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Overview of Bhutan

The Kingdom of Bhutan is a small landlocked country located in the southern foothills of the Himalayan mountain range, sandwiched between the People’s Republic of China in the north and the Republic of India in the south.  

It is a sovereign nation, with a total land area of 38,394 km² and a total population of 771,608 (2020 estimated).

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 Sandlewood Grows’. Mon was a term used by the Tibetans to refer to Mongoloid, non-Buddhist peoples that populated the Southern Himalayas.

What you should know?

  1. 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.
  2. Initially Bonism (a pre-buddhist religion of Tibet) , 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 was further strengthened by the arrival of Guru Rimpoche, a Buddhist Master that is widely considered to be the Second Buddha.
  3. 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 Penlop Ugyen Wangchuck was able to gain control and with the support of the people to 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.
  4. 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 current reigning 5th Druk Gyalpo Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck was crowned.
  5. While Bhutan is one of the smallest countries in the world, its cultural diversity and richness are profound.
  6. As such, strong emphasis is laid on the promotion and preservation of its unique culture. By protecting and nurturing Bhutan’s living culture it is believed that it will help guard the sovereignty of the nation.
  7. Bhutan is listed as one among the top 10 biodiversity hot spots in the world. Bhutan has total forest coverage of over 70% of the country’s total geographical area with the constitution requiring 60% of the country under forest coverage for all times to come.
  8. Bhutan is linguistically rich with over nineteen dialects spoken in the country. The richness of the linguistic diversity can be attributed to the geographical location of the country with its high mountain passes and deep valleys. These geographical features forced the inhabitants of the country to live in isolation but also contributed to their survival.
  9. The national language is Dzongkha, the native language of the Ngalops of western Bhutan.

Some Interesting Facts

Until recently, the tiny Asian kingdom of Bhutan remained tucked away in total isolation from the rest of the world. That segregation helped to preserve its deep Buddhist traditions, the importance of the family and pristine landscapes. It’s also made it a fascinating country to study.

Among 43 landlocked countries

One of 43 landlocked countries in the world, Bhutan is about half the size of the state of Indiana.

Land of the Thunder Dragon

The word “Bhutan” translates to “Land of the Thunder Dragon.” It earned the nickname because of the fierce storms that often roll in from the Himalayas.

Specific Constitutional Obligations

Bhutan is the first country in the world with specific constitutional obligations on its people to protect the environment. Among its requirements: At least 60% of the nation must remain under forest cover at all times.

Say No To Tobacco

Bhutan is the only nation in the world where the sale of tobacco is banned.

Meshu Meshu

Bhutanese manners dictate that you are to refuse food whenever it’s offered to you. The tradition is to say the words “meshu meshu” and cover your mouth with your hands. You can give in, though, after two or three offers.

One-third Population

One-third of Bhutan’s population is under the age of 14; its median age is 22.3 years.

Two Capital City

Thimpu is one of just two capital cities in Asia that does not have a single traffic light. (The other is Pyongyang, North Korea.) There was such public outcry when local officials installed a single signal that it was quickly removed, and a traffic officer was re-assigned to the intersection.

Gangkhar Puensum

At 24,840 feet, Gangkhar Puensum is the highest point in Bhutan—and the highest unclimbed mountain in the world.

Found Guilty

Anyone found guilty of killing a highly endangered and culturally sacred black-necked crane could be sentenced to life in prison.

Last Country To Introduce Television

Bhutan is one of the last countries in the world to introduce television to its people. The government lifted a ban on TV—and on the Internet—only 11 years ago.

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