If you try to locate Bhutan on the map you will find a speck, sandwiched between two colossal countries, India and China. However, if you look up for Bhutanese culture its diversity never fails to amaze a person. Bhutan is known to the rest of the world by its unique culture and tradition. Bhutanese society is centered around the practice of Buddhism. It is the only Vajrayana Buddhist nation in the world. Arts, crafts, dances, and music have their roots embedded in Buddhism. Due to its pristine environment and harmonious society, the tiny Kingdom of Bhutan has been called “The Last Shangrila.”
Gross National Happiness
This ideology was the brainchild of the fourth King Jigme Singye Wangchuck who believed in maintaining a balance between culture, tradition, spirituality and the economy.
Hence, he came up with the concept of Gross National Happiness. Happiness is believed to be contributed by preserving culture and tradition, sustainable socio-economic development, environmental conservation, and good governance.
Prehistoric Bhutan is shrouded in the midst of isolation. Historical records began with the arrival of Buddhism in the 7th century. For centuries, the people of Bhutan remained disunited. However, in 1616 the country became united under the spiritual leader Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel.
In the 18th century when the British were becoming powerful in India, Bhutan was facing political instability. War broke out between British India and Bhutan in 1864 over the duars, fertile low lands of Bhutan. In 1865, British India and Bhutan signed the Treaty of Sinchulu, under which Bhutan would receive an annual subsidy in exchange for ceding some border land.
On 17th December 1907, Ugyen Wangchuck was unanimously elected as the first hereditary king of Bhutan. By 1960s Bhutan emerged from its isolation and modernization began under the dynamic reign of the third King, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck who is remembered as the father of Modern Bhutan. Under his leadership, Bhutan joined Universal Postal Union and United Nations.
In December 2006, the fourth King Jigme Singye Wangchuck abdicated to make way for his son the Crown Prince Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, to become Bhutan’s first constitutional monarch. The official coronation took place in November 2008.
Bhutan’s first democratic election commenced on December 31, 2007. First, the citizens elected 20 members of non-partisan National Council (Upper House) followed by the election of 47 members of the more powerful partisan National Assembly (Lower House) of parliament.