‘I asked Siri where the happiest place on earth is and she replied, “Bhutan”’, says Cat Grant to Supergirl in the TV series Supergirl. Scenes like these convey the notion of peace and tranquillity that is associated with Bhutan.
Hollywood has now taken notice and has suddenly become curious about Bhutan’s spiritual character and the ethos that this spirituality commands. This curiosity also captures the juxtaposition between the developed, urban west and the unperturbed, isolated Bhutan. Bhutan draws attention. From Prince William to Sting, from Andrew Garfield to Richard Gere, Bhutan has made its presence felt because now people have come to believe that tranquillity is a fundamental experience. But Bhutan hasn’t received adulation because of movie tourism or from any aggressive advertisement campaigns. Bhutan attracts, because it has managed to successfully maintain a harmony between its austere landscapes dotted with forests and the sublimely beautiful mountains to legendary saints and preachers flying on Tigers and fighting demons to preserve the goodness of human compassion. Bhutan’s desirability therefore, can be assorted into 5 different parts if you analyze the reasons that celebrities gave about their purpose of visit and what they discovered during their journey.
In Feb-March 2017, Hollywood and Chinese action star Jet Li visited Bhutan. On his official website he wrote, “My teacher also suggested to me that I should find a holy land. I know there are some places that teachers went to find enlightenment a thousand years ago in Bhutan and Nepal. So I went there thinking maybe I could get some inspiration too. I went to visit 2 caves in Bhutan to find the significance of life and maybe to discover my own potential.” Bhutan is, by universal acclaim, one of the world’s most spiritually appealing countries. It is quite like a time-wrapped enclave that you might not find anywhere else in the world. It is enlightened in its philosophies where you float on, gaze upon, and play within the rippling effect of Karma or deeds.
Many travellers, much like Jet Li, come to Bhutan looking for spiritual transformations but not just in prayer filled monasteries but also through the incredible sceneries and experiences in this fabled country that has been considered a Shangri-La by many travellers in the past. A visit to Bhutan reveals the striking beauty, multi-layered history, and cultural treasures of this enchanting nation, one of the most spectacular in all the Himalayas. Taking a swing through the many wonderful sights here, a traveller will explore the deep hidden world of Bhutan, perhaps discovering an entirely different world within, in the process. That is the inherent spiritual nature of Bhutan.
Most of the country’s regions are like religious sanctuaries. They exhibit Bhutan’s breathtaking, distinctive culture, with its Buddhist legends and spectacular memorials of stately deities, and the celebrated Lakhangs, a dazzling realm of glistening temples with towering pinnacles. Buddhism has been the principal religion of Bhutan and since then many saints, religious masters and mystics have visited and blessed Bhutan and its people with invaluable spiritual and cultural teachings that continues to shape Bhutanese life today. Bhutan, in a literal sense epitomizes the rush of the wind filled prayer flags, a delightful religious ambiance, a gentle pace of life which will enable you to experience in depth mysticism and have a profound spiritual experience. If you travel from corner to corner, you can discover some of the remarkably religious centres of Bhutan and take delight in the visits to the various Lakhangs (temples) and ornate monasteries ablaze with Chimis (Butter Lamps) and Mantras (Chants).
Bhutan is stunningly beautiful. Fascinating fog covered hills, ornate valleys decorated with Buddhist prayer flags, princely fortresses, and airy chants from faraway monasteries are the enchanting lure of Bhutan. Its remote corners command the most dazzling scenery and its villages and towns are like sun-splashed jewels set in a sparkling expanse that moves you in an instant. The green wild and the white snow realms of Bhutan’s far flung remote regions are like no other in the world. These unspoiled landscapes that shelter marvellous wildlife stretch to the ends of the eastern Himalayas.
More celebrities are enthralled by Bhutan instantaneously. In an episode from MTV Trippin, Cameron Diaz had famously said, “Life moves at a different pace here in Bhutan. A fusion of tradition, religion and a genuine respect for the environment gets a whole new meaning. The Bhutanese have carefully opened their doors to the outside world yet they continue to live in harmony with the world around them. It’s a way of living very different from what we’re used to. But for them, it seems to work”.
Bhutan’s remote and beautiful regions possess stunning and tranquil beauty that is rare elsewhere. In places like Bumthang, which has an expansive green valley, is where you can witness a wonderful medley of nature and man’s harmony. Bhutan’s other beautiful regions are still impressive sights; however- you feel both awestruck and insignificant, the most in Bumthang and many of its untouched, pristine lands. That becomes a humbling experience. Bhutan has so much to offer. Whether your interest is aesthetic, cultural or historical, Bhutan is every bit as impressive as its formidable reputation of being one of the most naturally beautiful countries of the world.
Most of the country still has untrodden roads as mountains of snow rise dramatically across the hills to form the most amazing sights you’ll ever see. The fabled monasteries of Bhutan are ones located at the most remote and captivating regions on earth, a land of towering cliffs, plunging waterfalls, ancient cultures, and exotic wildlife. All of these form the quintessential landscape of Bhutan.
While researching for his documentary called “Adventures of an Incurable Optimist”, Michael J Fox stumbled upon the Bhutanese concept of happiness. He came to Bhutan to shoot for the documentary soon after that. In Bhutan, while talking to Kuensel newspaper, he said “I’d read about Bhutan. I was really intrigued by the concept of gross national happiness, and I wanted to see if it really was what it was reported to be”.
