Unlike many countries, traditional arts, age-old ceremonies, festivals, social conduct and structures are not remnants of a bygone age. Traditional arts and crafts are still practiced as they were done hundreds of years ago, vibrant festivals are celebrated and social principles are still evident because they continue to have a special significance in the daily lives of the people. Bhutanese language and literature, arts and crafts, drama, music, ceremonies and events, architecture, and basic social and cultural values draw their essence from Buddhism. Just as the Kingdom’s history is characterized by religious landmarks, the influence of religion is highly visible in everyday life. Hundreds of sacred monasteries, stupas, religious institutions, prayer flags and prayer wheels mark the countryside, providing a strong infrastructure and atmosphere for the teachings of their living faith.
Bhutan’s traditional culture is alive in its performing arts, such as dance and music which are an integral part of religious ceremonies. In addition, secular performances, such as dance, songs, traditional instrumental music, drama based on biographies of religious personalities hold a special place in the lives of the people as they play an important role in national, village, or domestic functions and festivals. Bhutan’s textile tradition has, in recent years, gone international. The distinct technique, color and style of indigenous Bhutanese weaving is being increasingly appreciated by textile specialists, collectors and users. The state religion of Bhutan is the Drukpa sect Kagyupa, a branch of Mahayana Buddhism. Ever since its introduction in the eighth century, Buddhism has shaped the nation’s history and played a vital part in the life of its people. Throughout Bhutan, from the most densely populated valleys to the most remote mountain way stops, religious monuments and symbols bear witness to a deep and respected faith. One comes across prayer wheels, prayer flags and the sacred mantra Om Mani Padme Hung carved on slabs of stone and rocky hillsides.
Chortens (stupas) housing sacred relics dot the landscape, Monasteries and temples some dating back to as early as the eighth century, are the focal point of each village.