The Exhibition in Leiden | The ethnic groups of Bhutan

Bhutan's ethnic groups

In this room, four of Bhutan's ethnic groups are exemplarily presented in more detail; that is the Laya, the Brokpa, the Nepalese minority and the the Drukpa, the biggest of Bhutan's ethnic groups.

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A major part of the Bhutanese population live in villages in the central hill country at altitudes between 1000 and 2800 meters.The production of the peasant households is intended mainly for personal requirements, especially barley and wheat as well as sweet and bitter buckwheat. In recent times there are also potatoes which are commercially grown. Many houses keep cows, sheep, yaks and chicken.There is hardly any work which is done by either men or women alone. They both harvest, thresh and transport agricultural produce in backbaskets. Household work such as cooking or childcare is done mostly, but not exclusively by women. Weaving and spinning are typically womenÕs jobs. Men plow, harrow and square timber. Where machines have been introduced they are mostly operated by men In many regions of Central Bhutan the women inherit house and land from their mothers. The woman stay in her maternal house after the marriage and the husband moves in with her. This law of inheritance grants the women an important position within the house and in the decision-making process of village politics.
At altitudes between 3500 and 5000 meters sheep and especially yaks graze on the slopes of the Himalayas. Yaks supply the subsistence of the semi-nomadic stockbreeders. Yak hair is spun into weatherproof tents, meat is eaten or traded for rice, and milk is processed into butter and cheese. Yaks carry heavy loads or pull the ploughs on the small fields of the highlanders. Dried manure is used as fuel. In the summer the shepherds live in tents made of black yakÕs hair, while the winters are mostly spent in small houses built of stone, which are also used for storage. In october, before the passes become blocked by snow, the herdsmen wander down into the central valleys where they trade dairy produce for corn and tools. Whereas in former times business was transacted by barter, today the money economy has increasingly supplanted the old system. Most stockbreeders own their own herds; but some keeps the herds for townspeople or for well-to-do farmers from the fertile valleys.