Monday, 29 April 2013

Vexillology or Fun With Flags: Bhutan....

Bhutan, officially the Kingdom of Bhutan, is a landlocked state in South Asia located at the eastern end of the Himalayas. It is bordered to the north by China and to the south, east and west by the Republic of India.
Capital: Thimphu
King: Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck
Currencies: Bhutanese ngultrum, Indian rupee
Official language: Dzongkha Language
Government: Parliamentary system, Unitary state, Constitutional monarchy
Population: 738,267 (2011)

The national flag of Bhutan is one of the national symbols of the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan. The flag is based upon the tradition of the Drukpa lineage of Tibetan Buddhism and features Druk, the Thunder Dragon of Bhutanese mythology. The first national flag was introduced in 1949 and used only for the signing of the Bhutan Treaty. This flag was a bi-color square flag, with fields of yellow and red, with a green interpretation of Druk in the center. A second incarnation of the national flag was introduced in 1956 for the visit of Druk Gyalpo Jigme Dorji Wangchuk to eastern Bhutan. The 1956 flag was based upon photos of the 1949 flag, with Druk being changed from green to white.

Bhutan is completely landlocked. Which two countries does it border?
India and China; Bhutan is bordered by India to the south, east and west and China to the north. Although it is completely autonomous it has an agreement with India that means citizens of both countries can travel to each other without needing passports. As at 2007 it has no diplomatic ties with China, and indeed part of the border between the two countries is under dispute. Bhutan is a full member of the United Nations. Its political system is that of a constitutional monarchy.

Bhutan has received international acclaim for conservation. Of the following which would you not find in Bhutan?
Siberian tiger; Bhutan is committed to maintaining its wildlife habitat and has designated vast areas as national parks and conservation areas. It has also introduced protected biodiversity corridors through unprotected land to link the various conservation areas together. It is thought that this will be of particular value to the Bengal tiger which has a large territory and needs corridors such as these to range and mate.

On the subject of wildlife, what is Bhutan's national animal?
Takin; All the animals mentioned can be found in Bhutan. The takin is a goat-antelope, also known as a cattle chamois or gnu goat. They are large beasts standing up to 130cm at the shoulder, with horns often over 60cm and a body weight of up to 350kg. They live in the bamboo forests at altitudes of up to 4,500 meters.

Bhutan has many rivers but they all empty, eventually, into one single river in India. Which river?
Brahmaputra; Bhutan is landlocked, and all its rivers drain into the Brahmaputra, which itself drains into the Bay of Bengal. Brown trout were introduced into Bhutan's rivers in the 1900s, from Scotland, and it is possible to fish for them. Kayaking is another activity available to the intrepid explorer.
Although it's still a poor country, Bhutan does have some industries. What is its major export to India?
Hydro-electric power; India is helping Bhutan to build up its HEP industry. Agriculture is a major industry, with rice, fruit and chilies being grown and a dairy industry founded on yaks. The export of timber from Bhutan is banned.

While Bhutan has its own currency, the ngultrum, which currency of another country is widely used?
Indian rupee; Until the 1950s barter was still the most common form of exchange. It was during the reign of King Druk Gyalpo Jigme Dorji Wangchuck that more coins began to be produced, although even government officials still did not receive cash salaries. This changed when in 1968 the Bank of Bhutan was established which led to the cash economy becoming more prevalent. India had assisted in the development of the economy of Bhutan, and in 1974 when the ngultrum was introduced its value was pegged to the Indian rupee, which is legal tender in Bhutan.

Bhutan has earned itself the nickname of Druk Yul due to the fierce storms that roll down from the Himalayan Mountains. What does Druk Yul translate as?
Land of the Thunder Dragon; The altitude in Bhutan ranges from 500 feet to over 24,000 feet, and for this reason the climate varies so much it is often said to have five seasons in a year instead of four. The Monsoon season comes between summer and autumn and typically affects Western Bhutan more than any other region. Southern Bhutan has hot, humid summers while Northern Bhutan experiences year-round snow. All this in a country half the size of Indiana.

Bhutan is the only country in the world that has Buddhism as its state religion and it is supported by subsidies to monasteries, shrines, monks and nuns. It is the custom that one son from each family attend monastic school to ensure the perpetuation of the tradition. Religion permeates all aspects of life in Bhutan and the roadways are lined with shrines, prayer flags on long poles maintaining communication with heaven, and mantras carved into rocks. Monasteries and convents exist in all parts of the country. Monks and nuns are regularly seen on the streets and are easily identifiable by their shaved heads and maroon robes. There are two strands of Buddhism practised, each with its own liturgy, festivals and rituals. Both originated in Tibet and, in order not to appear to prefer one section of the community to the other, the Royal Family alternate between them. Hinduism, the second most dominant religion, is mainly practised in the south.

The first National Forest Policy was ratified in 1974, and covered all aspects of forest management, development and utilization. Further to this, some 26% of biodiversity zones is under protected area management and another 9% is set as biological corridors. The Environmental Assessment Act of 2000 was formulated to ensure that any land clearance for development still ensured the Royal Government's policy was adhered to. Bhutan also introduced The Forest and Nature Conservation Act of Bhutan in 1995 which prohibits the setting of fire, except for controlled campfires. According to the act, any fire should not be left burning in a manner that is capable of destroying trees, forest produce or wildlife. Failure to comply with this act is punishable by up to five years imprisonment.

Extra Fact
In 2006 "Business Week" magazine described Bhutan as the happiest country in Asia; As well as happiest country in Asia Bhutan also ranked as eighth happiest country in the world despite being relatively poor, and with a low life expectancy and literacy rate. Researchers put this down to strong national identity, beautiful scenery and, thanks to governmental limits on tourism and development, an intact national culture.

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