Bhutan Brief History

The name Bhutan is believed to be derived from the Sanskrit word Bhu-Uttan which means ‘Highlands’. In another theory also derived from Sanskrit writing, Bhots-ant means ‘end of Tibet’ or ‘southern Tibet’. Anyway some Bhutanese call their country “Brug Yul” transcribed Druk Yul and they call themselves ‘Drukpa’. The Dzongkha (and Tibetans) give their country the name of Druk Yul (Land of the Dragon). For the serenity and virginity of the country and its tourist attractions, Bhutan is now sometimes known as the last “Shangri-La”. Historically, Bhutan was known by a large number of names, such as Lho Mon (Dark Land of the South), Lho Tsendenjong (Southern Land of Sandalwood),

Its name comes from the term Bhotana, of Indian origin, with which all regions inhabited by ethnic Tibetans were known in the past. Archaeological finds such as stone structures, weapons, remains of elephants suggest that the mountain valleys of Bhutan have been inhabited for several thousand years, however there are no historical records of the times to which the findings correspond or many of the documents are they have lost after the fire that devastated the ancient capital Punakha, in 1827.4 The historians have theorized that the names given to the territory in the past: Lhomon (southern darkness) or Monyul (Dark Land) refer to the Monba aboriginal people who would have created a kingdom between 500 BC and 600 AD. C.5 the names Lhomon Tsendenjong (Country of Sandalwood), and Lhomon Khashi (Country of the four approximations) are those that appear in the ancient Tibetan and Bhutanese chronicles.

According to localcollegeexplorer, the Bhutanese are related to the Tibetans of the north, sharing physical, linguistic and cultural treasures, which indicate that at some unknown time in the past, a significant migration of Tibetans came through the Himalayas to establish the base of the current population. In the 8th century, the Indian guru Padmasambhava (or Guru Rinpoche) came to Bhutan bringing Buddhism and establishing a number of temples and monasteries, including the famous Taktshang monastery built on top of a cliff above the Paro valley and Kurjey Lhakhang in Bumthang. . Until the early 1600s, Bhutan existed as a patch of minor warrior fiefdoms until it was unified by the Tibetan lama and military leader Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, thus a Buddhist theocracy was installed from the s. XVII.

Escaping political enemies in Tibet, he arrived in Bhutan in 1616 and began a program of fortification and military consolidation, overseeing the construction of impressive dzongs or fortresses such as Simtokha Dzong, which protects the entrance to the Timbu Valley. An insightful leader, he used cultural symbols as well as military force to establish a Bhutanese national identity, including initiating a number of holy dances to be danced at the annual tsechu festivals. After his death, internal strife and civil war eroded the shabdrung’s power for the next 200 years when in 1885, Ugyen Wangchuck was able to consolidate power and cultivated close ties with the British in India. The Shabdrung also established that the dual system of government whereby control of the country was shared between a spiritual leader (the Je Khempo) and an administrative leader (the Desi Druk), a policy that exists in modified form to this day. Although subject to periodic Tibetan invasions from the north, Bhutan has retained continuous autonomy since its founding by the Shabdrung.

In the early 1700s, the Bhutanese invaded the kingdom of Cooch Behar to the south, (today it is an administrative division of the Indian state of West Bengal) placing it under Bhutanese sovereignty. In 1772, the Cooch Behari appealed to the British East India Company, who joined the Behari in driving out the Bhutanese and attacking Bhutan itself in 1774. A peace treaty was concluded in which Bhutan would withdraw to its pre- 1730 borders. However, peace was not kept and border conflicts with the British continued for the next hundred years, including the Duars War (1864 – 1865), fought for control of the Bengali Duar. The years between 1870 and 1880 were marked by civil war between the central powers of the Paro and Trongsa valleys.

In 1885 Ugyen Wangchuck, the penlop (governor) of Trongsa, managed to control the country and end the civil war, aided by the support of the British (the penlop of Paro was aligned with the Tibetans). Under British influence a monarchy was established in 1907, which established Wangchuck as absolute governor of Bhutan. Three years later, a treaty was signed by which the country became a British protectorate. Independence was achieved in 1949, with India guiding foreign affairs and provisional aid. Under the leadership of the third king of Bhutan, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, Bhutan adopted a policy of gradual exposure to the outside world. Bhutan achieved United Nations recognition as a sovereign nation in 1971.

Jigme Singye Wangchuck, was the fourth monarch of the country, ascended to the throne in 1972 at the age of 17, upon the death of his father. His coronation in June 1974 It was the occasion to invite a select number of diplomats and guests from around the world to the isolated kingdom, ushering in regular (if modest) interaction with foreign visitors. The fourth king showed great skill in leading his country towards the modernity of the 21st century while preserving the distinctive Bhutanese culture with its roots in the 17th century. He has been known in the West for his goal of seeking the highest Gross National Happiness for his country, rather than the conventional Gross National Product. In 1865, Great Britain and Bhutan, as the culmination of the Duar War or War of Bhutan, had signed the Treaty of Sinchulu, under which Bhutan would receive an annual subsidy of 50,000 rupees in exchange for giving up some borders.

Under British influence, a monarchy was established in 1907 ; three years later, a treaty was signed where the British agreed not to interfere in Bhutanese internal affairs and Bhutan allowed Britain to run its foreign affairs. This role was taken over by independent India after 1947. Two years later, a formal Indo-Bhutanese agreement returned the British-annexed areas of Bhutan, formalized the annual subsidies the country received, and defined India’s responsibilities in defense and foreign affairs. Only since 2008 have there been democratic elections.

Bhutan Brief History

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