Eco-trail windfall for local economy

Tourism spin-off uplifts Trongsa farmers’ standard of living

The trail is the source of additional income to farmers

It’s now winter but farmer Thinley of Trongsa is looking forward to next autumn. Not that he’s particularly crazy about the season, though things may seem nicer then. What he’s excited about is the stream of tourists that the fall delivers.

Tourists mean opportunity for work, to make some money.

The 50-year-old lanky man from Nabji village, made about Nu 10,000 in 2008 portering tourist bags and tents and foodstuff using his ponies. Fortunately for him, since the government opened the Nabji-Korphu eco-tourism trail, tourists have been coming to the region. Their numbers are not huge, but enough to keep him occupied- from autumn through winter, the seasons tourists visit. Winter is not bitter cold like in Paro or Bumthang, it’s relatively balmy. Continue reading Eco-trail windfall for local economy

A Demon-inspired Migration

Farmers in rural Bhutan abandon their villages when wild animals attack crops or humans, or they lose their farmland to landslides or even in search of a better life. Phungshing villagers in Thrimshing dungkhag have a spookier reason. Villagers started leaving Phungshing in the early 1990s when the local paw (shaman) told them that the death of a middle-aged villager was caused by a demon that resided below the village. More people died in the following years and villagers started abandoning Phungshing in droves.

Located on a gentle slope of a low hill descending into the Ngera Ama chhu (river), Phungshing is a fertile village where farmers grow maize, potato, chili and orange. According to villagers, since the shaman’s warning, many people, who did not heed the warning, died. They say most deaths were sudden and strange.  About half a dozen people from that village have perished so far. A household, according to villagers, moved away for good after losing two members in successive years. Continue reading A Demon-inspired Migration

Sacred dances digitally documented

Gerard Houghton compiles chham database for posterity

29 December, 2008 – Thirteen centuries after it started, Bhutan’s history of sacred mask dances has now been documented and digitally recorded. The document on Buddhist ritual dances (chhams) of Bhutan was presented to the home and culture affairs ministry (MoHCA) by the technology director of Core of Culture, Gerard Houghton, on December 25 at the national library, Thimphu.

Gerard Houghton said, “It’s perhaps the most expensive documentation and digital recording of the world on dance.” He said about one million dollars was spent in the making and that it took about five years.”

“It was very difficult to capture the video because, for a few of the dances, we had to stand almost 6-7 hours,” he said. Houghton said the dances of Bhutan are unique and do not exist anywhere in the world and the document database will keep these dances alive.

The documentation was done as a part of The Dragon’s Gift exhibition project between the Bhutan government and the Honolulu Academy of Arts.

The 300 hours of digital recording contains dance clips from 20 different tsechus across the country, some of which are almost endangered today. Continue reading Sacred dances digitally documented

Bhutan celebrates the National Day:The road ahead

His Majesty addresses the Nation at Changlimethang

20 December, 2008 – Future generations of Bhutanese people will live longer. They will be better educated. They will have better communications and will travel further. They will be more prosperous. Their lives will be more comfortable.

It was with this knowledge that the Bhutanese people around the country gathered to celebrate National Day on December 17 – to reflect on a past that made such a future possible.

“We have all come together, as one small family, celebrated 100 years of Monarchy, the start of democracy and my own Coronation,” His Majesty the King said in the royal National Day address, which was broadcast and telecast live to the entire country. “The success of these celebrations and in fact the success of our nation over the last 100 years owes so much to the prayers and hard work of our people. I offer my gratitude to our people of the 20 dzongkhags for the kindness and love you have shown me during my Coronation.”

Literally stepping into a new era, many people were reflecting on their aspirations. They saw challenges ahead but were optimistic about the future.

According to a former gup of Punakha, the past 100 years had not been smooth sailing. “But our forefathers ensured that we had a stable and a strong country,” he said. “Ask any of the elderly people and they will give examples of how our great Kings achieved this.” Continue reading Bhutan celebrates the National Day:The road ahead


8 November, 2008 – It is with immense joy that we are gathered together on this most auspicious day. In these last 100 years the dreams and aspirations of our forefathers and the vision of our Kings have been fulfilled beyond all expectations. The wise and selfless leadership of our kings, the sacrifice and hard work of generations of Bhutanese and the special bond between the People and King have given us this unique and special nation – a jewel of the earth.

