Bhutan, also known as Druk Yul to its people is a kingdom in the Eastern Himalayas with lush green valleys and clear clean rivers, with colourful fluttering prayer flags and jovial oval faced smiles that comes second to no one.
Over the last few centuries, difficult natural terrain and a self-imposed policy of isolation saw to it that life here stayed virtually unchanged. It was only in the early 1960s that Bhutan opened up its doors to the world beyond and plunged into a new age of socioeconomic development.
Wedged between China and India, the two most populous countries in the world, and being disadvantaged with little military or economic strength, Bhutan has been compelled to stay different in order to safeguard its sovereignty. The most practical way to achieve this has been to preserve and promote its unique culture.
Religion is the other value system that holds the Bhutanese people together. Tantric Mahayana Buddhism of the Drukpa Kagyu sect has survived unblemished here for centuries and continues to be the officially adopted religion of the state. But it is a religion that is more about tolerance than fanaticism - the people are allowed to practise any faith of their choice.
A multitude of factors have influenced the social fabric of Bhutan. Among them, religion and culture form the common thread that runs through the government, art, architecture, literature, music, indeed through the entire social fabric of the country.
The population consists predominantly of three ethnic groups: the Ngalops of the western and central region, the Sharchogpas of the east, and the Lhotsampas, who are recent immigrants of Nepalese origin settled mainly along the southern belt.
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.
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.