Schoolchildren swoop and turn like the elegant black-necked cranes, at a conservation festival held for these migratory birds in Bhutan's Phobhijka Valley.


The Bhutanese people have a refined aesthetic sense. The architecture in Paro, the capital city, is detailed with artwork and religious inscriptions. The shop fronts, restaurants, and buildings are wooden with colorful paintings on them. The windows are particularly stunning, with embroidered panels built along the frame. The streets are spotless, with neatly manicured trees and the Himalayan peaks glistening in the background.

I observed that all the locals were wearing the same outfit- long black robes. It was easy to see that the Kingdom of Bhutan had a very clear understanding of discipline. Everyone followed the national dress code and was conscious about their natural environment. I learned that the King and the Prime Minister of Bhutan had a distinct vision for their country. They did not focus on Bhutan being the richest or fastest growing nation.

Everyone follows the national dress code and is conscious about their natural environment. I learned that the King and the Prime Minister of Bhutan had a distinct vision for their country. They did not focus on Bhutan being the richest or fastest growing nation. Instead, they wanted Bhutan to be the cleanest in terms of the environment, people’s thoughts and intellectual aspirations. There is a law which states that at all times 90% of Bhutan has to be a forested area while 10% is urbanized.

No animals are slaughtered in Bhutan and all meat products are imported from other countries. Tourists can only access the interior parts of the country with official Government guides. While these may seem like a stringent set of rules, I discovered that without them, Bhutan would be different. Moreover, there was no compulsion for the locals to obey the rules. What took me by surprise is that people were naturally inclined to follow these rules and make a collective effort towards protecting their environment. Perhaps this is why it is frequently said that Bhutan has the highest gross domestic happiness.

By Shantanu Moitra | Photography: Dhritiman Mukherjee

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