People & Lifestyle

The People

Outdated data place Bhutan’s population at 600,000, it is believed, though, that the actual figure is closer to 700,000.

The population consists predominantly of three ethnic groups: the Ngalops of the western and central region, the Sharchogpas of the east, and the Lhotsampas along the southern belt. Collectively called the Drukpas, the Bhutanese people generally speak the official state language, Dzongkha, although several dialects are also used. The Bhutanese are also known to be fairly proficient speakers of English as it is the medium of instruction in Bhutanese schools.

Lifestyle

More than 80 percent of the people lead agrarian lives in villages of rough farming terrain. However, they are not above enjoying the lighter moments in life and are known to be a sporty lot. The Bhutanese zealously celebrate religious festivals and holidays with indigenous sports such as traditional archery, dego, and khuru. These occasions always involve social gathering, feasting and drinking.

Art and craft

Bhutanese art and craft, inevitably religious in character, exists in 13 forms that are together called the zorig chusum. These 13 forms include textile weaving, wood and slate carving, painting, blacksmithery, and pottery, all of which have elaborate techniques and histories passed on through successive generations.

Royal patronage as well as social and government support for the zorig chusum have led to Bhutan to being reputed as the last bastion of Himalayan Buddhist art. In contrast to traditional artists in places like Nepal and Darjeeling, Bhutanese artists tend to value religious ethics and quality over commercial gain and quantity. Sophisticated machinery and mass production have no place in Bhutanese art. Indigenous textiles, for one, are entirely hand-woven over months or years and hence may be relatively expensive.