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Bhutan- The Unremembered Nation (Community and Livelihood and Art and Ideals) Set of 2 Volumes

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Item Code: HAX131
Author: Karma Ura
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Language: English
Edition: 2023
ISBN: 9780198887362
Pages: 821 (B/W Illustrations)
Other Details 8.5x5.5 inch
Weight 1.17 kg
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Book Description

Respectfully dedicated to HRH the Crown Prince of Bhutan, the two-volume set is a study of activities of ordinary people before modernization began in the 1960s. Volume 1 begins with accounts of births and rebirths in a household, building of houses, embedding of individuals In a community, rearing of children and breeding of livestock, and husbandry of ecologically diverse land and forest. After sketching these fundamental aspects of existence, it depicts seasonal migration, backpack and caravan trade, and travel over different climatic and linguistic areas. Foot traffic took place over a network of ancient routes that converged on strategic bridges and passes. These events are woven into description of ordinary people's sensory experiences. The volume evokes the sounds of languages and dialects, songs and sayings, rivers and wind, beasts and birds; and with the smells of herbs, foods and drinks; and with the colours of village settings and nature. It comes to rest with the rhythm of farming, while growing major cereals such as millet, maize, buckwheat and barley.

About The Author

Dasho Karma Ura is the president of Centre for Bhutan & GNH Studies, Bhutan's main policy research think tank. He is an alumnus of St Stephen's College, Delhi; Magdalen College, Oxford; Edinburgh University; and Nagoya University. He was a visiting fellow in many institutes including Oxford University, and is a member of several international bodies advancing policies on happiness and wellbeing, based on His Majesty the Fourth King's concept of GNH. He was bestowed the Druk Khorlo (Wheel of the Dragon Kingdom) by His Revered Majes the King for his contributions to literature and the fine arts.


Two kinds of acknowledgements are due: the first kind for giving me longevity and health that made fruitful undertakings possible even under the increasingly circumscribed and sterile environment of the bureaucracy. The second kind of acknowledgement I wish to express is for the broader supportive environment for this research. The magnitude of ac- knowledgement and gratitude of the former kind is by far the greater.

I owe above all to the blessings of Their Majesties the Kings-His Revered Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck and His Revered Majesty the King-for my health and longevity. I have lived unexpectedly longer be- cause of their gracious and just-in-time consideration for my health. Had His Revered Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck not had the prescience to command medical intervention twice with time precision that can only be called remote viewing extra-sensory power, I would have surely re- turned on the plane back to Bhutan, but as a deceased person. I am also indebted to HM Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck for her compassion in general and generosity to involve me meaningfully in her artistic projects such as the Dochula murals and festival in particular. Her energy, generosity, and decisiveness make any individual who works with her productive.

Dasho Tshering Tobgay, the Prime Minister of Bhutan from 2013 to 2018, has made tremendous contribution to the institutional strengthening of the Centre for Bhutan and Gross National Happiness Studies. The Library of Body, Mind and Sound constructed in Thimphu during his tenure, and completed successfully with the support of Lyonchen Dr Loti Tshering, will be a critical learning centre for Bhutan. Besides normal duties, its construction consumed my attention as much as writing this book in the last two years. But both of them were a creative process. It is a privilege to release this book in the year of the consecration of the Centre with the blessing of His Revered Majesty the King in 2022.


Bhutan's trajectory of change has been very rapid, without much time to reflect. This book is a reflection on it. This book hopes to fill that gap. It describes economic, political, industrial, trade, and social developments but weaves into the story seamlessly many little understood and rarely ar ticulated aspects of art, culture, spirituality, and practices.

Traditional knowledge and practices are in danger of being lost in the pace of development and modernization. I hope this book will add to the cultural memory of the nation and provide an invaluable resource for scholars and development actors. Understanding the past gives crucial insight into the traditions and beliefs underlying and informing contemporary Bhutanese life, essential for well-informed analysis and development policy.

I have attempted to create a clearer portrait of Bhutan before the pro cess of modernization began in the 1960s, built on the backbone of oral interviews with elderly people, and textual and material evidences of the past. To borrow words from Otsubo, it is hoped that 'many will benefit from this work in the future in knowing correctly what Bhutan looked like, looks like, and will look like in remembering this great nation' (Otsubo, personal communications, July 2018). The link between what it looked like and what it looks like now is of great interest to everybody wanting to know how we came to be as we are. The link between what it looks like now and how it will look like at a given period in the future is of course equally interesting to the contemporary generation, especially to those who are at the helm of the country. Though objectivity is said to be easier to attain while writing about anything about the past due to distance and perspective lent by time, my judgement is that it is easier to write on a subject about the present than about the past or the future.

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