Bhutan is the land which is placed in between the landmasses of China and India. Wedged in between it has unraveled itself in the most spectacular manner to become one of the greenest, well preserved and scenic tourist destinations in the world. Just like it’s pure un-spoilt surroundings, the history of Bhutan is equally interesting and unique in every sense. The name ‘Bhutan’ is said to be derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Bhotant’ which literally translates into ‘The End of Tibet’. However, the local Bhutanese folks refer to their country as ‘Druk Yul’, derived from the Drukpa school of Tibetan Buddhism, meaning, land of the thunder dragon where ‘Druk’ translates into a dragon.
Early History of Bhutan
Due to its remote location, the early history of Bhutan remains unclear. However, according to sources, ancient history is steeped in mythology and to a large extent remains obscure. The inscriptions on some of the structures and monuments here provide evidence that the region has been settled since 2,000 BC or maybe even before that. Around the 7th century it was under the rule of Cooch Behar king Sangaldip sadly there is not enough trail regarding the spread of Tibetan Buddhism during the 9th century when the Buddhists and monks were forced to flee into Bhutan.
Bhutan or the land of the thunder dragon is one of those few countries in the world that has never been under any rule and has managed to remain independent throughout their recognizable history. This means that it has never been conquered, occupied, or even governed by any outside power. They have always successfully defended their sovereignty. It was not until 1907 that Ugyen Wangchuk was elected as the hereditary ruler here and became the head of state or in the local language Druk Gyalpo or dragon king. The legends, myths, and folklore associated with this place are remarkable and will definitely spark a fire of curiosity in your heart.
Arrival of Buddhism in Bhutan
Buddhism is a major part of the lifestyle, thinking, and perspective of the Bhutanese. It was first introduced during the 7th century by a Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo (a convert to Buddhism) and it was successfully practiced alongside the Bon followers. In fact, Buddhism integrated itself with the Bon practices and over time it became the unifying element in the scenic and peaceful valleys of Bhutan. The modernization of this hill station did not begin until 1952 with the commencement of the rule of Jigme Dorji Wangchuk. He realized that isolating themselves away from the rest of the world is not going to be profitable in the long run. He began strengthening ties with their neighbor, India.
Tourism in Bhutan
In 1974 tourism in Bhutan began which was an effort by the government to raise the revenue of this place by promoting the Bhutanese culture and traditions. This isolated country amidst the impeccable beauty of the Himalayas was finally opened for foreign tourists. Every year the number of tourists in Bhutan has seen exponential growth with travelers, honeymoon goers, peace seekers, and outdoor enthusiasts flocking here to explore this place which was once locked away from the world.
Some of the most scenic place and center of spirituality here include places like Thimphu, Paro, Punakha dzong fortress, Trongsa among others. High value and low volume is the technique by which tourism functions in Bhutan. This ensures that there is a strict regulation for tourists entering this Himalayan kingdom. The people and the ruler here strive to preserve their culture, traditions, beliefs, and their environment. They also practice sustainable tourism strategy which has proven to be beneficial for the ecology and biosphere of this wonderful country.
Here are a few facts about Bhutan to give you a clear picture of what a gem this place actually is:
- Bhutan has a free policy for basic education and healthcare for the resident Bhutanese population. It ensures that everyone has the opportunity to equal education and healthcare facilities without any partialities based on income, education, etc.
- It has officially been ranked number one for being the happiest country in the world. The government of Bhutan measures the happiness index of the people here to determine their state of mind and promote good health.
- The presence of valleys and lush greenery all over the hills makes sure that more carbon dioxide is absorbed than given out. This is because 70% of the landscape here is covered in greenery comprising of untouched and unexplored forest land.
- Bhutan is one of those rare places that don’t have even a single traffic light. Although Thimpu has the heaviest traffic concentration in the country it still doesn’t have a traffic light. Everything is managed with the help of traffic police who very neatly and in an orderly fashion organizes an unobstructed flow of traffic.
- It is home to the highest unclimbed mountain in the world. The climate on top of these mountains are so harsh that any attempts that have been made to scale it has been faced with disappointment due to frostbite or in some cases ice-cold freezing high winds. Later on, the Bhutanese government banned the climbing of any mountain here which goes over the height of 6,000 meters above sea level.
- Paro airport is one of the most challenging airports in the world. Due to its location inside a deep valley and developed on an elevation of around 5,500 meters above sea level pilots find it extremely difficult to land the aircraft here. The vicious winds play a major role in creating an obstruction while landing. Because of all these reasons, only 8 pilots are certified to fly in this part of the Himalayan region.
- Plastic usage in any form is banned in Bhutan since 2005-2009. However, in 2019 there was an urgent need for the Bhutanese government to reinforce some major changes in the way waste was managed here. This instigated the usage of bags made out of jute, cloth, etc. among the citizens.