Friday, May 17, 2013

Astrology, Birthdays, Marriages and Names!

Yesterday morning we began the day with a lecture from the Director of RTC, Dasho Tenzing Yonten, and another from a famous Bhutanese author, Ms. Kunzang Choden.  Director Yonten gave us a brief rundown on Bhutanese history and described a few cultural highlights.
Ms. Choden explained Bhutanese beliefs in an easy to follow conversational manner. To begin, we learned that their culture strongly relies on astrology to guide activities. The daily astrological horoscope is posted in a newspaper, on television, and radio. If it does not suit citizens to take part in certain activities that day, then they will not. They also do not celebrate individual birthdays. They have a National Birthday that everyone celebrates. Regardless of the day of your birth, you will be considered 1 year old on the first day of their first lunar calendar. If you are born August 1st and the 2nd is that special day, you will not be 1 day old, but 1 year old. Ms. Choden also spoke on marriage. There is no formal law on marriage. If two people (or more) live together then they are considered married. If at any time one moves out, then they are no longer married. In the 1980s a marriage act was adopted that protected children as far as custody. Bhutanese recognize heterosexual, polygamy, and polyandry marriages. There are also a great deal of fatherless children in the country, but it is not seen as taboo.  In fact, many folk tales have fatherless children as heroes. Women also never take their husbands surname.  “Women never become 'Mrs. Somebody'. You are who you are before you’re married, and that does not change,” was a very strong statement she made. In regards to names, men and women also have the same name. There is no male or female version. Surnames have also become a new trend. You can imagine how hard it is to make arrangements for people with only one name that may be the same, with the same birthdate.

The women on the trip felt very motivated by Ms. Choden's remarks.  She was very inspirational.

From L to R: Dasho Tenzing Yonten, Cassandra W., Ms. Kunzang Choden

Also, we promised a few Penn State Alumni ladies we met on the plane a shout-out! Hope you all are enjoying your time in Bhutan! 

Cassandra W.


  1. I love the idea about the women keeping their name. Sounds like it was a great lecture.

  2. Is gay marriage permissible there? What about group marriages involving multiple women and multiple men?

  3. The Bhutanese people seem to focus more on the community and less on themselves. Does that have anything to do with their "gross national happiness"? Just wondering...

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