To: Paul Jones
From: Puskar Dhakal
Dorje Sherpa was born and raised in the
capital of Bhutan called Thimpu. He is 24 years old and moved permanently to
the United states about 5 years ago. A native born Bhutanese decided to move to
here to the U.S after he won the diversity lottery. I met Dorje Sherpa in my
work, we work in a same company(Kholer) which is in flower mound. I thought it
would be interesting to interview him for this paper and also to learn more
about the Bhutanese culture because we both from the Asian country and pretty
much our culture is same. When Sherpa arrived to the United States, he
expressed that he experienced some negative perceptions about his race and
culture. My interview with Sherpa, along with related research will show how we
build up our relation and cultural bonding with others.
Not much is known of Bhutan historical
origins before the late 17th century. Although, Tibetan Buddhism was brought
into Bhutan by the mid 16th century; monasteries dot the inner Himalayan
valleys. Most of the 17th and 18th century Bhutan had an aggressive policy
toward its neighbors. This eventually brought them into conflict with the
British East India Company in 1772. A series of civil wars plagued Bhutan
during the late 19th century. A treaty in 1910 between Britain granted Bhutan
internal autonomy and an annual subsidy. But the British still had control of
the country foreign relations. Chinas territorial claims helped strengthened
Bhutan relationship with India. This was followed by economic aid agreements,
military assistance, and diplomatic representations. (Kaminsky, cd-rom)
Climate and Geography
Bhutan is a small country located in the
Himalayas. It does have a richly scenic land though. There are broad, grassy
valleys; forested mountain ranges, and heavily wooded jungle areas. There are
three geographic regions in which the country is divided. Northern Bhutan lies
in the Great Himalayas where the mountains reach as high as 24,000 ft. and the
weather is cold. Central Bhutan is in the middle of the Himalayan region where
there are several fertile valleys. The Duars plain, along the southern border
of Bhutan is a hot, humid, and rainy area. This jungle region is filled with malaria
infested swamps. (Karan, 224)
A Tibetan lama named Sheptoon Lapha
proclaimed himself king and Bhutan became its own political state some 300
years ago. Bhutan government is a limited monarchy. Jigme Singye Wangchuck is
the current king of Bhutan. He is advised by the Royal Advisory Council and he
appoints the members of this council. Legislative power is held by the national
assembly. 106 of 151 members are elected by the public, the rest are picked by
the king or indirectly elected. All of Bhutan foreign affairs have been handled
by India. Now that the United Nations has accepted Bhutan into it, they can
start to establish their own diplomatic relations.
Rice forms the main body of most Bhutanese meals. It is
accompanied by one or two side dishes consisting of meat or vegetables. Pork,
beef and chicken are the meats that are eaten most often. Vegetables commonly
eaten include Spinach, pumpkins, turnips, radishes, tomatoes, river weed,
onions and green beans. Grains such as rice, buckwheat and barley are also
cultivated in various regions of the country depending on the local
climate. For example, Ema Datshi (spicy mix of chillis and the delicious
local cheese known at datshi), Momos(dumplings).
Bhutan is the only Mahayana Buddhism Kingdom in the world,
with Mahayana (tantric) Buddhism as its official religion. It
is practised throughout the entire country by 75% of the inhabitants. Hinduism
– closely related to Buddhism, is Bhutan’s second religion, practiced by about
25% of the population. Before Buddhism captured the heart of Bhutan, several
forms of animistic religions were practiced. Minority groups still practice
these traditions and rituals in some parts of the country.
Bhutan is the poorest of all the Himalayan
countries. It is underdeveloped and has the potential to develop its economy.
Farming is Bhutan chief economic activity. Different crops are grown depending
on its elevation. Rice and buckwheat are grown up to 5000 ft. Barley and wheat
are grown up to 9000 ft. Coal is the only mineral mined. Its economy hasn’t
been able to develop due to its remoteness, lack of convenient markets,
qualified technicians, and transportation facilities. In 1974 Bhutan began to
welcome tourists. In 1990, more than 1500 tourists visited Bhutan, and tourism
was the largest source of foreign exchange. There are no railroads, but by 1990
there were about 2336 km of roads linking many parts of the country. (Karan,
Bhutan has only four airports and 8000km of roads whole over
the country. Because of the high hills and mountains all the goods are shipped
and carried by the horses and donkeys. This is a land-locked nation so all the
goods should be exported and imported by the plane that’s why the prices went
Traditional Bhutanese houses serve as a home or residential
dwelling for the family, a shelter for domestic livestock, a place for weaving
and other household activities and also a religious space. The architecture of
vernacular houses in Bhutan has an open or semi-covered courtyard in front of
the building, which is used to grow vegetables and other agricultural produce,
drying things, as a shelter for the animals and other functions that are
performed in the open. Most of the indigenous rural houses are two or three
stories high and each level has a unique function. The ground floor is simply a
space to keep animals, the living quarters, the family room, the kitchen and
the store find their place on the first floor while the religious rituals are
performed in the upper storey, which is considered sacred.
Education is the main focus on their and provides free up to
high school and offers the scholarship through merit bases. Their literacy rate
is 59.7%, which sounds not good at all. Because of the poor nation children
have to work in the field instead of going school as well as most of the
children goes to the Monastery as a scholar home.
As compared to the Bhutan and my country we can see lot of
similarities and differences, some are;
1. Both are landlocked countries.
2. Both are Himalayan countries.
3. None of them were ever occupied by any European super power.
4. Biggest industry is tourism.
5. Have treaties with India which allows visiting each other’s country without
passport and VISA.
1. Culturally they are completely different. While Nepal shares many cultural
similarities with India, Bhutan has Tibetan influences.
2. Nepal is a Hindu majority nation with minority Muslim and Buddhist
population whereas, Bhutan is a Buddhist majority nation having significant
3. Bhutan is a monarchy while the current King has given much power to the
parliament. Nepal was a monarchy and now it is a parliamentary democracy.
4. Bhutan is a Buddhist country while Nepal is secular.
5. Population of Nepal is much higher compared to Bhutan.
The 1996 World Almanac,1983.
of Bhutan”. www.theodora.com/flags/bhutan_flags.html, 5/30/97.
Arnold P. “Bhutan”. Microsoft Encarta 97, 1997.
P.P. “Bhutan”. Lands and Peoples, 1983.
council of Bhutan (official cite)”.