Location of Bhutan
Bhutan is one of the most exclusive travel destinations in the world. Bhutan enjoys a reputation for authenticity, remoteness and a well-protected cultural heritage and natural environment. Bhutan is a land locked country in South Asia located at the eastern end of the Himalayas nestling in between its powerful neighbours, south, east and west by India and to the north by China. To the west, it is separated from Nepal by the Indian state of Sikkim, while further south it is separated from Bangladesh by the Indian states of Assam and West Bengal.
It is believed that Bhutan was inhabited as early as 2000 B.C. due to the presence of early stone implements discovered in the region.
The country was originally known by many names including Lho Jong, ‘The Valleys of the South’, Lho Mon Kha Shi, ‘The Southern Mon Country of Four Approaches’, Lho Jong Men Jong, ‘The Southern Valleys of Medicinal Herbs and Lho Mon Tsenden Jong, ‘The Southern Mon Valleys where Sandle wood Grows’. Mon was a term used by the Tibetans to refer to Mongoloid, non-Buddhist peoples that populated the Southern Himalayas.
The country came to be known as Druk Yul or The Land of the Drukpas sometime in the 17th century. The name refers to the Drukpa sect of Buddhism that has been the dominant religion in the region since that period.
Initially Bonism was the dominant religion in the region that would come to be known as Bhutan. Buddhism was introduced in the 7th century by the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo and further strengthened by the arrival of Guru Rimpoche, a Buddhist Master that is widely considered to be the Second Buddha.
The country was first unified in 17th century by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel. After arriving in Bhutan from Tibet he consolidated his power, defeated three Tibetan invasions and established a comprehensive system of law and governance. His system of rule eroded after his death and the country fell into in-fighting and civil war between the various local rulers. This continued until the Trongsa Poenlop Ugyen Wangchuck was able to gain control and with the support of the people establish himself as Bhutan’s first hereditary King in 1907. His Majesty Ugyen Wangchuck became the first Druk Gyalpo (Dragon King) and set up the Wangchuck Dynasty that still rules today.
In 2008 Bhutan enacted its Constitution and converted to a democracy in order to better safeguard the rights of its citizens. Later in November of the same year, the currently reigning 5th DrukGyalpo Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck was crowned.
POLITICAL SYSTEM OF BHUTAN
The political system of Bhutan has evolved over time together with its tradition and culture. It has developed from a fragmented and a disoriented rule of the different regions by local chieftains, lords and clans into the parliamentary democracy we have in place today.
The first move towards a systematic scheme of governance came in 1616 with the arrival of Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyal from Tibet. He introduced the dual system of governance with the Je Khenpo as the spiritual head of the nation and the Desis, as the head of the temporal aspects.
But a major breakthrough came about in 1907 when the people unanimously enthroned Ugyen Wangchuck as the fist hereditary King of Bhutan. He was the man who had proven his mettle by banding together the different Dzongpons and Penlops (governors of fortress), ending centuries of strife and bringing much needed stability and peace to the country. Since then, the country has been ruled by successive monarchs of the Wangchuck dynasty. In a move to ensure a more democratic governance of the country, the Third King Jigme DorjiWangchuck instituted the National Assembly (Tshogdu) in 1953. Every gewog has an elected member representing it in the National assembly. It became a platform where the people’s representatives enacted laws and discussed issues of national importance. The establishment of the Royal Advisory Council (LodoeTshogde) in 1963 as a link between the king, council of ministers and the people was another move towards democratization. It also advised the king and the council of ministers on important issues and ensured that projects were implemented successfully.
The institution of Dzongkhag YargayTshogdu (District Development Assembly) in 1981 and Gewog YargayTshogchung (County Development Assembly) in 1991 by the Fourth King Jigme SingyeWangchuck was another move towards decentralization.
But the devolution of the power of the King in 1998 to the cabinet ministers was the highest form of decentralization. The King, thereafter, began to serve as the Head of the State while the government was managed by the Prime Minister.
In November 2001, on the advice of the Fourth king, a committee chaired by the Chief Justice of Bhutan, was formed to draft the constitution of Bhutan. The constitution was launched in 2008 and with it a parliamentary democracy introduced. The progression from Hereditary Monarchy to that of a Parliamentary Democracy has been a carefully managed process that culminated in 2008 when Bhutan held its first elections country wide. From 2008-2013, the Druk Phunsum Tshogpa political party ruled the government with 45 elected members, Lyonchen Jigme Y Thinley steered the government with just two opposition members from the People’s Democratic Party. From 2014 the second democratically elected Prime Minister, Lyonchen, Tshering Tobgay of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) with 32 out of 47 seats of elected members, steers the government with just one opposition party, DPT. In the 2018 the third democratically elected Prime Minister, Dr. Lotay Tshering of Druk Nymrup Tshogpa (DNT) is ruling the country.
The organs of the Bhutanese government comprise of the Legislature, Judiciary and the Executive. The ruling political party, the opposition and the National Council now forms the legislative body.
BHUTANESE PEOPLE, are friendly and hospitable people. There are three main ethnic groups viz., Sharchop, largely live in eastern Bhutan; Ngalop in western and Lhotshampa in southern Bhutan respectively.
Mahayana Buddhism and Hinduismsm are the major religion of the country. Bhutan’s culture is influenced by Buddhism and is highly visible in everyday life and is a major reason for Bhutan’s spiritual and cultural legacy. The unique cultural identity is reflected in the traditional woven attire and shoes worn by the people, the architecture and vibrant cultural festivals celebrated throughout the country. Besides there are a number of smaller groups, many with their own language which form about one percent of the population. Some of these groups are: “Bumthap” inBumthang, “Tsangho” in the east, “Layapa” in the north-west, “Brokpa” in the north-east and “Doya” in the south-west Bhutan.