Many early travellers to Bhutan were pleasantly baffled and their journeys were simply overwhelming as they felt like they had transcended time and entered an alternate reality. This was simply a spiritual experience that they could not define. Today, these wonderfully poignant sensations still resonate and can be experienced by a visit to this beautiful and enigmatic land and all seem to have come to a conclusion that these emotions can simply be labelled “happiness”.
During an interview with ABC News, Michael J fox said, “The people of Bhutan really are the happiest people. It’s amazing. They’re just beautiful people. I sat down with a farm family, and even these little differences in the way, like; the farm family would talk to me about… about how they all are there for each other. So, it’s … it’s a sense of unity. We can, all of us, potentially heal the world and we all have a part to play in … improving the lives of the people around us”.
There is no doubt that for a cultural traveler or a pilgrim, Bhutan is the jewel of the world. It presents a very unique voyage, offering the opportunity to explore the country‘s cultural wonders combined with a dip into a spiritual world, a pristine collection of monasteries where tourists are a rarity and the only possible means of exploration is total surrender to the wisdom of the ancient masters. Bhutan is a sacred place surrounded by the most significant and sacred Monasteries, Chortens, Stupas and Temples dedicated to the Gods and deities. The key to happiness in Bhutan is not only good governance but also about recognizing what they possess and preserving it vehemently.
People & Culture
In Bhutan there are prayer flags. Thousands of them and as they flutter in the wind, it is said that the chants send a positive message to the universe as it circles back to you in multitudes. They circle across Bhutan and provide the greatest of blessings to a travelling spirit. A thorough visit to Bhutan is a delightful experience of the cultures, and traditions of Bhutan’s practically pure religious philosophy. The Bhutanese have a magical, multi-layered, poignant culture that is a blend of religion, philosophies of its patron saints, the wisdom of its past monarchs and its deeply rooted traditions. These affect the daily lives of the Bhutanese people which make them morally bound to Dharma –the laws of morality.
During an interview with David Letterman on the Late Night Show with David Letterman, Hollywood actress Drew Barrymore spoke about her visit to Bhutan. She said, “It’s a very spiritual thoughtful place and I went to all these Buddhist monasteries and the people are so kind and the culture is so beautiful. And you just have these profound experiences there.” Located at the historic crossroads of religion, language, and the arts, Bhutan is home to intriguing enigmatic cultures as well as some of the world’s most ancient and timeless architecture. You will definitely take this breathtakingly stunning and remarkable country with a sense of astonishment as you discover the mysteries, diversity, and traditions of this part of the world; a visit that is soothing to the eye as well as to the senses.
Each place and region, each ritual and tradition creates a perfect balance of curiosity and amazement to a traveller. A journey to Bhutan delves deeply into this colourful realm as you witness Buddhist rituals and explore its beautiful and tranquil towns, and discover Bhutan’s sacred architecture in the form of its fortresses, where carved motifs soar high above into the clouds seemingly in touch with the divine. These are descriptions of a few scenes of Bhutan that can be captured through a camera or your memory. Bhutan is mostly about its people and culture, sometimes vibrant and sometimes mellow but that unmistakable assortment of spirituality and way of life embedded in it cannot be overlooked.
Peace & Solitude
Bhutan is instantly spellbinding; especially to those who lead a fast life and has not experienced solitude among nature. With its fragrant hills encircled by snowy mountains, with is vast untouched forests shrouded in mist, through its untamed rivers meandering across the mountains and the valleys, untouched, unperturbed, Bhutan embodies a picture of serenity. In the stunning beauty of its serene lands, and in its sacred spiritual centres, each place is a tranquil realm of a spiritual sensibility gleaming from every corner until you are totally immersed into it.
When asked by Esquire magazine about why Keanu Reeves wanted to visit Bhutan, he said “Because it’s awesome! You know? You’re, like, I’m showing up in Bhutan a few weeks early to kind of get my Siddhartha on and spend some time and walk around in the woods and do some thinking and some reading and some sitting. I mean, those are moments of a lifetime.” Much like Keanu Reeves, many travellers believe that there is a very deep connection between solitude, peace and spirituality. Bhutan presents all of that through its scenic beauty and its ambience.
When you walk along ancient stone paths, past red hued monasteries, up to cliff-perched fortresses, and through tiny whitewashed villages, the good life of Bhutan surrounds you. There are wildflower-covered hills, pristine rivers, and delightful local cuisine all contributing to the spiritual essence of Bhutan. Bhutan, therefore, is an exotic land best described by its spiritual colours—the brilliant reds and browns of costumes, the maroon worn by the monks, the muted tawny browns of the pages on Buddhist scriptures and the ethereal white of the prayer flags glistening in the sun.
But it is also an untamed world of forests and rivers, of spouting springs, wildflowers, massive glaciers, and multicoloured valleys stretching to the horizon. A visit to Bhutan immerses you in the world of Bhutan’s extraordinary landscapes, with fantastic options for excursions and walks. This is a country with high valleys and ancient sagas where the rich history of Shabdrung Nawang Namgyal carved out a unique culture through religion and moral laws can be explored only with an open mind. Bhutan is a beacon of peace and solitude not just in its wilderness and forests but also through its ornate fortresses and temples, all the while mingled perfectly with the fabulously preserved religious teachings of Buddhism.