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Bhutan is known to the Bhutanese as "Druk
Yul" or "Land of the Thunder Dragon". It is located at the
south of Tibet and the north of north east of India as Assam and Sikkim. It
is the only independent Buddhist Monarchy in the world. It remained isolated
to the Western world until 1974, when the government decided to allow the
first foreign visitors to enter the country. Despite the speed of
modernization, Bhutan has maintained a policy of careful, controlled policy
of development in order to preserve its national identity.
Bhutan is comprised of a mosaic of different peoples who continue to live
in valleys isolated from one another and the outside world by formidable
mountain passes. Differing ethnic groups are also distributed according to
the varying environments. These are as follows:
» Ngalongs or Ngalops
» Lhotshampas of Nepali Origin
Bhutanese society is centered around the practice of Tantric
Buddhism. Religious beliefs are evidenced in all aspects of life.
Prayer flags flutter on hillsides offering up prayers to benefit all
nearby sentient beings. Houses each fly a small white flag on the
roof indicating the owner has made his offering payments to appease
the local god.
All Bhutanese citizens are required to observe the national dress
code, or driglam namzha, while in public. Men wear a heavy
knee-length robe tied with a belt, called a gho, folded in such a
way to form a pocket in front of the stomach. Woman wear colorful
blouses over which they fold and clasp a large rectangular cloth
called a kira, thereby creating an ankle-length dress.
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Monks join the monastery at 6 to 9 years of age and are immediately
placed under the discipleship of a headmaster. They learn to read
chhokey, the language of the ancient sacred texts. A monk's spiritual
training continues throughout his life. In addition to serving the
community in sacramental roles, he may undertake several extended silent
retreats. A common length for such a retreat is three years, three
months, three weeks and three days.