Clinging to a black rock face, 800 meters above the valley floor, nestles Taktsang Lhakhang, one of the holiest sites of Himalayan Buddhism. Such is the sense of peace and serenity as the quiet approach path winds through lush meadow, oak and rhododendron forest, past quaint hamlets, fluttering prayer flags and rotating prayer wheels, and along the precipitous cliff, it is difficult to believe that Bhutan's only airport is barely kilometers away. Taktsang, the tiger's lair, acquires its name from the legend of its foundation, when in the 8th Century Guru Rinpoche, widely revered as the second Buddha, arrived from Tibet flying across the mountains on the back of a tigress. He meditated at the site for three months, from where he used the religious cycle of the Kagye to subjugate the Eight Categories of Evil Spirits, and thus converted the region to Buddhism. Over the centuries many luminaries came to meditate at this intensely spiritual place, enriching the legacy of its founding master and strengthening belief in the Buddhist faith.
Through its setting and history, Taktsang stands as a evocative metaphor for Bhutan itself, alluding to some of the defining elements of the diminutive Himalayan kingdom: a spiritual sanctuary, enriched by the thoughts and actions of its ancestors and an enduring intensity of faith; an ecological enclave, where geographical circumstance and human humility have united to preserve an abundant, multi-layered, undistracted environment; a secluded land, occupying a precarious niche in a fast encroaching modern world. Drukyul, the Land of the Thunder Dragon, is particularly distinctive in that it has preserved its overall identity to remain a traditional microcosm somewhat removed from wider global realities. The nation has thus far been blessed with the ability to reproduce itself through ever changing circumstances. In 1998 the Taktsang complex was heavily damaged by fire. The following year popular excitement greeted the discovery of a young boy as the reincarnation of Tenzing Rabgye, the fourth temporal ruler of Bhutan, responsible for originally building the destroyed buildings in 1692. The successful reconstruction is now nearing completion.
Bhutan at Glance
|Location:||South Asia, between China and India|
|Geographic Coodinates:||27 30 N, 90 30E|
|Area:||38, 398 sq km|
|Life expentancy:||53.19 years|
|National Day:||17 December|
|Currency:||Ngultrum (BTN) BTN42=US$1|
|Climate Caries:||Tropical in sourthen plains;
Cool winters and hot summers in center valleys;
Severe winters and cool summers in Himalayas
|Terrain:||Mostly mountainous with some fertile valleys and savanna|
|Elevation extremes:||Lowest point; Drangme Chhu 97m
Highest point; Jomolhari 7,553m
|Natural Resources:||Timber, hydropower, gypsum, and calcium carbide|
|Administrative divisions:||20 districts (dzongkhag);|
Religious festivals are perfect occasions to glimpse what might be termed Bhutanese culture. Celebrated throughout the country, they occur in a host of differing forms, depending upon the scale, the nature of the ceremonies performed or the particular deity being revered. The best known are the Tshechus, festivals which honor Guru Rinpoche and celebrate one of his remarkable actions, and the most popular of these take place annually in or around the great dzongs, attracting both tourists and large numbers from the surrounding districts. Lasting several Day, the central focuses are the series of prayers and religion inspired dances. These dances, made especially striking by the spectacular costumes of the dancers - bright silks and rich brocade, ornate hats or extraordinary masks - may either depict morality tales, invoke protection from demonic spirits or proclaim Buddhist victories and the glory of remarkable saints.
And then there are the atsaras - clowns sporting fiendish masks, making lewd gestures and cracking salacious jokes - who mingle on the periphery of the performance, are entitled to mock both spiritual and temporal subjects, and through their distractions infuse a lighter side to otherwise serious matters. The whole gathering begins to resemble a country fair, as the jolly and convivial assembly - many turning out in their vibrant finery - further entertains itself in lively conversation, the playing of an assortment of games and the imbibing of copious amounts of food and alcohol. Tshechus may end with the bestowing of powerful blessings, delivered orally by a high lama or visually with the unfurling of a huge appliqué thangka representing Guru Rinpoche and his Eight Manifestations. The commanding backdrop of a monastic fortress, the visual extravagance of the dances, the cacophony of musical accompaniments, the solemnity of chanting mantras, the artistic splendor, the unfamiliar smells and the overall exuberance of the diverse crowd lend the scene an extremely exotic air.
Flora And Fauna of Bhutan
Around 64 percent of Bhutan is made up of forests, which are located in the Middle Himalayan ranges and foothills of central and eastern Bhutan. Vegetation is mainly governed by the altitude, slope, moisture, and drainage and gives rise to deciduous woodlands in the south, mixed forests in central Bhutan, and coniferous forests in the north. As far as fauna is concerned, the northern part of the Duars, including the foothills is home to deer, tigers, and other wild animals.
Location of Bhutan
Bhutan is situated in the eastern Himalayas, on the Indian subcontinent and is bound on the north by the Tibet region of China, and to the south, east, and west by India.
Climate of Bhutan
Various natural differences like varying altitudes, rain-bearing winds, etc cause variations in climate. The northern interior experiences severe winters and cool, temperate summers while the southern foothills and the Duars have a humid, tropical climate all year round. The capital, Thimphu, in west central Bhutan has average temperatures ranging from about -4C (25F) to about 16C (61F) in January and from about 15C (59F) to about 26C.
The Bhutanese authorities strictly prohibit the export of any religious antiquity or antiques of any type. Cameras, video camera, computers and personal electronic equipment may be brought into the country but they must be listed on the customs form provided on arrival at Paro and will be checked at departure. Two liters of alcohol, 400 cigarettes and 150 grams of pipe tobacco may be brought into the country without any duty.
Hotels vary in style and quality. All government approved hotels are clean and well maintained with hot and cold water facilities. All hotels are equipped with telephones, fax machines and international dialing.
Bhutanese food is a tantalizing blend of hot Himalayan flavors. The Bhutanese diet is rich in meat, diary, grain (particularly red rice) and vegetables. Emadatse (chilli and cheese stew) is a very popular dish. Most dishes whether vegetarian or non-vegetarian is lavishly spiced with chilli. Salted butter tea (suja) is served on all occasions. Chang, a local beer and Ara, a spirit distilled from rice, maize, wheat or barley is widely favored. Doma or betel nut is offered as a customary gesture of greeting. Besides hotels also offer Continental, Chinese & Indian cuisine. The food prepared for tourists is tempered according to individual tastes.
Clothing & Temperature
Bhutan's climate ranges from subtropical in the south to temperate in the central highlands to cold and even sub freezing in the north. The climate can be unpredictable and the temperature can vary dramatically. In Thimphu and Paro, the winter daytime temperature averages 12 degrees Celsius but drops well below freezing at night. Warm woolens are recommended in the winter and it is advisable to bring light sweaters or jackets even in the summer. Comfortable walking shoes are indispensable to all while trekkers should be equipped with strong boots and medium to heavy sleeping bags.
Photography & Filming
Photography is permitted nearly everywhere in Bhutan. However it is not permitted in the Dzongs (Fortresses) and monasteries. Any commercial filming in Bhutan requires prior permission to be sought from the Royal Government and the payment of a royalty. We will assist you with all the formalities.
Bhutanese time is 6 hours ahead of GMT and half and hour ahead of the Indian Standard Time.