilute. Changes are more evident in the urban areas. For example: in the fields, men and women work together, while in the cities the western way with men working and women taking care of the house is more common. There are some advantages of the globalization though. Today, almost everyone has access to technologies like cellphones, internet or television. In the rural areas, the use of new machinery in the fields increased, elevating life standards of the workers by making the job much easier.
Bhutan is a wonderful country with a unique culture. It is certainly worth a visit.