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Bhutan is a small Himalayan country nestled between China in the north and India in the south. A conscious policy of isolation complemented by formidable geographical barriers enabled the kingdom to maintain its independence throughout its history. Ancient stone implements and other geographical findings indicate that there were settlements in the country dating back to 2000 B.C. The historical evidence dates back as far as to the 7th, century with the construction of two monasteries by Tibetan king Songtsen Genpo who introduced Buddhism in the country. The word Druk means dragon. Druk Yul, translated as the Land of the Thunder Dragon is what Bhutanese call their country.
In 747 A.D the Buddhist sage, Padsambhava popularly revered in Bhutan as Guru Rimpoche or the Precious Master, visited the country and propagated Buddhism. Since then, Buddhism has occupied a predominant role in shaping the social, political, economic and cultural evolution of the country. In the centuries that followed, various lamas or Buddhist teachers and local nobility established their own separate domains through the country in the 17th century. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (1594 – 1652), a leader of the Drukpa Kagyud school of Budddhism consolidated the country under a unified power and established the Chhoesi or dual system of the Royal Government, whereby both the temporal and religious authority were separated and vested in the Druk Desi and Je Khenpo separately. By the end of the 17th century, the country emerged with a distinct national and cultural identity as well as an unprecedented degree of political stability.
By the end of 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 18th century added a new dimension to the political quandary. It was against this background that the need for strong national leadership emerged. Peace and stability was restored with the enthronement of His Majesty King Ugyen Wangchuck as the first hereditary monarch of the Kingdom in 1907. Establishment of monarchy ushered in a new era of peace and stability and most significantly unified the country under a central authority. It also set in motion a steady process of engagement with the outside world and laid the foundation for the country as a modern nation state.
The country’s sovereignty has been up held because of the leadership of our great Kings. His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuk, the fourth king has been a visionary king for the development of our kingdom and have had fulfilled the aspirations of the people. From the year 2008 the country had embarked into Constitutional Democracy form of governance which was also introduced by the fourth king. With the first Parliamentary Elections being held in March 2008, the country is now governed by People’s Democratic Party, one of the four political parties that competed during the elections. Our fifth king had informally ascended the throne from 2007. Shortly after that, Bhutan had one of the historic events which took place in the year 2008. This was the time that the country celebrated Hundred Years of Monarchy, New King and also the New Government. So these three big events stood together successfully.
Quite a few major cities are influenced by the modernization, where as most of the rural life even have some remedies such as sacrificial ritual from the time of Bonnism (Primitive Buddhism). Therefore, His Holiness Trulku Jigme Choda (present chief abbot) is putting his best effort to abandon the age old practice of Bon by propagating his profound teaching as we do not learn Buddhism separately. Generally people believe that we can be liberated at least from some sins, if we attain the teaching of Buddhism at some stage in our life. So with some modernity, we are still reviving the age old tradition as about 79% are still rural. So it’s a blend of rich culture and modernization.
Thus, visiting different places in this tiny Kingdom will offer you their own unique natural beauty.
Bhutan has a land area of 38,394 square kilometers bordered by China in the north and India in the south. The country is not only landlocked but has one of the most formidable mountainous terrains in the world, ranging from 200 meters to 7500 meters in height. The climatic conditions vary due to the mountainous nature of the country. The country is subject to monsoon rains in summer, with relatively dry winter. About 72% of the land area is covered by forests of temperate and sub-tropical species that are natural habitat of a diversity of flora and fauna. A remarkable 26% of the entire country is designated and protected as National Parks and Sanctuaries. Only about 7% of land area is under cultivation.
The country has one of the richest biodiversity in the world with about 3,281 plant species per 10,000 square kilometers and has been declared as part of one of the ten global biodiversity “hotspots”. The country is also endowed with a river system that has an estimated potential to generate 30,000 MW of hydroelectricity. The major rivers are Amochu, Wangchu, Punatsangchu, and the Dragmedchu and their tributaries have carved fertile valleys in the central and western parts of the country and provide irrigation to the southern and eastern plains before flowing into the Brahmaputra basin. The steep and unstable terrain and the relatively young mountain system however, render the country to be ecologically very fertile. Agriculture products are severely constrained as only and 16% of the land is cultivable. The majority of people live on subsistence farming.
The population of the country is estimated to be 658,000 in the year 2000 with the growth rate of 1.3 % annually. The population is largely rural with 79% of the population still living in villages despite a growth in urban drift in recent years. It is estimated that 39% of the population is under the age of 15 while there are several language groups and communities. The country is essentially composed of three ethnic groups. The Ngalongs, (The western Bhutanese) who were descendants of the Tibetans, the Sharchops (The eastern Bhutanese), the original inhabitants of the country and the Lotshampas (The southern Bhutanese) came from Nepal in the twentieth century. Buddhism is the state religion with 80% and remaining 20% of Southern Bhutanese are Hindus. Administratively country is divided into 20 Dzongkhags (Districts), composed of 201 groups.