Book Review by Nabila Tazyeen

By Nabila Tazyeen - 10 August 2013
I did a biking trip across Bhutan for 10 days a few months ago, and fell so in love with it that I didn’t want to come back. Small it may be, but the peace and contentment I found there, I have found nowhere else. When I came back home, still high on my experiences across the Himalayan kingdom, I found Karma Phuntsho’s ‘History of Bhutan’ patiently sitting on my writing table.
I was transported back to the country with the turn of the first page of the massive book (discounting the copyright and title pages, of course).
‘The History of Bhutan’ does not make for easy reading, but it is extremely informative and in most parts, fascinating. There is so much to this country long-hidden from the eyes of the world that it’s quite a challenge to document all of it. Fortunately, Karma Phuntsho has done a splendid job of capturing every facet of Bhutan in excruciating detail.
Bhutan’s struggle against invasions from Tibet and China, the importance of Buddhism among the Bhutanese, keeping culture and traditions alive against all odds (to this day, they are a culturally rich race), the various Bhutanese people based on geography and occupation, the respect for nature and wildlife – there’s a story behind every element that has gone into making the Land of the Thunder Dragon what it is today. Bhutan, for example, is home to over 20 languages despite its size. When represented graphically, the major Buddhist temples built across the length and breadth of Bhutan are strategically situated to suppress a succubus from rising and wreaking havoc.
More such mixes of fascinating facts and mythological stories abound in the book, and that’s a good enough reason to pick it up. In the process, the book also transforms into a map of places you must see for when you decide to go to Bhutan.
Visiting the country was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me; yet, I can’t help but wonder how much more enriching my holiday would have been had the book arrived before I embarked on the journey. I would have been a local among locals – and that’s the best way to see any place, isn’t it?