The National flag is divided diagonally with a white dragon in the center of the flag.
The national flag is half Yellow and half Orange. The upper yellow half signifies the secular power and authority of the king while the lower saffron-orange symbolizes the practice of religion and the power of Buddhism, manifested in the tradition of Drukpa Kagyu. Bhutan is a religious country with Buddhism as its official religion. Bhutanese people call their country as ‘Druk yul’ or ‘Land of the Thunder Dragon’. Bhutanese believe that thunder is actually the voices of the dragon roaring. Thus the dragon in the center of the flag or ‘Druk’ has deep association with the country itself.
It adorns the royal crown. The raven represents the deity Gonpo Jarodongchen (raven headed Mahakala), one of the chief guardian deities of Bhutan. Raven is thus known in the local language as ‘Jarog’. The Royal Raven Crown or Druk Gyalpo represents Bhutan’s reverence for these birds and the faith of Bhutanese in their protective deity. Jarog Dongchen along with Yeshey Gonpo (Mahakala) and Palden Lhamo (Mahakali) form the Divine Trinity, who protects the King and the people of Bhutan from harm and safeguard their well being. At one time, it was a capital crime to kill a Raven in Bhutan. One can still see ravens nesting in monasteries and dzongs throughout Bhutan.
The National Emblem of Bhutan is a circle that projects a double diamond thunderbolt placed above the lotus.
There is a jewel on all sides with two dragons on the vertical sides. The thunderbolts represent the harmony between secular and religious power while the lotus symbolizes purity. The jewel signifies the sovereign power while the dragons (male and female) represent the name of the country DrukYul or the Land of the Dragon.
The national animal is the Takin (Dong Gyem Tsey) that is associated with religious history and mythology.
The ‘Dong Gyem Tsey’ or Takin has been diligently chosen as the National Animal of Bhutan because it is very rare mammal with a thick neck and short muscular legs. It is closely associated to religious history and mythology of the country. It seems like an assembly of assorted animals and perhaps, this is the reason, that a strange story regarding its origins is popular in Bhutan. It lives in groups and is found above 4000 meters on the north-western and far north eastern parts of the country. They feed on bamboo. The adult Takin can weigh over 200 kgs.
Archery is the much loved National Sport of Bhutan. Each village has its own Archery Range, and it is impossible to imagine any festival taking place without a high spirited competition. Contests take place year round. The distance between the two targets is about 120 meters. The targets are made of wood splashed with colorful traditional patterns. Inter-village rivalry is common throughout the country and the rivalry is no more fiercely expressed than during annual archery tournaments. They are generally held during Losar (Bhutanese New Year). But smaller competitions are held throughout the year.
The tournament’s excitement begins the night before the contest. Teams employ astrologers to assist in the selection process and to cast spells on the opposition. Each team spend the night prior to the match together in an age-old tradition of sleeping at a secret place depending on the outcome of the astrologer’s calculations. Apart from improving team spirit it, it is thought that a man should not spend the night before the tournament with his wife or any woman as his concentration may begin to waiver the following day, the Contest Day.
The tournament itself begins with initiation ceremonies and a traditional breakfast. Alcohol flow from early in the day and spirits are always high. As the day advance and the alcohol takes effect, the archery match becomes more raucous. Opponents whisper obscenities into their adversary’s ears and dance diversionary dances in front of the target. Women from each village participate in the fun by singing for their team and jeering at the opposing team. In modern days, District level, Regional level and National level tournaments are held twice, one each on traditional bamboo bows and modern compound bows imported from the United States of America. The National Level tournaments are held in Thimphu every Spring and Autumn seasons.
One of the most distinctive features of the Bhutanese is their traditional dress, unique garments that have evolved over thousands of years. Men wear the Gho, a knee-length robe somewhat resembling a kimono that is tied at the waist by a traditional belt known as Kera. The pouch which forms at the front traditionally was used for carrying food bowls and a small dagger. Today however it is more accustomed to carrying small articles such as wallets, mobile phones and Doma (beetle nut).
Women wear the Kira, a long, ankle-length dress accompanied by a light outer jacket known as a Tego with an inner layer known as a Wonju.
However, tribal and semi-nomadic people like the Bramis and Brokpas of eastern Bhutan generally wear clothing that differs from the rest of the Bhutanese population. The Brokpas and the Bramis both wear dresses woven either out of Yak or Sheep hair.
Bhutanese still wear long scarves when visiting Dzongs and other administrative centers. The scarves worn vary in color, signifying the wearer’s status or rank. The scarf worn by men is known as Kabney while those worn by women are known as Rachus. Below is a brief breakdown of the different kabneys and their associated rank.
The Rachu is hung over a woman’s shoulder and unlike the scarves worn by men, does not have any specific rank associated with its color. Rachus are usually woven out of raw silk and embroidered with beautiful rich patterns.
The national flower is the Blue Poppy (Meconopsis Grandis).
Blue Poppy, the National Flower of Bhutan, is known locally as ‘Euitgel Metog Hoem’. Its biological name is Meconopsis grandis. It is a delicate blue or purple tinged blossom with a white filament. It grows to a height of 1 meter, and is found above the tree line (3500-4500 meters) on rocky mountain terrain. It was discovered in 1933 by a British Botanist, George Sherriff in a remote part of Sakteng in eastern Bhutan.
The national tree is the cypress (Cupressustorolusa).
Locally, it is known as ‘Tsenden’. It is also referred to as Bhutan Cypress or Himalayan Cypress. Bhutanese consider the cypress tree sacred and held it in great reverence. It is found in abundance and one may notice large cypresses near temples and monasteries. This tree is found in the temperate climate zone, between 1800 and 3500 meters. Its capacity to survive on rugged harsh terrain is compared to bravery and simplicity.