Actualizado: 17 sept 2019

I knew that there are some countries that do not have any sites inscribed into the World Heritage List, but I was surprised when I read that Bhutan was also in the list because I never thought that a country as this could not have any sites declared World Heritage, because Bhutan in its wholeness is a landscape and cultural monument, in my opinion.

Bhutan is a mountainous and small country without exit to the sea located in the South of Asia, between India and Tibet. The local name of the country is DRUK YUL that means “land of the thunder of the dragon” because in the local belief the thunders are the sound of dragon’s roar. Its capital is Timphu.

The origin of Bhutan is unknown, but there is the belief that a town named Monba founded a king between 500 B.C and 600 A.C. The people of Bhutan are related with the Tibetans of the North, some groups of emigrant Tibetans are the base of the actual population.

In the VIII. C, the Indian Guru Padmasambhava brought Buddhism to Bhutan and he created some temples and monasteries around the country. This country suffered a lot of conflicts and wars, for this reason there are important fortress as Simtokha Dzong.

One of the most important leaders, Shaddrung Ngwang, in 1600 used the cultural and traditional symbols to establish a national identity, for example a sacred dance that they danced in the yearly festival Tsechu.

This country has wanted to be isolated from the rest of the world, but in the last years they are opening to the world still maintaining their sovereignty and traditions. They have a particular philosophy; their slogan is “Gross National Happiness”. This is an effort of “modernization”, without lose the traditions, national identity and a sustainable growth with respect for the environment.

The three principal values of the Bhutanese culture are: happiness, gender equality and environmental conservation, and their basic pillars are: good government, cultural and environmental conservation and equality and economic development. For them, happiness is a well-being that is born out of the joining or physical and spiritual sites and their main objective is to increase humankind’s well-being. For some people Bhutan is the “lost Shangri-La” the ideal place described in the novel “Lost Horizons”.

Today, Bhutan is a parliamentary monarchy, the economy is based in agriculture (rice, corn, wheat, fruit and vegetable) and breeding herds (cow, yaks). The industry is limited they only produce for the internal consumption (food, textile…). The tourism is limited too.

Focusing in the heritage about the country, I think that could be a good initiative to include in the World Heritage List some of the most important monasteries of Bhutan. In this country with more or less 800 k inhabitants, and there are 40 monasteries. It is an example of the importance of the spirituality in this area.

One of the most awesome monasteries is in the Valley of Paro, Taktshang. This building is located in a cliff at 3120 m, its name means “tiger nest”. It is an important and sacred place to the Himalayan Buddhism and it includes seven temples. This monastery was built in a place where the people believe that Guru Padmasambhava meditated for 3 years, 3 months, 3 weeks, 3 days, and 3 hours, in the VIII C. The legend said that “Guru Padmasambhava flew until this place from Tibet in his tantric form (flying tiger) with its consort”. This Guru introduced Buddhism in Bhutan and now he is the principal deity in the country.

To arrive to the monastery there is only one called “One Thousand Fairy Way” and can be attempted on foot or on mule`s back.

This monastery is an historical and aesthetic monument, because it is an architectural work located in a fantastic natural place, the Himalaya (the most important mountain range in the world), and the landscape around the monastery is spectacular.

The selection criteria that I think correspond in this case are two:

  1. To represent a masterpiece of human creative genius.

  2. To bear unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization this is living or which has disappeared.

I have chosen the first because in my opinion to build a building in a precipitous place like that, great creativity and knowledge about architecture and means of build are necessary to design the different areas of the monastery and to adapt it to the relief of the mountain. The second selection criteria is because this monastery represented the place where Guru Padmasambhava that brought Buddhism to Bhutan meditated for long time when he arrived. Now, the principal religion of the country is Buddhism followed by 76% of the population. For this I think that is a good testimony of the culture of Bhutan.

The monastery is built in the traditional style, with big walls ended in square roof with domes richly decorated and with live colors in the walls, beams, pillars, doors, windows, etc. This remarkable decoration connected with the natural landscape creates beautiful images that invite to relax and to meditate.

Bhutan could be (as we studied in the first module) an example of a country that protects its traditions and cultural goods thinking in the well-being of the citizenry that are the main beneficiaries of the exploitation of their recourse and the wealth and beauty of the country. In my opinion, Bhutan, for its life philosophy, its natural landscape and its lifestyle, is a small paradise that must be protected.

Other monasteries of relevance for cultural criteria are the following: Dzong Punakha, Dzong Tango Dzong Tongsa, Dzong Cheri, Dzong Rimpung.

#Bhutan #WorldHeritage #Unesco

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