Bhutan’s distant past is surrounded by mystery, as priceless historical documents were lost in fires and earthquakes. From the stone tools and structures, it is believed that Bhutan was inhabited as early as 1400 BC. The recorded history is available only from the 7th century AD with the construction of the 2 Buddhist temples, Kyichu Lhakhang in Paro and Jambay Lhakhang in Bumthang.
It is believed that the name “Bhutan” is derived from Sanskrit Bhotant, which means “the end of Tibet”. Another believe is from “Bhu-uttan”, which means “high land”. Historically, Bhutanese prefer to refer their country as Druk Yul, “the Land of Thunder Dragon”.
In the 8th century, Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava, the second Buddha) made his legendary trip to Bhutan. According to legends, he arrived at Paro Valley on the back of the flying tigress to subdue the evil spirits who hindered Buddhism. Tantric Buddhism (Drukpa Kagyu) was first introduced to Bhutan by Guru Padmasambhava.
In 1616, a Tibetan lama of the Drukpa School, Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, arrived in Bhutan. Not only did he unify the country, he also introduced the present dual system of religious and secular government.
From 1651 to 1907, Bhutan entered into an era of intrigues, feuds, civil wars and rebellions. Bhutan was first unsuccessfully invaded by Tibetans and Mongols. Later, British India and Bhutan has a war fought in 1864, referred as Duar War. To end the Duar War, Bhutan signed the Treaty of Sinchula on 11 November 1865 to surrender territories in the Assam, Dengual and part of Dewangiri (South-eastern of Bhutan) to British India, in return for an annual subsides of 50,000 rupees. This treaty was replaced in 1949, and in February 2007, a new treaty of friendship was signed with India to replace the treaty of 1949.
During 1870s, there were power struggles between the Paro valley and Trongsa valley. This led to a lot of civil wars in Bhutan. In 1907, Bhutan elected their first King, Gongsa Ugyen Wangchuck, the penlop (governor) of Trongsa, who finally restored peace and order in Bhutan. Besides, he successfully restored the prolonged strained relations between British India and Bhutan.
In 1953, the 3rd King of Bhutan, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, established the country’s first legislature – a 130 member National Assembly – to promote a more democratic form of governance. In 1965, he set up a Royal Advisory Council, and in 1968 he formed a Cabinet. In 1971, Bhutan was admitted to the United Nations, after 3 years of observance.
In July 1972, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck ascended to the throne at the age of sixteen after the death of his father, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. The 4th King introduced the phrase “Gross National Happiness” to the world in 1972. He led Bhutan into the world of modernization, with introduction of television and internet access. He ruled his people with “orthodox” views based on the traditions of Buddhism. By law, Bhutanese must wear the 17th century traditional clothing to work and school. Even to today, traffic lights do not exist in the country.
In 2005, the 4th King announced his intention to abdicate in 2008, leaving the throne to his eldest son, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck. Hence, the year 2008 was a very special year to Bhutanese. The year 2008, not only marked the coronation of the 5th King but also the first Government election in the country’s history.
Kings of Bhutan
|King||Name||Date of Birth||Coronation||Monarch From||Monarch Until|
|Third||Jigme Dorji Wangchuck||2-May-1928||-||24-Mar-1952||21-Jul-1972|
|Fourth||Jigme Singye Wangchuck||11-Nov-1955||2-Jun-1974||21-Jul-1972||14-Dec-2006|
|Fifth||Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck||21-Feb-1980||6-Nov-2008||14-Dec-2006||Incumbent|