The National Emblem of Bhutan is a circle that projects a double diamond thunderbolt placed above the lotus. There is a jewel on all sides with two dragons on vertical sides. The thunderbolts represent the harmony between secular and religious power while the lotus symbolizes purity. The jewel signifies the sovereign power while the dragons (male and female) stands for the name of the country Druk yul or the Land of the Dragon.
The National flag is rectangle in shape that is divided into two parts diagonally. The upper yellow half signifies the secular power and authority of the king while the lower saffron-orange symbolizes the practice of religion and power of Buddhism, manifested in the tradition of Drukpa Kagyu. The dragon signifies the name and the purity of the country while the jewels in its claws stand for the wealth and perfection of the country.
The national flower is Blue Poppy (Meconopsis grandis). It is known as ‘Euitpel Metog Hoem’ in dzongkha. It is a delicate blue or purple tinged blossom with a white filament. It grows to a height of 1 meter, on the rocky mountain terrain found above the tree line of 3500-4500 meters. It was discovered in 1933 by a British Botanist, George Sherriff in a remote part of Sakteng in eastern Bhutan.
The national tree is cypress (Cupressus corneyana). Locally, it is known as Tsenden. Cypresses are found in abundance and one may notice big cypresses near temples and monasteries. Cypress is found in the temperate climate zone, between 1800 and 3500 meters. Its capacity to survive on rugged harsh terrain is compared to bravery and simplicity. 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.
The national bird is the raven (Corvus corax). It 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. Raven represents the deity Gonpo Jarodongchen (raven headed Mahakala), one of the chief guardian deities of Bhutan.
Ludlow’s Bhutan Swallowtail has been declared as the national butterfly of Bhutan in 2011. This beautiful butterfly is endemic to only one locality in the eastern Bhutan within Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary. It was discovered in 1934 by a British naturalist Frank Ludlow.
The national animal is the Takin (burdorcas taxicolor whitei) that is associated with religious history and mythology. It is locally known as ‘Dong Gyem Tse’. It is a very rare mammal with a thick neck and short muscular legs. It lives in groups and is found in places above 4000 meters high on the north-western and far north eastern parts of the country. They feed on bamboos. The adult takin can weigh over 200 kgs.
Bhutan is a multi-lingual society. Today, about 18 languages and dialects are spoken all over the country. The state language is Dzongkha which in the olden times was spoken by people who worked in the Dzongs that was the seat of temporal and spiritual power. Later, Dzongkha was introduced as the national language of Bhutan.
The national anthem was first composed in 1953 and became official in 1966. It is known as Druk Tshenden Kepay Gyalkhab Na (In the land of the Dragon Kingdom, where cypress grows).
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 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.