Culture Smart! Bhutan: The Essential Guide to Customs and Culture

Discover the last true Shangri-la – no longer hidden within the folds of the mighty Himalayas.

In Bhutan, mask dances, called “cham”, are performed during a “tshechu” (a religious Buddhist festival), depicting and describing, through movement and music, the teachings of Buddha and the dharma. They are broadly categorized into three distinct themes: dances with moral stories; dances that purify and protect from destructive spirits; and dances that celebrate the triumph of Buddhism and glorify Guru Rinpoche and his deeds.

The dances are a powerful way of bringing Buddhism closer to the people, who largely depend on the clergy for guidance on the spiritual path. The Bhutanese believe that the mere act of watching the “cham” allows the spectators to gain merit and receive a special blessing.

“Atsaras” (clowns) are an interesting feature of the festival ground, frolicking around and entertaining the crowd with their antics, and often brandish a large wooden phallus. Each dance is meaningful, but some, with their dramatic narratives and visual splendor, are particularly popular with the audience.

The “Raksha Marcham”, or the Dance of the Judgement of the Dead, is one of the most interesting mask dances performed at the “tshechus”. The drama unfolds with the dance of the Rakshas, the aides of the God of Death, “Shinje Choekyi Gyalpo”. It is Judgement Day, and the first to appear before the God of Death is a sinner, dressed all in black. His sins outweigh his good actions, and he is sent to hell. Then comes another person, dressed in white, and again, the God hears his deeds. He is found to be virtuous and led to the pure land.

Culture Smart! Bhutan gives you an insight into the country’s history, values, customs, and age-old traditions. It describes the historical circumstances that have shaped the Bhutanese people and their way of life. It debunks some myths and helps you to discover this fascinating country for yourself. It highlights changes in attitudes and behavior as the country modernizes, while offering guidance on how to develop a rapport with the Bhutanese and forge meaningful friendships.

Delve deeper … travel smarter.

Book Details:

    • ISBN: 9781787029088
    • Format: Paperback
    • Page count: 200
    • Dimensions: 170 x 110 x 15mm
    • Published at: £9.99 / $12.99 / CAN $17.99