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History of Bhutan

Bhutan’s early history is steeped in mythology and remains obscure. It may have been inhabited as early as 2000 BC. The name ‘Bhutan’ is believed to derive from the Sanskrit ‘ Bhota-ant’ meaning ‘end of Bhot’ or from ‘Bhu-uttan’ meaning ‘high land’. Though known as Bhutan to the outside world, the Bhutanese themselves refer to their country as Druk Yul or the Land of the Thunder Dragon.

The country was first unified in 17th century by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel. After arriving in Bhutan from Tibet he consolidated his power, defeated three Tibetan invasions and established a comprehensive system of law and governance. His system of rule eroded after his death and the country fell into in-fighting and civil war between the various local rulers. This continued until 1907 when the Trongsa Penlop Ugyen Wangchuck was elected, by a unanimous vote of Bhutan’s chiefs and principal lamas, as the first hereditary ruler of Bhutan. Thus the first king was crowned and the Wangchuck dynasty began that still rules today. Over the following four decades, he and his heir, His Majesty the King Jigme Wangchuck, brought the entire country under the monarchy’s direct control. Upon independence in 1947, India recognized Bhutan as a sovereign country..

The fourth King, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, had espoused and implemented the policy of controlled development with particular focus on the preservation of the environment and Bhutan’s unique culture. Among his ideals is economic self-reliance and what has now become widely known as ‘Gross National Happiness’. His coronation on 2 June 1974 was the first time the international media were allowed to enter the Kingdom, and marked Bhutan’s debut appearance on the world stage. The first group of paying tourists arrived later that year. In major political reform in June 1998, the king dissolved the Council of Ministers and announced that ministers formerly appointed by him would need to stand for open election. In 1999 television and Internet were first introduced to Bhutan.

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