HISTORY


According to the archaeological evidences Bhutan existed as early as 2000 BC. The traditional name of the country since the 17th century has been DrukYul – country of the Drukpa, the Dragon people, or the Land of the Thunder Dragon.

Before becoming Druk Yul, Bhutan was called by various other names: Lho Jong, ‘The Valleys of 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 Sandalwood/Cypress Grows’. Variations of the Sanskrit words Bhota-ant (end of Bhot) or Bhu-uttan (meaning highlands) have been suggested by historians as origins of the name Bhutan, which came into common foreign use in the late 19th century and is used in Bhutan only in English-language official correspondence.

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 or Padmasambhava, a Buddhist Master that is widely considered to be the Second Buddha. Padmasambhava subdued evils, promoted Buddhism and unified the country with his teachings. Religious sites established by Guru Rimpoche continue to be places of pilgrimage in Bhutan, including two of its most sacred monuments: Kurjey Lhakhang in Bumthang and Taktshang Lhakhang, or Tiger’s Nest monastery in Paro.

The consolidation of  Bhutan occurred in 1616 when Zhabdrung Ngawanag Namgyal, a lama from western Tibet known as the Zhabdrung Rinpoche, defeated three Tibetan invasions, subjugated rival religious schools, codified the Tsa Yig, an intricate and comprehensive system of law, and established himself as ruler over a system of ecclesiastical and civil administrators. The Zhabdrung instituted Drukpa Kagyu as the state religion of Bhutan, introducing a dual system of government, temporal and theocratic, whereby the Je Khenpo (chief abbot) is the religious head of the country, and the Druk Desi is the temporal head. 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 Penlop Ugyen Wangchuk 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 Wangchuk became the first Druk Gyalpo (Dragon King) and set up the Wangchuk Dynasty that still rules today.

King Ugyen Wangchuk died in 1926 and was succeeded by his son, Jigme Wangchuk, who reigned until his death in 1952. The reigns of the first two kings were marked by political stability and a degree of economic prosperity. The third king, Jigme Dorji Wangchuk (r. 1952 – 1972), is considered the father of modern Bhutan. He launched the first five-year plan of development in 1961. Under his reign, Bhutan joined its first international organization, the Colombo Plan, and in 1971 Bhutan also became the member of United Nations.  In 1972, Jigme Singye Wangchuk became the 4th King of Bhutan at the age of 17 and the youngest monarch in the world. He is credited with many modern reforms in the country. He became most famous for having decided to make his isolated mountain nation’s priority not its GDP, but its GNH — or “Gross National Happiness.” GNH is the developmental philosophy of Bhutan.

On December 15, 2006, the fourth Druk Gyalpo, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuk, abdicated all of his powers as King to his son, Prince Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk, with a specific intention to prepare the young King for the country’s transformation to a full-fledged, democratic form of government. The coronation ceremony of 5th King was held on November 1, 2008, an auspicious year that marked 100 years of monarchy in Bhutan.

Since 18 July, 2008, Bhutan has a two chamber parliamentary system: The Upper House of parliament, the 25-seat National Council, and the Lower House of Parliament (National Assembly – (Tshogdu)) with 47 seats. Bhutan’s first democratic parliamentary election was conducted on March 24 2008. After a massive win Druk Phuensum Tshogpa, (The Bhutan Peace and Prosperity Party (DPT) became the ruling party and Mr. Jigme Yoezer Thinley, the first democratically elected Prime Minister. However, Bhutanese favoured People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the second round of elections which took place in July 2013 and Mr. Tshering Tobgay became the new Prime Minister of Bhutan. 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. The government is headed by a Prime Minister and the King is still head of state.

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