Often called “The Last Shangrila (paradise),” Bhutan is the travel world’s best kept secret, a pocket of calmness wedged between the two most populated and larger countries, India and China. It is the only nation that has adopted Vajrayana Buddhism as a state religion and, with 70% of the land area under forest cover, has been marked as one of the world’s 10 biodiversity ‘hotspots’ along with the Amazon rainforests of South America and the Serengetti plains of Africa.
Having opted to stay isolated from the world for centuries, the history of modern Bhutan is not even 50 years old. Only in the early 1960’s did feudal Bhutan open up to the community of world nations. It was then that the country adopted an approach, albeit a guarded one, to economic development and built its first roads, schools and hospitals. Very little has changed in the years hence.
When Bhutan is spoken about by foreigners who know of it, the accolades rarely cease. Its scenic beauty is heaven for photographers who rave that you can never take a bad picture in Bhutan. In spite of a cautious tourism policy – and probably owing to it – the country has been rated as one of the top 20 most exotic travel destinations by National Geographic Travel magazine. Even historically, early European travelers to the country described it as “a country of majestic mountains, haunting ravines and primordial forests” where the people were “the handsomest race of men (I have) ever seen.”
The Bhutanese are known to be easy-going and friendly. And time, in what a best-selling Canadian writer called the Bhutan Time Warp, stands still. If you are looking for escape, Bhutan is probably the place to go.
Geography & Climate
The Kingdom of Bhutan is a small sovereign country hidden in the Eastern Himalayan Mountains between the China to the north and the India in the south. The area of 38,394sq km with the longitude of 88, 45’ and 92 10’ east and latitude of 26 40’ and 28 15; in the north. The Kingdom of Bhutan is Mountainous country from the little above the sea level to High Himalayan Mountains of 7, 600m in the north with varying climatic conditions ranging form hot humid to alpine The population of the country is 752,700. Comprising of four main ethic groups namely Sharchop in the eastern region, Kheng in the central and partly in southern region, Lhotshampa in the southern region, Ngalong in the north western regions of the country. These four groups of people become a Drukpa.
In Bhutan you would experience the different types of climatic conditions, depending upon different altitudes and seasons. To the south it is hot and humid, while the up hills and Mountains towards the north are under perpetual snow. Rainfall can differ within relative short distance due to rain shadow effects. We do have four seasons which are Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. The month of July and August is the heavy rainfall and Bhutanese believe that in September there will be a festival called Thrue (blessed rainy day), the rainy season ends. Spring and autumn is great seasons to travel tourist in the kingdom of Bhutan. In winter the temperature drops down to minus because of snowfalls. Days are normally hot and night are cold.
People and their beliefs
The Bhutanese are a peace loving and god-fearing people who consistently imbibe the values of Buddhism into their everyday lives. Adherence to the fundamental principals of Buddhist philosophy like non-violence and compassion towards all sentient beings is firmly instilled in Bhutanese. Prayer flags fluttering in the wind, chortens (stupas), monasteries and twirling prayer wheels are a very common sight, sending the prayers through prayer flags and keeping up an unvarying communication with heaven. Bhutanese has cultivated a unique culture in to their life, and it is famous for its rich and vibrant forms of dances, costumes, architectures, arts and crafts eminent by their expressions in bold flamboyant colours and intricate designs. Their belief in the doctrine of ‘Karma’ is a motivation to accumulate as many virtues as possible in their present lives to lessen the degree of suffering in their next birth. All their actions are defined by the teachings of Buddha who advocates virtuous living as the path to the attainment of “Nirvana”, a state of non suffering and eternal bliss. So Bhutanese people are very hospitable and helpful. Love and respect for nature is inherent in every Bhutanese. The generations accept the endowment of nature manifested in notable guardianship. All living things are considered by Bhutanese as precious incarnation of life while nature is adored as the source of all life.
History of Bhutan
The ancient history of Bhutan is in mystery. Most documents were either lost or distroyed in devastating earthquakes and fire. Whatever documented evidence that has survived in some of its Dzongs confirms the establishment of a Dual System of Government by the Shabdrung Nawang Namgyel who unified the country under the Drukpa School of Mahayana Buddhism. Shabdrung Nawang Namgyel passed away in the 17th century. Although his death was kept secret for many years, Bhutan entered into a period of conflict and turmoil for the next couple of centuries. The “Penlops” that were self styled governors of different regions were constantly engaged in incessant fighting against one another in a bid to exert their political influence over the territories of their rivals to expand their sphere of control. Prominent among them were the Trongsa and the Paro Penlops, the two most powerful clans who exercised equal control over each half of the territory of Bhutan. Other regional powerful families tended to side with one or the other. Finally at the end of the 19th century AD, the Trongsa Penlop who controlled central and eastern Bhutan defeated the Paro Penlop who controlled the western province in a historic battle fought in the plains of Changlimithang below Thimphu. The victorious Trongsa Penlop – Sir Ugyen Wangchuk was unanimously elected the first hereditary King of unified Bhutan on 17 December 1907 by the representatives of the powerful clergy, civil servants and prominent members of society. Sir Ugyen Wangchuk was accorded the title of Knight Commander of the British Empire for his tacit powers of negotiation and tactful diplomatic skills. This visionary leader of the Bhutanese people further strengthened the country by laying the foundations of a strong central authority that has governed the country ever since. His successors continue to provide a stable and progressive system of governance to the country. Today Bhutan is one of the fastest and most rapidly developing nations prospering under the dynamic leadership of His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuk, the fourth hereditary monarch of Bhutan, who ruled since 1972 who is well loved and respected not only by the Bhutanese people, but people all over the globe.
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