Climate of Bhutan
The climate in Bhutan is varied, which can be attributed to two main factors-the vast differences in altitude present in the country and the influence of North Indian monsoons.
Climatic Zones of Bhutan
Southern Bhutan has a hot and humid subtropical climate that is unchanging throughout the year. Temperatures can vary between 15-30 degrees Celsius (59- 86 degrees Fahrenheit). In the central parts of the country, which consists of temperate and deciduous forests, the climate is more seasonal with warm summers and cool and dry winters.
The weather is much colder during the winter season in the far northern parts of the kingdom. The mountain peaks are covered with snow, and the lower parts are still cool in summer owing to the high-altitude terrain.
Seasons in Bhutan
Bhutan has four distinct seasons in a year. The Indian summer monsoon begins from late June through July to late September and is mostly confined to the southern border region of Bhutan. These rains bring between 60 and 90 percent of the western region's rainfall. Annual precipitation ranges widely in various parts of the country.
In the Northern border towards Tibet, the region gets about forty millimeters of precipitation a year which is primarily snow. In the temperate central regions, a yearly average of around 1,000 millimeters is more common, and 7,800 millimeters per year have been registered at some locations in the humid, subtropical south, ensuring the thick tropical forest, or savanna.
Bhutan's generally dry spring starts in early March and lasts until mid-April. Summer weather commences in mid-April with occasional showers and continues to late June. The heavier summer rains last from late June through late September which is more monsoonal along the southwest border.
Autumn Season is from late September or early October to late November. It is characterized by bright, & sunny days.
The Winter season is from late November and lasts in early March. Snowfall is common for above elevations of 3,000 meters. The winter northeast monsoon brings gale-force winds at the highest altitudes through high mountain passes, giving Bhutan its name - Drukyul, which means Land of the Thunder Dragon in Dzongkha (the native language).
Flora and Fauna in Bhutan
Bhutan is listed as one of the top 10 biodiversity spots in the world, and it holds more than 70% of the area of the country. The array of flora and fauna in is unparalleled due to conservation, and its wide altitudinal and climatic range.
The country can be divided into three zones
- Alpine Zone (4000m and above) with no forest cover
- Temperate Zone (2000 to 4000m) with conifer or broadleaf forests
- Subtropical Zone (150m to 2000m) with Tropical or Subtropical vegetation
Forest types in Bhutan are fir forests, mixed conifer forest, blue pine forest, broadleaf mixed with conifer, upland hardwood forest, lowland hardwood forest, and tropical lowland forests. Almost 60% of the plant species are found in the eastern Himalayan region in Bhutan.
Bhutan has about 300 species of medicinal plants and about 46 species of rhododendrons. Some of the sights for the visitors are the magnolias, junipers, orchids of varied hues, gentian, medicinal plants, Daphne, giant rhubarb, the blue, and trees such as fir, pine, and oaks.
A wide range of rare and endangered animals are also be found in the dense jungles and high mountains of Bhutan. Due to the country's conservation efforts and its unspoiled natural environment, Bhutan supports thriving populations of some of the rarest animals on earth. Thus, it has been classified as one of the last biodiversity spots in the world.
Some high-altitude species are the snow leopards & Bengal tigers, which are found at altitudes ranging 3000 to 4000 meters. The red panda, gorals, langurs, Himalayan black bear, sambars, wild pigs, barking deer, blue sheep, and musk deer are also found in Bhutan.
People and language in Bhutan
Bhutan is linguistically rich with more than nineteen dialects spoken in the country. The richness of the linguistic diversity can be attributed to the geographical location with its high mountain passes and deep valleys. The geographical features forced the inhabitants of the country to live in isolation but also contributed to their survival. The national language of the country is Dzongkha, which is the native language of the Ngalops of western Bhutan.
Dzongkha means the language spoken in the Dzongs, massive fortresses that serve as the administrative centers and monasteries. Two other major languages are the Tshanglakha and the Lhotshamkha. Tshanglakha is the native language of the Tshanglas of eastern Bhutan and Lhotshamkha is spoken by the southern Bhutanese of Nepali origin.
Other dialects spoken are Khengkha and Bumthapkha by the Khengpas and Bumthap people of Central Bhutan. Mangdepkah, which is spoken by the inhabitants of Trongsa, and the Cho Cha Nga Chang Kha, which is spoken by the Kurtoeps.
The Sherpas, Lepchas, and the Tamangs in southern Bhutan also have dialects.
Religions in Bhutan
The Bhutanese constitution guarantees freedom of religion, and citizens and visitors are free to practice any form of worship so long as it does not impinge on the rights of others. Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam are also practiced in the country.
Bhutan is a Buddhist country, and people often refer to it as the last stronghold of Vajrayana Buddhism. Buddhism in Bhutan was first introduced by the Tantric master Guru Padmasambhava in the 8th century. Before that, the people of Bhutan used to practice Bonism, a religion that worshiped all forms of nature, remnants of which are still evident in some remote villages in the country.
Big Buddha Statue near Thimpu
Buddhism began to take firm roots within the country, which led to the propagation of the Nyingmapa (the ancient or the older) school of Buddhism after Guru Padmasambhava visited the country.
Phajo Drugom Zhigp from Ralung in Tibet was instrumental in introducing yet another school of Buddhism, the Drukpa Kagyu sect of Buddhism. In 1222, he came to Bhutan, an event of great historical significance and a milestone for Buddhism in Bhutan, which established the Drukpa Kagyu sect of Buddhism, the state religion. His sons and descendants were also instrumental in spreading it to many other regions of western Bhutan.
The Greatest contributor was Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyal. His arrival in 1616 from Tibet was another landmark event in the history of Bhutan. He brought the various Buddhist schools, which had developed in western Bhutan under his domain and unified the country as one whole nation.
The Buddhism practiced in the country today is a vibrant religion that permeates nearly every facet of the Bhutanese lifestyle. It is present in the Dzongs, monasteries, stupas, prayer flags, and prayer wheels punctuate the Bhutanese landscape.
The chime of ritual bells, the sound of gongs, people circumambulating temples and stupas, fluttering prayer flags, red-robed monks conducting rituals stand as testaments to the importance of Buddhism in Bhutanese life.
Though Bhutan is often referred to as the last Vajrayana Buddhist country, you can still come across animistic traditions and beliefs being practiced by the people.
The form of Buddhism practiced in Bhutan has absorbed many of the features of Bonism such as nature worship, worship of a host of deities, invoking and propitiating them. According to Bonism, these deities were the rightful owners of different elements of nature. Each different facet of nature was associated with its specific type of spirit.
For example, the mountain peaks are considered as the abodes of guardian deities (Yullha), lakes were inhabited by lake deities (Tshomem), cliff deities (Tsen) resided within cliff faces, the land belonged to subterranean deities (Lue and Sabdag), water sources were inhabited by water deities (Chu giLhamu), and dark places were haunted by the demons (due).
Every village has a local priest or a shaman to preside over the rituals. Some of the common forms of nature worship are the Cha festival in Kurtoe, Kharphud in Mongar, BalaBongko in WangduePhodrang, the Lombas of the Haaps, JomoSolkha of the Brokpas, Kharam amongst the Tshanglas, and the Devi Puja amongst our southern community.
These shamanistic rituals are performed for various reasons ranging from keeping evil spirits at bay, bringing in prosperity, curing a patient, or welcoming a new year.