History

HISTORY

BHUTAN FLAG

 

The dragon, called the Druk (Thunder Dragon), is the emblem of the nation; its white color stands for purity and the jewels in its claws symbolize wealth; the background colors represent spiritual and secular powers within Bhutan; the orange is associated with Buddhism, while the yellow denotes the ruling dynasty.

 

Bhutan opened its door to tourism only in recent past to reveal to the world the mysteries ensconced in her bosom. Bhutan has until recently remained a lost Shangri La, but now it is a paradise born in the midst of the great Himalayas. Nowhere in the world is there a peaceful co-existence of all the elements in the nature at its best as in Bhutan. Nature is in pristine condition and there is freshness all around. The snow capped peaks of the mighty Himalayas stand majestically like the Guardian Deities. In the stride for modernization, Bhutan has not trampled anything, instead the past is saved and the rich heritage preserved. Hills and cliffs are the seats of monasteries, temples and Dzongs (fortress) through which Buddhism flourishes.

 

Bhutan was not even once colonized and its history dates back even before the 7th century. Guru Padmasambhava (the lotus-born) a.k.a Guru Rinpoche (precious teacher) came to Bhutan in the 8th century and spread the Vajrayana form of Mahayana Buddhism. **It was not until 1616 that a more defining event in its history took place- the arrival of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. The “Shabdrung” (literally, at whose feet one prostrates) was the father and unifier of medieval Bhutan. The Zhabdrung not only repelled many Tibetan armies but also subdued the warring feudal clans and brought all of Bhutan under the Drukpa Kargyud influence. He structured a modern Bhutanese calendar and codified the law of the country. Dzongs were built during Zhabdrung’s reign to house the local administration and defend its people during conflicts. The Simtokha Dzong in Thimphu, is the first one to be built in 1629. The Zhabdrung died in 1651 but his death was kept a state secret and was only revealed 50 years later in 1705. This signaled the beginning of power struggles in western Bhutan. The prolonged state in internal strife and civil war, characterized by intrigues, treacheries and assassinations brought increasing external pressures culminating in the Duar wars of 1864 – 65 which, for a time, threatened the very survival of the Bhutanese nation. This situation prevailed until the beginning of the 20th century.

 

The coronation of the first Druk Gyalpo “Dragon King” was the most recent episode in Bhutan’s history. Sir Ugyen Wangchuk emerged as the strongman who pacified the feuding Penlops (regional governors) who drove Bhutan into a state of perpetual civil war. He acted as a mediator between the Dalai Lama of Tibet and Lord Curzon, the Viceroy of India. He also accompanied Colonel Francis Younghusband who led a large military expedition to Lhasa. His skills in mediation and interpretation greatly impressed the British. By 1885 he consolidated his authority across all of Bhutan. The British diplomats were instrumental in getting the Penlops and the Central Monk Body to agree to turn Bhutan into a hereditary monarchy. Finally Sir Ugyen Wangchuk was crowned Druk Gyalpo the precious ruler of the Dragon People at the Punakha Dzong on December 17, 1907. **History Book.

 

The second King, His Majesty Jigme Wangchuk consolidated the power and continued to strengthen the sovereignty of the country. The third King, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuk was a visionary. He made many social and administrative reforms. He opened the doors of the country to the outside world and the Bhutanese fondly remember him as the father of modern Bhutan. The fourth King, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuk voluntarily relinquished power in 2006, in favor of his son for the benefit of his people and to bring about change and democracy in Bhutan. The new reforms and eras of developmental changes have always come from the kings themselves. The fourth king started the policy of decentralization and devolved power and authority down to the grass roots level. He is a fountain of wisdom and the father of Gross National Happiness (GNH) philosophy. GNH is a measurement of the country's developmental index as in GNP. GNH is a part of the country’s Constitution. It was only during his reign that Bhutan opened its doors and adopted a policy of “Low Volume High Quality” tourism. The present King, His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuk took over the role of his father in 2006. The Coronation took place in 2008.

 

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Bhutan Dreamland Tours, P.O. Box 1873, Moti-thang, Thimphu, Bhutan, Tel: +975 17 34 98 25. Copyright © 2013. All Rights Reserved. Last updated: 21.03.2018