Profile Source: Bethany World Prayer Center
Introduction / History
Bhutanese society has three main groups: the Bhotia of Tibet, which includes the Bhutanese; the Sharchop, or Eastern Bhotia; and the Nepalese. There are also various other smaller tribes. The Bhutanese are concentrated in western and central Bhutan. They are the largest of the tribal communities, and most of the social and political leaders come from this group. Many of the elite immigrated to Bhutan from Tibet in the eighth century, and Tibetan refugees have entered the country at many other times.
Bhutan, bordered by India to the south and China to the north, is a small country of great beauty and strategic importance. Its landscape varies from flat, sandy plains and humid forests to the steep, rocky Himalayan Mountains. The Bhutanese are generally tall and athletic. True to their Mongolian origins, they have elongated eyes and broad cheekbones. They are known to be both independent and cheerful. They call their country Druk-yal, which means "land of the thunder dragon."
What are Their Lives Like?
Many of the Bhutanese are farmers. They must work long hours in the fields in order to produce enough to feed their families. Some of the crops are sold in the market to buy other essential items. Their diet consists primarily of rice, potatoes, and vegetables. Meat is only eaten in small amounts and yaks supply the families with milk.
The Bhutanese farmers usually live in small settlements or in isolated homes. In the larger towns, homes are built in clusters and many are painted with attractive designs. They are usually built with timber and thick, pounded mud walls to keep out the cold. Most of the homes have two floors, but some have as many as four. If a family owns animals, their livestock is kept on the ground floor. The roofs are made from wooden slats that have been anchored by heavy rocks.
Marriages are typically monogamous. The women marry at about age 16, while the men wait until they are 21. Formal wedding ceremonies are not held. Newlyweds may live with the groom's family, the bride's family, or on their own, depending on where the need for farm labor is the greatest. The extended family is very important in Bhutanese culture, and grandparents often look after younger family members.
Bhutanese women wear beautifully woven fabrics with colorful, intricate designs. A long piece of cloth, called a kira, is wrapped around the body and attached to the shoulders with a pair of silver brooches. A small jacket is usually worn over the kira. Men wear long plaid robes, or gos. During the daytime, the go is fastened with a belt so that it reaches the knees. At night, it is let down while sleeping. Hats are rarely worn. However, when entering a temple, men and women wear scarves over their shoulders as a sign of respect. The color of the scarf depends upon an individual's rank.
What are Their Beliefs?
The "Red Hat" sect of Tibetan Buddhism (Lamaism) is the dominant religion among the Bhutanese. Although they are almost entirely Buddhists, traditional Tibetan shamanism is also practiced by some. The shamanists believe in an unseen world of gods, demons, and ancestral spirits.
Most Buddhist families have shrines for worship inside their homes. A poor family may only have a small Buddhist image or painting rather than a shrine. However, a wealthy family may use an entire room as a shrine, furnishing it with an elaborate altar, lamps, an incense burner, and other religious items.
What are Their Needs?
Because of their history of isolation from other nations, the Bhutanese do not trust outsiders. They are conservative by nature and value their ancient traditions. However, they are becoming more vulnerable to change due to their need for modern medicines and conveniences.
Although efforts are being made to reach the Bhutanese, the people remain isolated and resistant to the Gospel. Much prayer and evangelization efforts are needed to break down these walls of isolation and tradition.
* Pray that God will send Christian medical teams to live and work among the Bhutanese.
* Ask God to encourage and protect the small number of Bhutanese Christians.
* Pray that the Lord will give these young converts boldness to share the Gospel with their own people.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through intercession.
* Pray that a triumphant Christian church will be raised up among the Bhutanese for the glory of His name!
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