As a traditional society, the Bhutanese follow a highly refined system of etiquette, which is called “driglamnamzha.” This traditional code of conduct supports respect for authority, devotion to the institution of marriage and family, and dedication to civic duty. It governs many different sorts of behavior, including how to send and receive gifts, how to speak to those in authority, how to serve and eat food at public occasions, and how to dress. A royal decree issued in 1989 promoted the driglamnamzha as a means of preserving a distinct national identity and instituted a national dress code. Men and women mix and converse freely, without the restrictions that separate the sexes among other groups in South Asia.
National Day of Bhutan is celebrated on 17 December in commemoration of the accession of the First King of Bhutan to the throne giving birth to the Hereditary Monarchy
Bhutan’s currency is the Ngultrum (Nu.), with 100 Chetrums = 1 Ngultrum. The currency was introduced in 1974.
The National Flag is rectangular and divided diagonally into two parts with a white dragon in the middle. The upper yellow half signifies the country’s secular authority of the King in fruitful action in the affairs of religion and state. The lower saffron orange half signifies the religious practice and spiritual power of Buddhism manifested in the Drukpa Kagyu and Nyingmapa traditions. The Dragon symbolizes the name of the country, locally known as Druk Yul meaning the land of Thunder Dragon and its white colour signifies purity and loyalty of the Bhutanese people.
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The National Emblem
The National Emblem, contained in a circle is composed of double diamond thunderbolt placed above a lotus surmounted by a jewel and framed by two dragons. The double diamond thunderbolt represents the harmony between secular and religious power. The lotus symbolizes purity, the jewel – sovereign power and the two dragons – a male and a female stand for the name of the country – the Land of Thunder Dragon (Druk Yul)
Traditional Bhutanese food
Traditional Bhutanese food always features spicy red and green chilies. Most Bhutanese love eating spicy food. Rice, buckwheat, and maize, are the staple foods of the country. The hotels and restaurant serve non-vegetarians and vegetarians. The most popular Bhutanese dish is “EmaDatsi” prepared entirely from chilies and cheese. This dish is distinctly Bhutanese and is very hot. Each region in Bhutan has its specialty and you will get plenty of opportunity to taste its each delicacy that is truly Bhutanese. Liquor is easily available in most of the hotels and restaurant.
The national sport
The national sport is the Archery (Dha). The bow and arrow play a significant role in many Bhutanese myths and legends; images of the gods holding a bow and arrows are considered especially favourable. Archery was declared the national sport in 1971 when Bhutan became a member of the United Nations. Bhutan also maintains an Olympic archery team. Archery tournaments and competitions are held throughout the country, and is played during religious and secular public holidays in Bhutan, local festivals (tsechu), between public ministries and departments, and between the Dzonkhag and the regional teams.
Our national bird
The national bird is the raven. It adorns the royal crown. The raven represents the deity Gonpo Jarodongchen (raven headed Mahakala), one of the chief guardian deities of Bhutan.
The national animal
The national animal is the Takin (Burdorcastaxicolor) that is associated with religious history and mythology. It is a very rare mammal with a thick neck and short muscular legs. It lives in groups and is found above 4000 meters on the north-western and far north eastern parts of the country. They feed on bamboo. The adult Takin can weigh over 200 kgs.
The national flower
The national flower is the Blue Poppy (Meconopsis Grandis). It is a delicate blue or purple tinged blossom with a white filament. It grows to a height of 1 meter, and is found above the tree line (3500-4500 meters) on rocky mountain terrain. It was discovered in 1933 by a British Botanist, George Sherriff in a remote part of Sakteng in eastern Bhutan.
The national tree
The national tree is the cypress (Cupressustorolusa). Cypresses are found in abundance and one may notice large cypresses near temples and monasteries. This tree is found in the temperate climate zone, between 1800 and 3500 meters. Its capacity to survive on rugged harsh terrain is compared to bravery and simplicity.
Brief About Bhutan
Bhutan’s other names in use are Druk Gyalkhap and Druk Yul. The Total surface area of the country is 38,394 sq.km. Thimphu is the capital city of Bhutan. The other major cities are Geylephug, Phuntsholing and Samdrupjongkhar. The official language is Dzongkha and English and other commonly spoken languages are Lotshamkha (Nepali) and Tibetan.
Economy of Bhutan
The economy of Bhutan is based on agriculture and forestry, which provide the main livelihood for more than 60% of the population. Farmers supplement their income through the sale of animal products such as cheese, butter and milk. Farmers’ markets are common throughout the country, supplying the people with fresh, organic, local produce. The main staple crops are rice, maize, wheat and buckwheat while cash crops are predominantly potatoes, apples, oranges, cardamom, ginger, and chilies. Most production in the industrial sector is of the cottage industry type.
Bhutan's landscape ranges from subtropical plains in the south to the sub-alpine Himalayan heights in the north, where some peaks exceed 7,000 metres (23,000 ft). Its total surface is 38,394 square kilometres (14,824 sq mi) in 2002. Human settlement is confined mostly to interior river valleys and a strip of southern plains; nomads and other tribes live in the north, raising sheep, cattle and yak. Bhutan has all four seasons, Spring: March-May, Summer: June-August, Autumn: September-November, Winter: December-February. You can visit Bhutan any time of the year.
Due to Bhutan’s location and unique geographical and climatic variations, it is one of the world’s last remaining biodiversity potshots. Bhutan pristine environment, with high rugged mountains and deep valleys, offers ecosystems that are both rich and diverse. The government has enacted a law that shall maintain at least 60% of its forest cover for all time. Today, approximately 72% of the total land area of Bhutan is under forest cover and approximately 60% of the land area falls under protected areas comprising of 10 national parks and sanctuaries.