Officially known as the Kingdom of Bhutan, is located at the eastern end of the Himalayas and bordered to the south, east and west by the Republic of India and to the north by the People’s Republic of China.
Trips to Bhutan:
Bhutan’s landscape ranges from subtropical plains in the south to Sub-alpine Himalayan heights in the north, with some peaks exceeding 7000m (23,000ft). Stone tools, weapons, elephants, and remnants of large stone structures provide evidence that Bhutan was inhabited as early as 2000BC. The earliest transcribed event in Bhutan was the passage of the Buddhist saint Padma Sambhava (Guru Rinpoche) in 747. The early history is unclear as most records were destroyed after the ancient capital of Punakha was ravaged in 1827. By the 10th century, Bhutan’s political development was heavily influenced by its religious history. Various sub-sects of Buddhism emerged which were patronized by various Mongol warlords. After the decline of the Mongols in the 14th century, these sub-sects vied with each other for supremacy. Bhutan existed as a patchwork of minor warring fiefdoms until the early 17th century, when the area was unified by the Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, who was guided by a prophecy, and fled religious persecution in Tibet and cultivated a separate Bhutanese identity. Namgyal built a network of impregnable dzong (fortresses) to defend against Tibet forays. These dzong still exist and are active centers of administration, religion, and tourism. After Namgyal’s death, Bhutan fell into civil war and Tibet attacked again, the assault was thwarted and finally an armistice was signed in 1759. In the 18th century, Bhutanese invaded the kingdom of Cooch Behar, which led to the Duar War, which involved the British – border skirmishes would continue for 100 years. In 1907, Ugyen Wangchuck was unanimously chosen as the hereditary king of the country by an assembly of leading Buddhist monks after many years of civil wars and rebellions. In the late 1980’s, the country expelled or forced to leave nearly one fifth of its population in the name of preserving its Tibetan Mahayana Buddhist culture and identity. In one of the world’s least known episodes of what many scholars believe was an ‘ethnic cleansing’, the Nepali-origin, mainly Hindu Bhutanese fled their homeland. By 2008, 107,000 Bhutanese are living in seven camps in eastern Nepal. Today, Bhutan is the only country to measure happiness (Gross National Happiness).