The national symbols of Bhutan are established by various law and tradition. The flag, emblem and national anthem are modern symbols of Bhutan. The other symbols are much older than the Kingdom itself and are derived from Buddhist mythology.
The druk (thunder dragon) design is heavily associated with Bhutanese state religion and has been symbolizing Bhutan since the late 12th century. Traditional natural symbols (such as the raven and Himalayan cypress) possess not only admired characteristics but religious meanings as well.
The national animal of Bhutan is called Takin (Burdorcas Taxicolor), which is associated with religious history and mythology. According to legends, the divine madman, Lama Drukpa Kuenley, was asked to perform a miracle by the villagers. After devouring a whole cow and goat, he took the goat’s head and stuck it onto the bones of the cow’s body. On his command, this strange animal came to life and ran to graze on the mountainside.
Takin is considered a very rare and endangered mammal with a thick neck and short muscular legs. It lives in groups and is found in places above 4,000 meters high on the north-western parts of Bhutan. They feed on dwarf bamboos and an adult Takin can weigh over 200 kgs.
The national bird of Bhutan is the Raven, which represents the deity Gonpo Jarodongchen (the raven-headed Mahakala), one of the chief guardian deities of Bhutan. The Raven is the most prominent component of the royal crown.
The national day of Bhutan is on 17 December, which commemorates the crowning of Gongsa Ugyen Wangcheck, the first King of Bhutan, at Punakha Dzong on 17 December 1907.
The National Emblem of Bhutan is a circle that composed of a double diamond thunderbolt (dorji) placed above the lotus, surmounted by a jewel, and framed by two dragons.
The two thunderbolts represent the harmony between secular and religious power, the lotus symbolizes purity and the jewel signifies sovereign power. The two dragons (male and female) on each side stand for the name of the country.
The rectangular National Flag of Bhutan is divided diagonally, with a white dragon (druk) along the dividing line.
The saffron yellow colour of the flag signifies the secular power and authority of the King, while the saffron orange colour represents Buddhism religion. The white colour of the dragon signifies purity and loyalty.
The flag is based upon the tradition of the Drukpa Lineage in Tibetan Buddhism. It was first created in 1947 by Mayum Choying Wangmo Dorji and was modified in 1956 to take its present form.
The national flower of Bhutan is Himalayan Blue Poppy (Meconopsis Horridula), which is found on rocky mountain terrain (5,000 to 6,000 metres above sea level). It is a delicate blue or purple tinged bloom with golden anthers, which can grow to a height of 1 meter. It was first discovered in 1922 by a British Himalayan expedition.
Before Bhutan was unified in 1616 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, it was ruled by different leaders and clans. Hence, this created a multi-lingual society in today’s Bhutan, with 19 languages and dialects. Dzongkha is introduced as the national language of Bhutan in order to serve as a common communication mode. In the ancient times, this language was used by the people who worked in the Dzongs, the administrative place of the districts.
The national tree of Bhutan is Himalayan cypress (Cupressus Torolusa), an evergreen tree. It is found in temperate climate zone, between an attitude of 1,800 to 3,500 metres above sea-level, and near religious places. To Bhutanese, its ability to grow straight and strong in poor quality soils represents bravery and simplicity.
The national sport of Bhutan is archery. Traditional bows and arrows are made from bamboo although the popularity of foreign compound bows is gaining momentum amongst those who can afford it.
This traditional Bhutanese archery is a social event and competitions are held regularly between villages, towns and amateur teams.