The staples of the Bhutanese diet are rice, buckwheat and corn. The language is Dzongkha, but several Tibetan or Nepalese dialects are used throughout the country. Dzongkha means, “The language spoken in fortresses.” It has 30 consonants and four vowels. Most Bhutanese men wear the gho, which is a knee-length robe tied at the waist by a cloth belt called a kera. Women wear akira, a bright, woven ankle-length dress with traditional patterns. It is clipped at one shoulder and tied at the waist. The females also wear a long-sleeved blouse, a toego, under the kira. Hand-woven fabrics, from simple cotton to more intricate designs using different materials including silk, are among the pride of Bhutan.
Bhutan’s national sport is Dha, or archery. Matches are conducted regularly in most villages. It differs in some ways from Olympic standards including technical details such as the placement of the targets 140 feet away, as opposed to 55 yards in the Olympics.
Bhutanese have begun to participate in other sports including cricket, wrestling, darts and digor, which is like a combination of throwing the shot put and a horseshoe. During the last few decades, international sports including basketball, soccer, tennis, volleyball and ping-pong also have become popular.
Masked dances and dance dramas accompanied by traditional music are common features at festivals. Energetic dancers, wearing colorful wooden or composition face masks and stylized costumes, depict heroes, demons, animals, and gods. The dancers enjoy royal patronage. In fact, the government opened its Royal Academy of Performing Arts in 1967 to preserve the country’s connection to folk dancing and mask making.