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10-Bhutan and Yeti

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10-Bhutan and Yeti

About Bhutan
Bhutan is a small country above India and East of Nepal. Until the early 1960s, Bhutan had sealed itself off for centuries, retreating behind the Himalayas to live as it always had with life revolving around crop cycles, Buddhism, tiny feudal city-states and revered royalty. It had no roads, no electricity network, no currency. It had no postal system or telephones. Trade depended on barter. Tourists were barred. Only after China invaded Tibet in 1959 did the king decree his country would not be fully closed off. At first, change came slowly: there were no paved roads until 1963, no tourists until the 1970s and no international phone service until the 1980s.

Suddenly, Bhutan has reached an uncomfortable crossroads. In the 1990s, though, things accelerated: Television arrived in 1999, the road network grew, the electricity grid blossomed. While tourism remains highly restricted - visitors must pay $220 per day, in advance, to get a visa - there were still 20,000 tourists last year, nearly ten times as many as in 1991. In a nation where kings held absolute power, March democratic elections brought in a generation of ambitious politicians.

Bhutan is a place where almost everyone was born in a village but where few people see a future in farming and where a minuscule modern economy means there are precious few other jobs.

Thimphu, Bhutan's increasingly crowded capital, has everything from majestic royal palaces to microscopic traffic jams of a few dozen cars. On weekend nights, bored, unemployed young people brawl outside dance bars.

And About Yeti
Long before the Yeti was a normal part of life. But today all educated people know this that there's nothing out there in the forest. Within the last 40 years, they have jumped 300-400 years.

Although many people still believe that "Everyone knew it was there, it was like the bears or the leopards. Why would one question it? The creature has always been out there, and it's out there still, if you travel the ancient trails, even today, there's a good chance you'll meet him." But most people have started believing that this is just a story. Many traditional beliefs remain deeply ingrained in Bhutan, from astrology to the worship of Buddhist priests. But the monster is now increasingly forgotten, and the link to an ancient past is more often seen as a sign of ignorance. In the West, yeti-like creatures long ago were reduced to myth.

No one is sure how far back the stories go. In A.D. 79, the Roman scholar Pliny the Elder described immensely strong Himalayan animals with "human-like bodies." Chinese manuscripts from the 7th century mention hairy creatures similar to the Yeti. The tales change from region to region across Asia yetis were man-eaters in some places, grass-eaters in others. In many places, the beast was seen as a harbinger of death, a combination of man, animal and demon.

Some things, though, were certain. It was tall, hairy and very strong. It lived mostly in the high mountains and avoided people. Only a handful of yak herders might report sightings with any regularity, but everyone knew it was out there, and feared it.

In Bhutan, most people call it the "migoi" strong man but it goes by any number of names across the Himaalayas: glacier man, snow goblin, wild man. To Westerners, though, it is known as the yeti a name believed to come from a Tibetan word for bear and it has gripped outsiders' imaginations since reports of a strange Himalayan creature began filtering out in the mid-20th century. Mountaineers brought back many of the stories, telling of strange footprints in the snow, of mysterious animals spotted walking on two legs, of tales their porters told around campfires.

Just maybe, some thought, there could be truth in those tales, because similar tales had proven accurate before. In 1902, a German soldier proved that central African legends of an enormous, hairy mountain beast were based in reality. But Capt Robert von Beringe came home with proof: The body of a mountain gorilla that he had shot.

So the yeti hunt was on. In 1954, Britain's Daily Mail newspaper sent out a search party. In 1957, a Texas oilman took up the chase. Three years later, Everest conqueror Sir Edmund Hillary searched along the Nepal-Tibet border. In their wake came Soviet expeditions, TV crews, scientists and hucksters. Plenty of tantalizing clues have been found, from footprints to hair. But science can explain most they often turn out to be from bears and five decades of searching has turned up no body, no high quality photograph. Eventually, even many fervent yeti hunters see the truth in more prosaic explanations. The great Italian climber Reinhold Messner spent years tracking Yeti stories across the Himalayas and even caught a glimpse of it a couple times. But in the end, the truth was obvious to him. "All evidence," he wrote at the end of his travels, "points to a nocturnal species of brown bear."

Or Maybe Not
Sangay Wangchuck, the national director of conservation, can show you half a dozen framed plaster casts mounted on the wall. The frames show the outline of irregular grayish footprints around 12 inches long. All, according to small signs, come from yetis. He knows what it is to wrestle with belief and science. He has a master's degree from Yale and a doctorate from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. He's a scientist who oversees legions of rangers and researchers. His training tells him not to believe in something unless he has proof. But the yeti stories run deep here, and denial means more than casting off an old belief.

Still, the value of the yeti is not the same what it once was. Their stories grew around things that we could not explain. But like the tigers that roamed these forests a century ago, the yeti once people knew is gone. Children don't know about it, and they don't miss it.
[Adapted from Yahoo News, Sunday, August 10, 2008 - "Losing the Yeti in Forgotten Nation of Bhutan"]



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Created by Sushma Gupta on January 15, 2002
Modified on 05/01/13