Bhutan: a brief history
Nestled between two emerging superpowers, China and India, Bhutan is the last remaining Mahayan Buddhist Nation in the world. Buddhism, the chief religion of the country, forms an integral part of her rich political and social history. Thus, it is a country where lives are influenced largely by religious beliefs.

Today there are evidences that suggest Buddhism in Bhutan can be traced back to centuries before Guru Rinpoche made his first visit to the country in the 8th century. Since then many Buddhist saints from different neighbouring countries have visited Bhutan including Phajo Drugom Zhingpo, who in the 13th century built a stronghold of drukpa kagyud in Bhutan. Phajo's effort would eventually pave way for the formation of a Drukpa state.

In the 17th century Bhutan was united by one of the most important figure in her history, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. A Tibetan born lama and a Political refugee, he became the sovereign head of the country after leading a unification campaign based solely on religious ground. It was after this unity, Bhutan came to be known as the land of Drukpa. All the while suffering numerous Tibetan invasion as well as internal aggressions, the country for the first time became united under a single leadership and gained its sovereign status as a nation-state.

It was Zhabdrung Rinpoche who formally started the dual (secular and spiritual) system of governance in Bhutan. The dual system known as choesid nyiden is still existent however it has undergone some marked changes since its inception.

After zhabrung Rinpoche passed away, his death was kept a state secret for 57 years. Following the official announcement of his death, the country was plagued by a period of political instability and civil strife. It continued for two centuries until the emergence of Trongsa Poenlop Jigme Namgyal, the ancestor of the present Wangchuck Dynasty, as the undisputed leader. Even then the period of political instability did not end until his son, Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck, was enthroned as the first hereditary King of Bhutan.

It was also during this period when Bhutan first came in contact with the most powerful nation of that time, The Great Britain. The relationship between the two countries went from being friendly to hostile to friendly again. During the hostile period, in the mid and late 19th century, Bhutan lost the area called Assam and Bengal Duars to the British. After India gained her independence in 1947, the friendship between the two nations continued and it was India who provided full financial and technical support during Bhutan's first five year plan period.

In a power struggle that lasted for two centuries between powerful local leaders, Gongsar Ugyen wangchuk emerged as the most able of them all. He was thus, unanimously enthroned as the first hereditary king of Bhutan on 17th December, 1907. Since then Bhutan has seen five kings including the present Monarch, His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck.

Each King has contributed immensely to the overall development of the country. It was in 1960s with the start of the first five year plan, during the reign of the late third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, when the country shed off its policy of isolation and started opening its door to the outside world.

After the fourth king, His Majesty King Jigme Singye Wangchuk, was enthroned he carried on with his father's legacy of modernizing the nation however His Majesty also brought along a new political reform that defines the country today. He changed the form of government from Absolute Monarchy into Constitutional Democratic Monarchy in 2008. It is this legacy that he will always be remembered for, from the numerous reforms he brought about into the country. The 4th Druk Gyalpo abdicated the throne in favour of his son on 14th December, 2006. The first general election took place in March, 2008 while the election of the member of National Council took place in December, 2007.

2008 was a historic year for the country. It marked the centenary celebration i.e 100 years of Monarchy, the start of Democracy in the country and the formal enthronement of the 5th Druk Gyalpo. The 5th Druk Gyalpo, King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck is the head of the state. The country is currently undergoing the 10th five year plan period under the leadership of the first democratically elected Government of Bhutan, The Druk Phuensum Tshogpa, headed by Prime Minister Jigme Y. Thinley. The next general election will take place in 2013 which also marks the end of the 10th five year plan period.

Many people view Bhutan as an experiment in sustainable changed by its tourism policy of "High Value and Low Volume", Even Bhutan accepts the realities of globalization; the world appreciates the need for humanity to preserve its social-culture environment and spiritual Heritage. Given the exoticism that Bhutan represents and the deep spiritual atmosphere that prevails in the kingdom, this evolution is mythology coming alive and that is what we try to capture in pictures and stories within.


BHUTAN AT GLANCE
  1. country: Bhutan or Drukyul(Land of Thunder Dragon
  2. population: 672425
    • Male: 364,482
    • Female: 307,943
  3. Capital: Thimphu
  4. Official Language: Dzongkha(English is widely spoken)
  5. National Tree: cypress
  6. National Flower: Blue poppy
  7. National Bird: Raven
  8. National sport: Archery
  9. National animal: Takin
  10. Forest Coverage: 72.5%
  11. country code: 00975
  12. Country size: 38,394sq.Km
  13. State Religion: The Tantric form of Mahayana Buddhism
  14. Currency: Ngultrum, same value as Indian Rupees.


Environment and Ecology
The importance of environment is clearly understood from the words of the 4th king of Bhutan, His Majesty Jigme singye Wangchuk:
"Throughout the centuries, the Bhutanese have treasured their natural environment and have a looked upon it as the source of all life. This traditional reverence for nature has delivered us into the twentieth century with our environment still richly intact. We wish to continue living in harmony with nature and to pass on this rich heritage to our future generations"
Religious value has helped Bhutan in preserving the natural environment. The Royal Government of Bhutan continues to make extra effort in preserving the 60% of forest coverage to make the country rich in natural environment and sustainable change to development. Many part of the world have suffered from deforestation rate. The forest in Bhutan has remained as main income for the nation and country value the living forest as the main natural resource. Beautiful forest in Bhutan have become home to endangered species in the world like Takin, Royal Golden Langur, The Royal Bengal Tiger, The snow Leopard and Red pandas. It has also home to 770 species bird ranging from black neck crane to black throated parrot.

Bhutan was recognized as ten global "HOT SPOT" for its conservation of biological diversity. Rare indigenous orchids and 50 species of rhododendron are found in Bhutan. It is also home to 30 species of alpine medicinal plant and history also regards Bhutan as a country rich in Medicinal herbs.

RELIGION
Prior to the arrival of Buddhism, Bonism was practiced extensively and we can find this kind of practice in some part of country. Buddhism came to Bhutan before the arrival of Guru Rimpoche(Second Lord Buddha) in 8th century. The state religion of country is Drukpa Kagyue form of Mahayana Buddhism which came from Druk Ralung in Tibet. Few southern Bhutanese follows Hinduism. Religious value has strong influene in Bhutanese life and it is value that makes the country in harmonious atmosphere.

PEOPLE AND CULTURE
The unique Bhutanese culture has become the main attration for the visitors from outside. Bhutanese people are very friendly, their warmth, hospitable nature is liked by most visitors from around the globe and Bhutanese culture is deeply rooted in their way of life. The spiritual value has also helped the Bhutanese in making their living in harmonious environment.

ECONOMY
Agriculture is the backbone of the economy. Farmer export potatoes, apples, Orange etc to its neighbouring countries. Due to its continous flow of river from beautiful glacial mountain, Bhutan has huge potential for hydropower and many hydropower projects are comming up. Due to its increasing number of tourist in Bhutan, tourism is also playing important role in shaping the country's economy.