History

The name Bhutan is derived from the ancient Indian term ‘Bhotan’ which means the end of the land of the ‘Bhots’ (Tibetans). We, the Bhutanese refer our country as Druk Yul or the Land of the Thunder Dragon. Druk translates to dragon and extends from the predominant Drukpa school of Tibetan Buddhism.

In the 17th century, Bhutan was not unified under a central authority, although the Buddhist religion in the country had provided some sort of cohesion during the middle Ages. In 747 AD Padma Sambhava, who is known as Guru Rinpoche, brought Buddhism to Bhutan. Guru Rimpoche is not only recognized as the founder of the Nyingmapa religious school but he is also considered to be the second Buddha. It is believed that Guru Rinpoche made his legendary trip from Tibet across the mountains to Bhutan flying on a tigress back. Many of Bhutan’s most renowned ancestors descend from Nyingmapa School, including the ancestors of the present day Royal family.

Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, a Tibetan lama of the Drukpa School, premeditated the present system of intertwined religious and secular government. Shabdrung came to Bhutan in 1616. Up until 1616 no central authority existed and regional conflict had persisted for centuries. In his quest to unify the country, he gained the support of many powerful families of the Drukpa school and constructed dzongs in the main valleys of western Bhutan. In 1639, Shabdrung fought and won a battle against the Tibetans and assumed the title Shabdrung, meaning -at whose feet one submit. In reality he became the first secular and religious leader in Bhutan. During the next two civil wars intermittently broke out and the regional penlops became increasingly more powerful. At the end of the 19th century the Penlop of Trongsa (who controlled central and eastern Bhutan) overcame his greatest rival, the Penlop of Paro (who controlled western Bhutan), and was soon afterwards recognized as the overall leader of Bhutan. In 1907, an assembly of representatives of the monastic community, civil servants and the people elected The Penlop of Trongsa, Ugyen Wangchuck, the first King of Bhutan.

This monarchy has thrived ever since and the present King, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the first King’s great grandson, receives an overwhelming support of his people. After assuming the throne in 1974, the present King continued his father’s policy of pragmatic development. He actively pursues industrial progress, countrywide education and medical care and ensures, at the same time, Bhutan’s culture remains intact. In 1998, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck empowered the National Assembly to make all legislative decisions independent of Royal decree. In 1999 television and Internet were first introduced to Bhutan. In December 2005, His Majesty the King of Bhutan announced that he would abdicate the throne in 2008.

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