Mystery surrounds Bhutan's distant past, as priceless irretrievable documents were lost in fires and earthquakes. It could be inhabited as early as 2000 BC, but with archeological proof, it is still obscure. Buddhism first was introduced in Bhutan in 7th Century by Tibetan King Songtsan Gampo. In 8th century, Padmasambhava ( popularly known as Guru Rinpoche or second Buddha) - Indian Buddhist master made his legendary trip to Bhutan riding on the back of a flying tigress to subdue the evil spirits who hindered Buddhism. And after defeating them, he blessed them as guardians of the doctrine and introduced Tantric Buddhism in Bhutan. Taktsang or Tigress Nest in the Paro Valley is where he landed and remains one of most sacred places in Bhutan.
Guru Rinpoche ( Precious Master) who established the first school of Nyingmapa sect in Bhutan is the father of Tantric Mahayana Buddhism widely practiced in Bhutan. Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, a Tibetan lama of the Drukpa School, arrived in Bhutan in 1616. He introduced the present dual system of religious and secular government, creating and building the system of Dzongs throughout Bhutan. Shabdrung unified the country, and established himself as the country's supreme leader and vested civil power in a high officer known as the Druk Desi. Religious affairs were charged to another leader, the Je Khenpo ( Chief Abbot of Bhutan). For two centuries following Shabdrung's demise, civil wars intermittently broke out, and the regional Penlops (governors) became increasingly more powerful. This ended when an assembly of representatives from the monastic community, civil servants and the people, elected the Penlop of Trongsa, Ugen Wangchuck, the First King of Bhutan in 1907. The monarchy has thrived ever since, and the present king, His Majesty JJigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, fifth in line, commands an overwhelming support for his people.
Bhutan Fact Sheet
- Location: Southern Asia, between China and India
- Area: total: 47,000 sq km., land: 47,000 sq km., water: 0 sq km
- Terrain: mostly mountainous with some fertile valleys and savanna
- Climate: varies; tropical in southern plains; cool winters and hot summers in central valley’s; severe winters and cool summers in Himalayas
- Population: 2,279,723
- Ethnic groups: Bhote 50%, ethnic Nepalese 35% (includes Lhotsampas - one of several Nepalese ethnic groups), indigenous or migrant tribes 15%
- Religion: Lamaistic Buddhist 75%, Indian- and Nepalese - influenced Hinduism 25%Languages: Dzongkha (official), Bhotes speak various Tibetan dialects, Nepalese speak various Nepalese dialects
- Festivals: Tibetan New Year, shoton festival, Bathing FestivalCurrency: BTN; INR