While Bhutan is one of the smallest countries in the world, its cultural diversity and richness are profound.
As such, strong emphasis is laid on the promotion and preservation of its unique culture. By protecting and nurturing Bhutan’s living culture, it is believed that it will help guard the sovereignty of the nation.
Rice, and increasingly maize, are the staple foods of the country. The diet in the hills also includes chickens, yaks meat, beef and Sheep mutton. Soups of meat, rice, and dried vegetables spiced with chilies and cheese are a favorite meal during the cold seasons. Dairy foods, particularly butter and cheese from yaks and cows are popular, and indeed almost all milk is turned to butter and cheese. Popular beverages include butter tea, sweet tea, locally brewed rice wine and beer.
Bhutan’s national sport is archery, and competitions are held regularly in most villages. It differs from Olympic standards not only in technical details such as the placement of the targets and atmosphere. There are two targets placed over 100 meters apart and teams shoot from one end of the field to the other. Each member of the team shoots two arrows per round. Traditional Bhutanese archery is a social event and competitions are organized between villages, towns, and amateur teams. There are usually plenty of food and drink complete with singing and dancing. Wives and supporters of the participating teams cheer. Attempts to distract an opponent include standing around the target and making fun of the shooter’s ability.
Darts (Khuru) is an equally popular outdoor team sport, in which heavy wooden darts pointed with a 10 cm nail are thrown at a paperback-sized target ten to twenty meters away. Football is an increasingly popular sport. Golf is fast becoming a popular sport.
Rigsar (Modern) is the new emergent style of popular music, played on a mix of traditional instruments and electronic keyboards, and dates back to the early 1990s; it shows the influence of Indian popular music, a hybrid form of traditional and Western popular influences. Traditional genres include the Zhungdra and Boedra.
Bhutan has numerous public holidays, most of which center around traditional seasonal, secular and religious festivals. They include the winter solstice, Lunar New Year, King’s Birthday, Coronation Anniversary, National Day, the Official Start of Monsoon Season, and various Buddhist and Hindu celebrations. Even the secular holidays have religious overtones, including religious dances and prayers for blessing the day.
Masked dances and dance dramas are common traditional features at festivals, usually accompanied by traditional music. Energetic dancers, wearing colorful wooden or composition facemasks and stylized costumes, depict heroes, demons, death heads, animals, gods, and caricatures of common people. The dancers enjoy royal patronage, and preserve ancient folk and religious customs and perpetuate the ancient lore and art of mask making.
Inheritance in Bhutan generally goes in the female rather than the male line. Daughters will inherit their parents’ house. A man is expected to make his own way in the world and often moves to his wife’s home. Love marriages are the norm. There is no tradition of arranged marriages and, though uncommon, polygamy and polyandry are accepted. This is often a device to keep property in a contained family unit rather than dispersing it. Former King Jigme Singye Wangchuck is married to four sisters.