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Bhutan Tourism - Unique Traditions and Customs

buildings mountains
Rich in natural beauty and one of the very few thriving places of ancient Buddhist culture, Bhutan stands for the preservation of centuries-old customs and traditions among other countries, as well as historical monuments of great religious significance. The rulers of the land have voluntarily chosen to isolate themselves from the outside world and to nurture their religious beliefs, customs and traditions and their pleasant way of life. The agrarian society influenced by Buddhism is well looked after by the government, which also draws inspiration and insight from royal rulers and religious leaders.

Bhutan culture tradition
Steeped in culture and tradition, Bhutan has since opened its doors to tourists, but allows a limited number of foreign visitors each year to preserve its religious and natural settings so as to maintain a laborious continuity. The Bhutan Tourism Council has strict entry criteria for travelers, requiring them to fully pre-travel tour expenses to obtain a visa.

Here are some traditions of Bhutan that visitors should do well to accept / respect during their visit.


The locals follow a simple and complete lifestyle based on Buddhist culture and religion. People here put small white flags on their roofs to indicate that they have pleased the local deities. They have their food in sitting cross-legged on the wooden floor, first serving the head of the family. A piece of food is left as a offering to the spirits before consuming the food.

When food is offered for the first time, it is customary to chant "Meshu Meshu" and politely cover one's mouth once or twice before accepting the meal!

Both men and women are considered equal, with men moving with their wife's family after marriage in some parts of the country.

kira traditional dress of bhutan
Bhutanese wear their national costumes as per law. The men are dressed in Gho outfits (Bhutan's national dress), while the women have Kiara with a wrap-around skirt. The rich embroidered scarves of men and women are signs of their social status and are worn when meeting with officers and other special occasions. A specific etiquette or code is "driglam namza" which governs all aspects of life ranging from behavior, dress codes, protocols for communication, marital responsibilities, eating habits and more.

Religion and Mythology

The ritual is practiced with zeal and reverence. Religious sites and monuments, stupas and prayer flags are extremely important. While passing through places of worship, people ensure that their right side is closest to the structure as a mark of respect. They rotate their prayer wheels in a clockwise direction. Foot wear is left outside religious sites and temples. Interestingly all the arts in the country are based on religious themes, are anonymous and have no specific aesthetic purpose!

religious places of bhutan
Mythology also has a great influence on the local people who are usually quite conservative. Falus are painted on the exterior of houses to ward off evil. It is believed that a divine lunatic once protected people using his phallus to defeat evil forces.

Dogs are held in high-esteem by locals, who believe that they will assume the human form in the next life because they are the highest of all animal life forms.

Birth and death

There is no gender discrimination. No one, apart from the immediate family, is allowed to see the new birth and mother before the purification ceremony performed three days after birth. The children are named after their local deity and the first and second names are the same for the people. First names tagged with a valley, village or household name usually help identify the person, however, you cannot infer the gender of the person by their name.

Belief in lifestyle is common and funerals are elaborate rituals that pray for safe travel and re-birth. Ceremonies are held on select days and also the death anniversary. Cremation, burial and in some areas ials Sky Bardials' are spoken of by the departed people. Sky burials are similar to traditional Parsi funerals in India, where the body is left atop mountains to feed vultures.


Traditional music and dance are not only colorful and entertaining, but also religious rituals that protect people from evil forces. Monks at various monasteries donate masks and perform the spiritually important Tsechus that impart Buddhist teachings to the public. Dromchoes are dances dedicated to regional protective deities. During special occasions different types of Zhai folk music / dances are organized in different monasteries. The masked Cham dance is a visual treat with moral messages. Each traditional dance is likely to last for hours together and celebrations throughout the days.

Summer Festivals of Bhutan

Religion influences the architecture of traditional structures in Bhutan. Although the layout of each type of structure is based on basically the same blueprint, the design, materials, and decorations vary, adding interesting visual variations to the space. Each valley of Bhutan has a dzong or fortified monastery, with a central temple surrounded by other structures. The monasteries are opaque and are therefore stupas and gem stones. The structures are equally striking, equally distinct.

Monks do not confine themselves to monasteries. They perform rituals in local residences on special occasions such as births, deaths, marriages etc., and also participate in dance in addition to making rich embroidery. They also study English!

buildings mountains
Bhutan tourism has been active since the 1970s. Tourists from India and some other countries enjoy many travel privileges compared to Western countries. However, it is important to team up with a reputed / trusted tour operator, so that all of you can think about your trip to Bhutan and not everyone gets to see the place! Soak in the ancient settings, appreciate the local customs and traditions, pay attention to the architectural, cultural nuances of the place and take time to meditate and relax in the serene settings before heading back to the chaotic cities!

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