Destination Bhutan

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About Bhutan

Bhutan Monarchy

From the middle of the 18th century to the end of the 19th century, Bhutan witnessed serious political instability resulting in frequent internal disputes which ended in incessant civil wars. It was against this background that attributed to the need of strong leadership in the country to restore the peace and political stability. In the beginning of the 20th century, Trongsa Penlop Ugyen Wangchuck who then controlled the eastern and central region, overcame a decisive victory over his fiercest opponents and united the nation once again. In 1907, a historic assembly of representatives of the monastic body, civil servants and the people unanimously elected Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck as the first hereditary king of Bhutan. Thus ended the theocratic dual system of government established by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel. The First King Ugyen Wangchuck reigned until his death in 1926, and was succeeded by his son, King Jigme Wangchuck, who ruled the kingdom until his death in 1952. The reign of the first two kings were marked by political stability and economic prosperity. The third king, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck (1925-1972) is considered the father of modern Bhutan. He introduced the process of modernization and opened the country to the outside world by launching the planned development program in 1961 and brought dramatic changes to the quality of life of the people. He also enhanced the kingdom's global role, making Bhutan a member of the United Nations and several other international organizations. After the sovereign's death in 1972, his son, the present King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, ascended the throne in 1974 at the age of 17 and became the youngest monarch in the world. With strong emphasis on the well being of the people, the dynamic young monarch has dedicated himself to a policy of socio-economic development for the country without losing its ancestral traditions and cultural heritage.

Bhutan is well known for its unique Democracy in the world. Till 2006 the Country was absolute monarchy but the 4th king voluntarily abdicated the thron and passed to his succesor. Now the Country is Constitutional Monarchy. As on the left hand side, the picture shows the crowning of 5th king by the 4th King. It is also famous for the smallest democracy in the world. The first ever election was held on 24th March, 2008. The head of the government is Prime Minister.

Strong adoptions of policies such as, choosing to remain in seclusion from the outside world for centuries have not only protected the sovereignty of the country but have also strongly influenced the lives of the Bhutanese people that helped to evolve and shape its own cultural legacy, unique national identity and history. Perhaps the most dynamic era in Bhutanese history begins with the advent of Buddhism in 7th century and since then it became the predominant religion and played a vital part in the lives of the Bhutanese people. The Buddhist faith has inculcated deeply in the people, the value that all forms of sentient life, not just human life, are precious and sacred. Having given such a value and ethos to natural environment, it is not surprising to learn that Bhutanese people have lived in close harmony with nature and are able to keep the environment in its pristine form and richly intact

The country has been declared as one of the ten bio-diversity ‘hotspots’ in the world for its huge bio diversity. With 72.5 percent of the country under forest cover, Bhutan is home to many rare and endangered species of wildlife like the blue sheep, takin, snow leopard, tiger, Himalayan black bear, water buffalo, elephant and golden langur. The wealth of floral variety includes numerous species of rhododendron and orchids, blue poppy (the national flower), junipers, magnolias and an astonishing variety of rare medicinal plants.

Today, the world is increasingly seeing more exotic aspects of this kingdom for its rich culture, unique identity derived largely from its pure practice of Mahayana Buddhism, unparalleled scenic beauty of snow peaked mountains and lush green valleys, majestic landscapes covered with fluttering prayer flags, pristine environment rich in flora and fauna, historical monuments, and celibate monks and nuns in maroon red- robe praying in the monasteries that are perched precariously on cliffs. Bhutan is still, in many ways, a mystical kingdom, rightly described as the last Shangri-la.

Bhutan Geography

Bhutan is a landlocked country nestled in the eastern Himalayas between India and the autonomous region of Tibet, China. The country is about 300km long and 150km wide encompassing an area of 38,394 square kilometers. Bhutan can be compared to Switzerland both in its size and topography with a population of about 700,000. Virtually the entire country is mountainous, with an elevation ranging from 300 metres in the south to over 7,000 metres on the high Himalayan peaks in the north. About 70 percent of the population lives on subsistence farming across the rugged terrain of the Himalayas. Bhutan is widely known for its pure practice of Mahayana Buddhism of the Drukpa Kagyupa sect, its unique and rich culture and traditions, its pristine ecology and environment, its unspoiled landscape and the unsurpassed scenic beauty of snow peaked mountains and lush green valleys.

