Raven Crown of Bhutan, a symbol of Mahakala , the protective deity of the first Zhabdrung. The head of a raven lies on top of a motif called Jachung , embroidered on the brim of the crown. A sun and moon on the dead of the raven symbolize longevity., steadfastness and enlightenment. The Norbu , also in the head, is a sacred gem symbolic of the fulfillment of right effort.
The national emblem is contained in a circle with two dragons framing a double diamond – thunderbolt (dorji) placed above a lotus, surmounted by a jewel. The dorji symbolizes harmony between secular and religious power while the jewel represents sovereign power. The quality of purity is presented in the lotus. The two dragons, male and female, call out the name of the country with their thunderous voice.
The national flag of Bhutan is representative of the country’s general features. The secular authority of the king is shown by the upper half of the flag, which is yellow, the color of fruitful action in state and religious affairs. The lower orange half of the flag represents the religious practice and spiritual power of Mahayana Buddhism. The thunder dragon running diagonally across the middle of the flag signifies the name Druk Yul. Its white color is an expression of purity and loyalty of the various ethnic and linguistic groups in the country. The country’s wealth and perfection are the jewels clasped in the dragon’s claws, protected by the strength of the deities expressed by the snaring mouth of the dragon.
December 17th is celebrated throughout the country as Gyal Yung Duechhen or National Day. It was on this day in 1907 that the country was united under a central authority with the crowning of Ugyen Wangchuck as the first hereditary king of Bhutan.
The government has declared October 21st as a national holiday on the occasion of the formal accession of His Royal Highness the Crown Prince Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck as Chhoetse Penlop.
The national dress of Bhutan is called the ‘Gho’ for men and ‘Kira’ for women. It was introduced during the 17th century by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to give the Bhutanese a unique identity. In an effort to preserve and promote its cultural heritage, all Bhutanese are required to wear the national dress in government offices, schools and on formal occasions. The gho is a long robe hoisted to the knee and held in place with a ‘Kera,’ a woven cloth belt, wound tightly around the waist.
This forms a large pouch above that may be used to contain particular items, traditionally a bowl and betel nut. The kira is a floor-length rectangular piece of cloth wrapped around the body over a blouse called wonju. The kira is held from the shoulders by broach-like hooks called ‘Koma’ and is fastened at the waist with a kera. The dress is complete with a short, open jacket-like garment called ‘Toego.’
The national sport of Bhutan is archery. It is an exclusively male sport although women are as much part of the whole affair for their participation in the rituals of dancing and verbal encouragements that accompany the game. Sarcastic refrains are often made about the archers in an attempt to distract them from hitting a straight arrow. Traditional bows and arrows are made from although the popularity of the foreign compound bows is gaining momentum amongst those who can afford it.
Takin is Bhutan’s national animal for its uniqueness and strong association with the country’s religious history and mythology. It is said that during his visit to Bhutan in the 15th century, the divine madman Lama Drukpa Kuenley was asked to perform a miracle. After devouring a whole cow and goat, he took the goat’s head and stuck it onto the bones of the cow’s body.
On his command, this strange animal came to life and ran to gaze on the mountainside. To this day, these animals resembling a cross between a gnu and a musk deer can be found grazing on herbs, shrubs and grass in the north – western and far north – eastern Bhutan.
The Raven, Bhutan’s national bird, is depicted on the crown of the king as representative of Jarog Dongchen who, along with Yeshey Gonpo (Mahakala) and Palden Lhamo (Mahakali) constitute the most powerful deities of the country. As the Divine Trinity, they safeguarded the well – being of the kingdom and protect the king and people from harm.
The blue poppy (Meconopsis grandis) is known as ‘Euitgel Metog Hoem’ in Bhutan. It was once considered to be myth because of its unconfirmed existence. Poppies are found along high mountain passes from the far eastern parts of the country across to the west.
The Bhutanese consider the cypress tree sacred and identify with it for its nature and ability to survive in difficult terrain. As the national tree, it is held in great reverence. It is often planted outside monasteries, dzongs and religious places.