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The People and Culture of Bhutan

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. It is possible to divide Bhutan's population into three broad ethnic groups, though the distinctions blur in places.

Southern Bhutan is inhabited mainly by Nepalese farmers who arrived in the country at the end of the 19th century. They brought the Hindu religion with them as well as the Nepalese language, which is still spoken today over much of Southern Bhutan. Photo Young ChildThere is not the same mingling of Buddhism and Hinduism as is apparent in Nepal, and the two tend to keep apart.

The central Himalayan region is the home of the Drukpa people, who are of Mongoloid origin. Most breed cattle or cultivate the land, and their dwellings are spread over a wide area.

The Northern Himalayan Zone, over 3,000 meters (9,000 feet), is the haunt of semi nomadic yak herdsmen. They spend most of the year in their black yak hair tents, but also possess dry-stone walled houses, where they spend the coldest months of the year and which are used to store their goods. Additives to a diet composed mainly of yak milk, cheese, butter and meat are barley and winter wheat, plus a few root vegetables grown in small fields.

Believed to be the earliest inhabitants of Bhutan, the Sharchops are of Indo-Mongolian type, though their exact origin is unknown (Tibet being the most likely source). At present, they live mainly in the east of Bhutan.
The People and Culture of BhutanBhutan: A Rich HistoryForerign Perceptions of Bhutan


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