Bhutan covers an area of 38394 square kilometers with population of 6,72,425. Bhutan is hidden deep in the folds of the great Himalaya mountains for years. Bhutan developed its own civilization where the people live in close harmony with nature, evolved a unique identity , derived largely from a rich religious and cultural heritage.Today the world is seeing many exotic aspects of this Kingdom.
Bhutan is fast becoming increasingly known for its pure practice of Mahayana Buddhism in the tantric form, its untouchable culture, its pristine ecology and wildlife and unparallel scenic beauty of its majestic peaks and lush valleys and its governing policy of gross National Happiness(GNH), It is still, in many ways , a magical kingdom of the past.
Bhutan is located on the southern slopes of the eastern Himalayas, landlocked between the Tibet Autonomous Region to the north and the Indian states of Sikkim, West Bengal, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh to the west and south. It lies between latitudes 26 and 29N, and longitudes 88 and 93E.
The land consists mostly of steep and high mountains crisscrossed by a network of swift rivers, which form deep valleys before draining into the Indian plains.
Elevation rises from 200 m (660 ft) in the southern foothills to more than 7,000 m (23,000 ft). This great geographical diversity combined with equally diverse climate conditions contributes to Bhutan’s outstanding range of biodiversity and ecosystems.
Bhutanese people primarily consist of the Ngalops and Sharchops, called the Western Bhutanese and Eastern Bhutanese respectively. The Lhotshampa, meaning “southerners,” are a heterogeneous group of mostly Nepalese descent. The Ngalops primarily consist of Bhutanese living in the western part of the country. Their culture is closely related to that of Tibet.
Much the same could be said of the Sharchops, the dominant group, who traditionally follow the Nyingmapa rather than the official Drukpa Kagyu form of Tibetan Buddhism.
Dzongkha, the language of the dzong, belongs to the Tibetan linguistic family. Originally spoken only in western Bhutan, Dzongkha is now Bhutan’s national language. English is commonly spoken in the main towns and is the principal medium of instruction in schools throughout the kingdom.
Bhutan has a rich and unique cultural heritage that has largely remained intact because of its isolation from the rest of the world until the early 1960s. One of the main attractions for tourists is the country’s culture and traditions. Bhutanese tradition is deeply steeped in its Buddhist heritage. Hinduism is the second dominant religion in Bhutan, being most prevalent in the southern regions.
The government is increasingly making efforts to preserve and sustain the current culture and traditions of the country. Because of its largely unspoiled natural environment and cultural heritage, Bhutan has been referred to as The Last Shangri-la.
The ngultrum (Nu.) has been the currency of Bhutan since 1974. It is subdivided into 100 chhertum (called chetrums on coins until 1979). Denomination of 1, 5, 10, 20, 100, 500 and 1000 are available. However, US dollar and Indian Rupees are widely accepted.