Bhutan People

The Bhutanese people are a homogeneous group linguistically divided into three main ethnic groups; the Sharchops who live in the east of the country and are recognized as the original inhabitants, the Ngalongs whose descendants are from the Tibetan immigrants and settled in the west and the Lhotshampas, of Nepalese origin who settled in the south in the late 19th century. Bhutanese speak as many as nineteen dialects besides Dzongkha, the national language and lingua franca. English is the official language.

Bhutanese men wear “gho” that are longish robes tied around the waist by a “kera” (cloth belt).  Women wear an ankle length dress, which is known as “kira” The Bhutanese people are, by nature, gentle, open minded, humorous and known for their hospitality.

Bhutan Rich Culture

Bhutan has a rich tradition and culture, which is well preserved and practiced in the same way as they were done for thousands of years. Bhutanese language and literature, the arts and crafts, dance, music, drama, ceremonies and festivals, architecture and the basic social and cultural values have its significant roots in the Buddhist religion. Dance, music, song and drama are an integral part of religious ceremonies and festivals. They play a significant role in the lives of the people as it offers an opportunity to become immersed in the meaning of the religion and to accumulate much merit. The festivals celebrate the faith, legends, myths and history of Bhutan and are important religious and social gatherings..

Bhutan Arts and Architecture

The arts and architectures reveal pure essence of beauty and hold a symbolic meaning and interpretation. The paintings are the most visible manifestation amongst the varied Bhutanese arts today. The exquisite traditional painting depicts the spiritual depth and important aspects of Bhutanese culture. Bhutanese art does not exist for its own sake. More important than their esthetic quality, which is valued though antithetical to Buddhist values of non-attachment, paintings of Bodhisattvas and the like exist for instructional purposes. Art is mostly a religious obligation, the anonymous creators of such works blend indigenous and Tibetan Buddhist traditions. These highly decorative and ornamental paintings are most often seen in dzongs, monasteries, lhakhangs, and household shrines. 

The Dzongs (Fortresses) have the striking architectural features reflecting artistic beauty and unmatched engineering skills. The solidity and elegance of the sloping walls, detailed woodwork and the pattern of rich color adorned on the windows, doors, beams and walls in traditional splendor are the most visible exotic aspects of the Dzongs in the Kingdom.

Bhutan Ecology and Environment

The country has diverse ecological zones; sub-tropical, temperate and alpine. About 72.5 percent of the total land is under forest cover and it is home to about 7,000 species of plants, 165 species of mammals and 700 species of birds. About 26.23 percent of the country lies under protected areas, excluding 9 percent biological corridors created to connect different protected parks. Around 35 percent of the country's total area is under some form of conservation. Bhutan falls under the top ten countries with the highest species density in the world, and has the highest percent of land area under protected areas and forest cover in Asia. Bhutan has been declared as one of the ten global biodiversity 'hotspots' for its huge bio diversity. Unlike other Himalayan regions, Bhutan is successfully conserving and preserving its rich bio diversity. Bhutanese people have preserved their natural environment for centuries; they have always lived in harmony with nature and this relationship has been forced within moral, cultural and ecological borders. Buddhism plays a central role in people’s lives and culture. The basic principle is to give back to nature what has been taken away, and accord respect to all forms of life. Buddhism teaches interdependence among all life forms. This has established a close and harmonious relationship with the surrounding environment

Bhutan Economy

Although rugged terrain across the Kingdom had made developmental activities difficult, Bhutan has achieved dramatic socio-economic progress within the short span of time, since the inception of planned development in 1960. Each program of economic development has been closely monitored and studied, so that the country's environment and cultural heritage are safely protected. Agriculture is the backbone of the economy which contributes about 33% of the GDP and about 70% of the population depends on it for livelihood