The name “Bhutan” appears to derive from the Sanskrit “Bhotant” meaning “the end of Tibet” or from “Bhu-uttan” meaning “high land”. Though known as Bhutan to the outside world, the Bhutanese themselves refer to their country as Druk Yul or the Land of the Thunder Dragon. “Druk” meaning “Dragon” and extending from the predominant Drukpa school of Tibetan Buddhism.
The documented history of the Kingdom begins with 747 A.D. with Guru Padsambhava also known as Guru Rinpoche who made his legendary trip from Tibet across the mountains flying on a tigress’s back. He arrived in Paro valley at Taktsang Lhakhang also known as Tiger’s Nest. Guru Rinpoche is not only recognized as the founder of the Nyingmapa religious school but also considered to be second Buddha. In the ensuing centuries, many great masters preached the faith resulting in full bloom of Buddhism by the middle ages. Although sectarian at first, the country was eventually unified under Drukpa Kagyupa sect of Mahayana Buddhism by saint/administrator Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in the 17thcentury. Ngawang Namgyal codified a comprehensive system of laws and built a chain of Dzongs which guarded each valley during unsettled times and now serving as the religious and administrative centre of the region.
During the next two centuries civil wars intermittently broke out and the regional Governors became increasingly more powerful. At the end of 19th century, Trongsa Governor overcame all his rivals and soon afterwards recognized as the overall leader of Bhutan. The Governor of Trongsa, Sir Ugyen Wangchuck, was elected as the first King of Bhutan in 1907 by an assembly of representatives of the monastic community, civil servants and people.
The country has now the system of democratic monarchy. The monarchy has thrived ever since and the present King, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the first King’s great grandson, commands the overwhelming support of his people. After assuming the throne in 1974, the present king continued his father’s policy of pragmatic development by actively pursuing industrial progress, country wide education and medical care and at the same time ensuring country’s cultural and natural heritage intact.
Having always been politically independent, a rich and distinctive culture developed in the country over the ages. Perhaps the most important single factor in the molding of Bhutanese character and thought has been the teaching of Lord Buddha, whose eternal truths were first brought into the country from Tibet over the high, snow-bound mountain Passes by the great Indian saint, Guru Padsambhava.
In the Buddhist perspective, culture, tradition and beliefs and the environment are dynamic phenomena that are interwoven tightly in the web of life. As a Buddhist philosopher say, “Culture lies not in objects or monuments but in the mind and compassion towards all sentient beings”.
Bhutan’s unique cultural and traditional values, highly valued in themselves by all the population, are the essential embodiments of the nation’s identity. For a small country located between two most populated countries of the world, India and China, the preservation and promotion of its distinct cultural identity is seen as an important means for its survival as an independent and sovereign Kingdom. It was this identity that has protected and sustained Bhutan and also provided the foundation for its major policies.
Discover Bhutan’s spectacular sights and intriguing culture on this journey to serene monasteries, ancient dzongs, isolated farms and hamlets. Bhutan is a Buddhist kingdom on the Himalayas’ eastern edge, is a land of monasteries, fortresses (or dzongs) and dramatic topography ranging from subtropical plains to steep mountains and valleys. Come and explore the unexplored with us.
Nowhere in the Himalayas is the natural heritage more rich and varied than in Bhutan. In historical records, the Kingdom was called the ‘Valley of Medicinal Herbs’, a name that still applies to this day. About 72.5 per cent of the country’s area is under forest cover.
For centuries, Bhutanese have treasured the natural environment and have looked upon it as the source of all life. This traditional reverence for nature has delivered Bhutan into the 20th century with an environment still richly intact. The country wishes to continue living in harmony with nature and to pass on this rich heritage to its future generations.
Fortunately for Bhutan, maintaining a balanced natural ecosystem remains the central theme of its development process. The country’s development policies disregard sacrificing its natural resource base for short term economic gains and are consistent with the central tenets of sustainable development, environmental conservation and cultural values.
In 1998, Bhutan was identified by Norman Myers as one of the ten bio-diversity hot spots in the world. It has been identified as the centre of 221 global endemic bird areas. The country signed the Convention on Biological Diversity and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. These conventions were ratified in 1995 at the 73rd session of the National Assembly. The Royal Government of Bhutan has also made a national commitment to uphold its obligation to future generations by charting a path of development called the ‘Middle Path’ this is the development which upholds both environmental and cultural preservation as an integral part of the development process.