Family Life


photo M. Noonan

The traditional Bhutanese home, dating back to the seventeenth century, is more than just a building. A wall surrounds the three story house and a small yard, where cattle usually sleep and eat. Behind the house, there is an in-ground hot tub that is heated by a rocks that are first roasted in a fire. This stone bath is used for healing purposes and it provides relief from joint pain for the elderly.

A second stone wall encloses small fields of rice, wheat, and vegetables. A grinding stone sits outside and is used to process grains.


                         photo M. Noonan

Inside the building, the first floor is dirt and sectioned off into three areas. The first is a large open space where the cattle sleep during the harsh winters for warmth. A smaller room is for the calves, who receive special attention. In the third area, the people keep their farming tools, riding gear, and hunting equipment.

There are large bins on the second floor where the crops from the year are stored, one set for the cattle and one for the family. Pots, pans, wine jugs, and other cooking equipment are stored in another room, along with dried spices like pepper.

The third floor is the family's actual living quarters. The fireplace is of central importance to family life: it offers food and warmth during the cold winter months. Traditionally, the mother spends most of the day cooking around the fireplace. The family eats in the kitchen, sitting on the floor. The kitchen also serves as a bedroom for the parents, while the children sleep in another room. During the day, the bedding is rolled up and stored in the corner and the room serves as a living room. The final room, and arguably the most important, is the worship room. Here, the family keeps statues of the Buddha for daily devotions. There are instruments for meditation, including bells and incense. On special days, the family will call on a relative/monk to celebrate at their house. Special guests are also allowed to sleep in this room.

 

Content provided by Canisius College students under the direction of Michael Noonan, PhD.