West and Central Bhutan | The Bumthang Province

The Bumthang Province

Winter wheat and buckwheat, as well as animal products gained from animal breeding, are the main substinance foods in the thickly forested mountain valleys of Bumthang. Here, next to agriculture, weaving represents one of the most important sources of income. Although a large part of the village population is settled, there are still a few regions where, now as then, seasonal migration and semi-nomadism still occur.

The original idiom of the region is not Dzongkha, but rather a dialect which has barely been researched linguistically and which has been categorized as a separate language family.


The inhabitants of Bumthang consider their land as blessed, because it was one of the first which, in the eighth century according to our calender, was converted to Buddhism by Guru Rinpoche. Here stand two of the oldest and most sacred temple buildings of Bhutan, the Jampe and the Kurje-Lhakang.

Close economic and religious ties between Bumthang and the southern lying Kurtö had already existed for a long time. In Kurtö, the descendants of Pema Lingpa settled and established an aristrocracy which entered into maritial ties with the noble families of the neighboring regions. Even today, the inhabitants of Bumthang in Kurtö trade animal products for rice.

In many villages of Bumthang there also still exists a matrimonial inheritance system, in which the women play a meaningful role in the decision-making processes in village politics.

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The Laya in the North
The East of Bhutan
The Sub-Tropical South
West and Central Bhutan
.  The Western Valleys
.  The Bumthang Province
.  .  The Village Household
.  .  The Farm House

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Machine for noodle making: wood frame, insert with holes in the dough compartment: horn; measurements 53 x 88 x 13 centimeters; on loan from the Museum für Völkerkunde Wien
Noodles are made out of buckwheat flour.
Sieve: wood, bamboo; measurements 6 x 72 x 13 centimeters; on loan from the Museum für Völkerkunde Wien
This is used to take the cooked noodles out of the pot.

In Bumthang, spinning is one of the few household activities which is the exclusive domain of the women.
Photograph by Jon Warren

A young women with a typical Bumthang headdress. In this region weaving counts as one of the most important sources of income.
Photograph by Guy van Strydonck

Handle: brass, blade: iron; length 20 centimeters; on loan from a private collection
Ritual daggers, made of iron, are used for the symbolic killing of demons.