In this post, I look at the National Emblem of Bhutan – looking at the symbolism and embedded in the visual are various meanings.
“Cradled in the folds of the Himalayas…” we find Bhutan. The country has used its geographic isolation to retain its cultural identity and to protect itself from outside cultural influences, with the goal of preserving its cultural heritage and independence. The country has a population of 741,822. This represents 19 people per square km; compared to 3 in Australia; 17 in New Zealand; 259 in the UK; 34 in the USA; 319 in Philippines; 93 in Spain; and 119 in France.
The country is bordered in the south by India and to the north by China. Bhutan has allowed foreigners to visit in limited numbers since the 1980s. It has used this strategy to preserve its cultural heritage, which dates back to the mid-17th century.
The emblem was first legally codified as a national symbol in the Constitution in 2008. The national emblem is contained by a circle, at the centre of which is two crossed vajras located above a lotus flower. On either side of the vajras are two (male and female) white dragons. A wish-fulfilling jewel is located above them. There are four other jewels inside the circle where the two vajras intersect.
The vajras means both thunderbolt and diamond. It is a symbolic ritual object that symbolizes both the properties of a diamond (indestructibility) and a thunderbolt (irresistible force). The vajras represent the harmony between secular and religious power. They symbolize the spiritual and secular traditions of the Kingdom based on the four spiritual undertakings of Vajrayana Buddhism. A double dorje (Tibetan name for vajra) represents the foundation of the physical world and is also associated with certain Tantric deities – best understood as archetypes representing aspects of enlightenment.
The lotus symbolizes purity, absence of defilement and ‘spontaneous’ generation and divine birth. The pink lotus is the supreme lotus and generally reserved for the highest deity. It is the lotus of the historical Buddha.
The jewel expresses sovereign power. The two dragons, male and female, stand for the name of the country, which they proclaim with their great voice, the thunder. Dragons in Bhutan are called Druk. It is the “Thunder Dragon” of Bhutanese mythology and a Bhutanese national symbol. Bhutanese leaders are called Druk Gyalpo, Dragon Kings.