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Report 1790: Bhutan - Land of the Dragon
By Eleanor from UK, Fall 2009
Page 2 of 24: Impressions of Bhutan
Traditional farm house
Bhutan is completely different - the architecture, way of life and landscape.
Buddhism is an integral part of life and it struck us how happy everyone was even though life is tough and very hard work.
Bhutan is divided into small units each controlled from a Dzong, which is the administrative centre for the area and also where the monk body lives.
The Dzong is the largest and most impressive building in the town and was one of the places we always visited. The basic layout is the same with a big outer wall with offices or monks quarters, surrounding one or more courtyards with a central tower, the utse. There are temples inside the utse. We listened to monks chanting morning prayers, small boys learning their lessons and watched monks practising dances for a festival.
Most people still live in the country and are farmers. However many of the younger people are moving to the towns and some of the more remote villages are nearly deserted. Until recently, distances were measured in days it took to travel.
Houses are very traditional - even new ones. Farmhouses dot the landscape surrounded by tiny terraced fields. Walls were traditionally made of beaten earth with a protective whitewash. Woodwork is often highly painted and richer families also paint the house walls.
Traditionally the bottom floor was used for animals and the first floor for storage. The second floor was for living and crops were stored under the roof. Now the animals are kept outside in small barns and the lower floors are used as living areas, as children want their own rooms.
In country areas, most houses have an electric light bulb (solar panels are used in the more remote villages) but for many water is still collected from a pipe outside. Washing is done by hand at a communal water pipe. Cooking traditionally was done over a wood fire although many people now have a gas ring.
It is a matriarchal society and the house and land is owned by the woman and passes down through the daughters. The sons leave home and settle with their wivesí family. Land is split equally between all the daughters so some land holdings can be very small.
We asked how couples met considering how isolated some of the settlements are. Every village temple has a festival once a year which is a major occasion and people travel miles for it. The young men wander round looking at all the pretty girls and find out which village they come from. After the festival the young men start courting. They walk to the village with all the pretty girls and look in windows until they find a pretty girl ... at dawn they then walk back home to work in the fields. Sometimes they are so tired they fall asleep or get caught by the parent. There is no official marriage ceremony. The couple announce they are married. The young man then stays with the girlís family and works the land for them. Several weeks later his parents will find out that he is married. Quite often the man marries all of his wifeís sisters and they live amicably as a family unit. This has the advantage of keeping the family unit together.
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