Two years ago, at a time of profound change I came onto the Throne as a young King. You, my people, in the spirit of generations past, worked with me with complete faith and gave me your wholehearted cooperation and goodwill. Thus, in these two short years while we have taken gigantic steps towards strengthening our nation, we have done so in a calm, deliberate manner in complete harmony. It is with great pride that we stand as new democracy, having successfully completed an unprecedented and historic transition. Continue reading HIS MAJESTY THE KING’S CORONATION ADDRESS

Bhutan Celebrates Coronation of Young New King


THIMPHU, Bhutan (AP) — Tradition in this Buddhist Himalayan kingdom says that the people pay homage to a new king by lining up with the gift of a white scarf. Their new monarch, however, was having none of it.

Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck, a Western-educated bachelor with the good looks of a young Elvis and an easy charm, came down from his throne to his people after a ceremony Thursday that saw him become Bhutan’s first king since its transformation to democracy.

Moving through some 20,000 Bhutanese near the Tashichho Dzong, a 17th-century white-walled fortress where the coronation was held, the king bent low to take the scarves and in return handed out coronation coins. Continue reading Bhutan Celebrates Coronation of Young New King

Bhutan Prepares for Historic Coronation of the Fifth King

His Majesty The Druk Gyalpo
His Majesty The Druk Gyalpo

29 October, 2008 – It is the end – and the beginning – of history. On the morning of November 1, the third day of the ninth Bhutanese month, His Majesty the King will be empowered as the Druk Gyalpo in a unique and sacred empowerment ceremony, which symbolises his transcendence of the ordinary and the temporal and the personification of divine wisdom.

His Majesty will receive the Dar Na-Nga, a special arrangement of the primary colours that signify the five elements. The ceremony will take place in the Machhen Lhakhang, and the Dar Na-Nga will be symbolically conferred by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, in the presence of the fourth Druk Gyalpo, with the empowerment prayer chanted by His Holiness the Je Khenpo.

The white, yellow, red, green, and blue silk scarves represent the elements – water, earth, fire, wind, and space – the basis of physical existence, that His Majesty personifies, as well as the underlying energies from which the physical world arises.

In Buddhist belief, the empowerment of the Druk Gyalpo mandates that he assumes the strategies of the Gewa Rigna (five Buddha families) – that of pacification, increase, magnification, power, and a combination of all.
Continue reading Bhutan Prepares for Historic Coronation of the Fifth King

Meeting MDG Goals – The Challenges Before Bhutan

Although on track to achieve the millennium development goals’ (MDGs) health targets, Bhutan is challenged with low levels of skilled birth attendance.

“Bhutan’s skilled birth attendance, which is 56 percent, is a critical challenge,” said a WHO representative during the high-level consultation held in Ahmedabad, India, to accelerate progress towards achieving maternal and child health (MNCH) – goals 4 and 5 of the MDGs. Continue reading Meeting MDG Goals – The Challenges Before Bhutan

Graduates’ program graced by His Majesty

“What GNH means will never change but how we achieve GNH will.”

25 October, 2008 – “We would be starting our career and ending it together. We will see each other grow old over time. But more importantly, we will see each other become wiser, more capable, more intelligent, and we will see each other serve our country well.”

Addressing the over 1,220 centennial graduates on October 22, His Majesty the King said, “If the country does well we all stand to benefit. If it doesn’t we will suffer equally. We share the same destiny.”

His Majesty reminded the graduates about national goals and asked, “Why do we want a strong economy? Why do we want to preserve our culture and tradition and to protect our environment? Why did our forefathers work so hard and achieve so much? In the end it is for lasting peace, stability, and tranquillity of our country and the unity, harmony, and well being of our people.”

Continue reading Graduates’ program graced by His Majesty

The Role of Buddhist Scholars in Promoting Gross National Happiness

One hundred and eleven monks and nuns of the Gangteng Buddhist institute were awarded certificates of three levels of qualification by the Prime Minister, Lyonchhen Jigmi Y Thinley, on October 11.

35 scholars obtained degrees in Master of Arts (Achariya) in Buddhist philosophy, 33 got Bachelor of Arts (Shastri) in Buddhist philosophy, while 43 students, including 11 nuns, completed Madhiyamika course (diploma) on language and Buddhist philosophy. Nuns, who completed tertiary education (class XII) from Pema Shedrup Choki Gatshel nunnery in Tang, Bumthang were the first batch. Continue reading The Role of Buddhist Scholars in Promoting Gross National Happiness