Which Country is Known as the “Roof of the World”
Tibet, which lies in the north eastern part of the Himalayas in Asia, is popularly known as the “Roof of the World”. The Tibetan plateau is one of the highest regions on earth. It is at an elevation of 4900 meters or 16000 feet. This is the reason why it is known as the “Roof of the World”. The Tibetan Plateau is surrounded by mountain ranges, in the south, by the Himalayas, in the north by the Kunlun range, in the west, by the Kakoram range of mountains and in the east by the Hengduan Mountains. Some of the world’s tallest mountains are located in Tibet. Mount Everest the highest mountain in the world shares its border with Tibet/China. Many important rivers like the Yellow River, Yangtze, Ganges, Salween and the Indus have their origin in Tibet. Tibet has the world’s highest and largest plateau which covers an area of 2.5 million square kilometers. Tibet is also the home to several beautiful lakes including the Mansarovar.
Tibet comprises of about 800 settlements. Lhasa is the capital city of Tibet. World Heritage sites like the Potala Palace and the Norbulingka are located in Lhasa. Lhasa is the second most populated city in Tibet after Xining. It is situated at an altitude of 3490 metres. In Tibetan language, Lhasa means “Place of Gods”. Lhasa is a prefecture level city that comprises of one district and seven counties.
Tibet’s economy is dependent on tourism and service industries. Traditional agriculture and animal husbandry are also practiced here. Copper, Lead and Zinc mines are found in Tibet. Farmers here practice subsistence agriculture which means they cultivate crops that are sufficient to fend their own families. Arable land is limited. Wheat, barley, rye, buckwheat, potatoes, fruits and vegetables are grown. Tourism is actively promoted by the government. Most of the income in tourism comes from the sale of handicrafts. Tibet is famous for its traditional hats, gold and silver jewelry, wooden items, quilts, fabrics and clothing, Tibetan rugs and carpets.
Tibetan flag is represented by six bands which denote the six original ancestors of Tibetan people, Se, Mu, Dong, Tong, Dru and Ra. There are several other ethnic groups like Lhoba, Hui, Han, Dongxiang, Mosuo, Salar and Yi people. As per the latest census in 2010, 90% of Tibet’s population comprises of ethnic Tibetans and they are around 3 million in number.
Religion plays a very important role in Tibet and it casts its influence on every aspect of their lives. Tibetan Buddhism has eclipsed the ancient religion of Tibet known as Bon. Tibetan Buddhism has several traditions but four of them are important.
Gelugpa This order was started in 14th century and is based on Kadampa tradition. The Dalai Lama belongs to this school. He is known as an embodiment of Bodhisattva of Compassion.
Kagyupa This lineage is an oral tradition and concentrates on the experiential dimension of meditation.
Nyingmapa This is the oldest order, founded by Padmasambhava.
Sakyapa This order is founded by Khon Konchog Gyalpo. It gives important to scholarship.
Tibetan art is profoundly influenced by Tibetan Buddhism. Lord Buddha is depicted in various forms in shrines and statues.
Architecture in Tibet is influenced by India and China. The most prominent feature in Tibetan architecture is, all the monasteries and houses are constructed on elevated lands that face south direction. Earth, cement rocks and wood are used for construction. Multiple windows is a common feature to allow natural light inside the structures. Walls of the structures are built with an angle that slopes towards the inside of the building, as a precaution against the earthquakes which are common in mountainous areas.
Throughout the year Tibet celebrates different festivals worshipping Lord Buddha. Losar is known as the Tibetan New Year festival. A special prayer festival called Monlam Prayer festival falls in the first month of the Tibetan calendar.
The most predominant crop in Tibet is Barley, which is the staple food of Tibetans. Noodles and steamed dumplings known as momos are made out of Barley. Meat is derived from yaks and goats. Mustard is also cultivated in Tibet and therefore is widely used in their cuisine. Butter tea which is made of Yak milk is very popular.
Tibet is known as a spiritual destination because of the popularity of the present Dalai Lama. Celebrities and people all over the world visit Tibet to pay their respects to the Holy man Dalai Lama.