The chronicled history of the country begins with the advent of Buddhism in the 8th century. Guru Padmasambhava, popularly revered in Bhutan as Guru Rinpoche or the Precious Master, made his legendary trip in 747 A.D. on the back of a flying tigress to subdue the evil spirits who hindered Buddhism. After defeating them, he blessed and made them local guardians of the doctrine, thus introducing Tantric Buddhism to Bhutan.
Taktsang or Tiger’s Nest in the Paro valley is where he landed and today it remains one of the most sacred places in Bhutan.
The name, “Bhutan” is derived from the Sanskrit Bootan, meaning the land of Tibet or Bhu-uttan, meaning High land. Historically, the Bhutanese have refered to their country as,“DrukYul”, meaning Land of the Thunder Dragon and themselves as,“Drukpa” people.
Guru Rinpoche is recognized as the second Buddha as well as the father of the Nyingmapa school of Tantric Mahayana Buddhism practiced in Bhutan.
ZhabdrungNgawangNamgyal, a Tibetan lama of Drukpa Kagyu School arrived in Bhutan in 1616 A.D. He consolidated the country under a unified power, built Dzongs throughout Bhutan and established the Choesi (Dual) system of governance, whereby both the temporal and the religious authority were separated and vested in the DrukDesi (Temporal Head) and Je Khenpo (Spiritual Head) respectively.
Bhutan emerged with a distinct national and cultural Identity during the era of Zhabdrung, as well as an unprecedented degree of political stability. During the second half of the 18th century, the country witnessed a resurgence of political instability.The unity of the country was affected by internal dissent. External threats in the latter half of the 19th century added a new dimension to the political quandary. It was against this background that the need for a strong leadership emerged. Peace and stability were restored with the enthronement of His Majesty King UgenWangchuk (1907-1926). On December 17, 1907 with signing and sealing of the Oath of Allegiance in a grand ceremony in PunakhaDzong, UgenWangchuk became the first hereditary monarch of the Kingdom of Bhutan.
The monarchy has thrived ever since, and the present Fifth King, His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck (2008 to present), commands the overwhelming support for his people.
The Kingdom of Bhutan lies in the eastern Himalayas landlocked between China and India.The kingdom has a total area of about 38,394 square kilometers. Tucked away in the heart of the high Himalayan mountain range, Bhutan is entirely mountainous and ranges in elevation from 100 meters along the Indian border in the south to the Greater Himalayas which are bounded to the north by the Tibetan plateau, reaching to heights of over 7500 meters (24600ft). The maximum East-West stretch of the country is approximately 300 km s and North-South about 150kms.
Early records suggest scattered clusters of inhabitants had already settled in Bhutan when the first recorded settlers arrived 1400 years ago. Bhutan’s indigenous population is the Drukpa. Three main ethnic groups are present in Bhutan. They are :Sharchops, Ngalops and the Lhotsampas (Nepalese origin)
Bhutan’s earliest residents, the Sharchops live largely in the eastern regions. They are of Indo Mongoloid origin. The Ngalops migrated from the Tibetan plains and are the importers of Buddhism to the kingdom. The Lhotsampas migrated to the southern plains in search of agricultural land and work in the early 20th century. The current population is 742,737 (as of 2012) where 79 percent of the population lives in the rural areas, 21 percent in urban, and the ratiomale to female is 1.2: 1.
More than 12 different dialects are spoken in the country apart from the national language. The official language is Dzongka, which is taught at all schools.
Men wear gho, a long robe tied around the waist by a small belt called Kera. Kira, the main garment of women is an ankle length attire, a wrap-around dress made from a beautifully colored and finely woven fabrics with traditional patterns secured by a belt around the waist, and fastened at the shoulders with silver broche called Koma. Necklaces are fashioned from corals, pearls, turquoise, and the precious agate eye stones which the Bhutanese call ‘tears of the gods’ or “Dzi”.
The state religion of Bhutan is the Drukpa Sect of Kagyupa, a Tantric form of Mahayana Buddhism. Ever since its introduction in the eight century, Buddhism has shaped the nation’s history and continues to play a vital role in the cultural, ethical and sociological development of Bhutan and its people. It permeates all strands of secular life, bringing with it a reverence for the land and its wellbeing.
Annual festivals (tshechus and dromchoes) are spiritual occasions in each district. They bring together the population and are dedicated to the Guru Rinpoche or other deities. Throughout Bhutan, from the most densely populated valleys to the most remote mountains way stops, religious monuments and symbols bear witness to a deep and respected faith. One comes across prayer wheels, prayer flags and the sacred mantras and statues of gods and saints carved on the slabs of stone and rocky hillsides. Chortens or stupas (receptacle for offerings) line the roadsides or hills.Prayer flags on mountain slopes, bridges and high passes are even common. They allow Bhutanese people to maintain a constant communication with the heavens.
The form of government in Bhutan is as unique as the country. It emerged from Absolute Monarchy to Constitutional Monarchy, and later on in 2008, Democracy was introduced to Bhutan.
The fourth King of Bhutan, His Majesty King JigmeSingyeWangchuk introduced the Developmental Policy called, “Gross National Happiness”.The king stressed on the importance of this policy over Gross Domestic Product. The policy is highly followed in Bhutan and presently; many countries in the world have started to adapt the policy introduced by the fourth King of Bhutan.
The fourth King willingly stepped down from his throne in 2008 and appointed his eldest son as the fifth King of Bhutan. The same year saw the government being transitioned into a Democratic Government which was led by the DrukPhuensumTshogpa Party.
The Chief Abbot, called the Je Khenpo is the head of the Monk Body and do not take part in Politics. The rank of the Je Khenpo equals to that of the King but he is solely responsible over religious matters.Presently, the country will be holding it’s second round of general elections and the winning party will secure the seat of Ruling Government in the National Assembly( Parliament).