much is identified with Bhutan's history before the
7th century, which is when Buddhism was introduced.
After this time, the chronicles kept by Buddhists
record Bhutan's history. Buddhism was brought in
to Bhutan when the country was ruled by feudal lords
in their separate valleys, not a central government.
monks from the Kargyupa sect of Mahayana Buddhism
built monasteries throughout the valleys, the Drukpa
subsect became the most popular form of religion.
A Drukpa monk, Ngawang Namgyal, started the first
formal government in 1616 - that of a theocratic
government. Namgyal was able to unite the
influential Bhutanese families, this after he defeated
many challengers subsect leaders.
government consisted of two leaders - one with
spiritual responsibilities (dharma raja) and
the other with civil responsibilities (deb raja).
This split form of government continued until the
occurred in Bhutan approximately 100 years after the deb
raja formed a peace treaty with the English East
India Company. Rivalry was rampant between two
governors in Bhutan (of Tongsa and Paro) who held
staunchly opposite views toward the British.
Ugyen Wangchuck, the pro-British governor, was able to
unite the country after defeating all his opponents.
1907 Ugyen Wangchuck became the first druk gyalpo of
Bhutan and he ruled from 1907 to 1926. Jigme
Wangchuck, Ugyen's son, ruled from 1926 to 1952 and
was followed by Jigme Dorji Wangchuck who ruled from
1953 to 1972. The fourth druk gyalpo, Jigme
Singye Wangchuck began his reign in 1972.
weapons, elephants, and remnants of large stone
structures provide evidence that Bhutan was inhabited
as early as 2000 BC, although there are no existing
records from that time. Historians have theorized that
the state of Lhomon (literally, "southern
darkness", a reference to the indigenous Mon
religion), or Monyul ("Dark Land", a
reference to the Monpa, the aboriginal peoples of
Bhutan) may have existed between 500 BC and AD 600.
The names Lhomon Tsendenjong (Sandalwood
Country), and Lhomon Khashi, or Southern Mon
(country of four approaches), have been found in
ancient Bhutanese and Tibetan chronicles.
transcribed event in Bhutan was the passage of the
Buddhist saint Padma Sambhava (also known as Guru
Rinpoche) in 747. Bhutan's early history is unclear,
because most of the records were destroyed after fire
ravaged the ancient capital, Punakha, 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
the various Mongol warlords. After the decline of the
Mongols in the 14th century, these sub-sects vied with
each other for supremacy in the political and
religious landscape, eventually leading to the
ascendancy of the Drukpa sub-sect by the 16th century.
Until the early
17th century, Bhutan existed as a patchwork of minor
warring fiefdoms, when the area was unified by the
Tibetan lama and military leader Shabdrung Ngawang
Namgyal who fled religious persecution in Tibet. To
defend the country against intermittent Tibetan
forays, Namgyal built a network of impregnable dzong
(fortresses), and promulgated the Tsa Yig, a code of
law that helped to bring local lords under centralized
control. Many such dzong still exist and are
active centers of religion and district
administration. Portuguese Jesuit Estêvão Cacella
and another priest were the first recorded Europeans
to visit Bhutan on their way to Tibet. They met with
Ngawang Namgyal, presented him with firearms,
gunpowder and a telescope, and offered him their
services in the war against Tibet, but the Shabdrung
declined the offer. After a stay of nearly eight
months Cacella wrote a long letter from the Chagri
Monastery reporting on his travels. This is a rare
extant report of the Shabdrung.
death in 1651, Bhutan fell into civil war. Taking
advantage of the chaos, the Tibetans attacked Bhutan
in 1710, and again in 1730 with the help of the
Mongols. Both assaults were successfully thwarted, and
an armistice was signed in 1759.
In the 18th
century, the Bhutanese invaded and occupied the
kingdom of Cooch Behar to the south. In 1772, Cooch
Behar appealed to the British East India Company which
assisted them in ousting the Bhutanese, and later in
attacking Bhutan itself in 1774. A peace treaty was
signed in which Bhutan agreed to retreat to its
pre-1730 borders. However, the peace was tenuous, and
border skirmishes with the British were to continue
for the next 100 years. The skirmishes eventually led
to the Duar War (1864–1865), a confrontation for
control of the Bengal Duars. After Bhutan lost the
war, the Treaty of Sinchula was signed between British
India and Bhutan. As part of the war reparations, the
Duars were ceded to the United Kingdom in exchange for
a rent of Rs. 50,000. The treaty ended all
hostilities between British India and Bhutan.
1870s, power struggles between the rival valleys of
Paro and Tongsa led to civil war in Bhutan, eventually
leading to the ascendancy of Ugyen Wangchuck, the ponlop
(governor) of Tongsa. From his power base in central
Bhutan, Ugyen Wangchuck defeated his political enemies
and united the country following several civil wars
and rebellions in the period 1882–1885.
In 1907, an
epochal year for the country, Ugyen Wangchuck was
unanimously chosen as the hereditary king of the
country by an assembly of leading Buddhist monks,
government officials, and heads of important families.
The British government promptly recognized the new
monarchy, and in 1910 Bhutan signed a treaty which
"let" Great Britain "guide"
Bhutan's foreign affairs. In reality, this did not
mean much given Bhutan's historical reticence. It also
did not seem to apply to Bhutan's traditional
relations with Tibet.
gained independence from the United Kingdom on 15
August 1947, Bhutan became one of the first countries
to recognize India's independence. A treaty similar to
that of 1910 in which Britain gained power with
respect to Bhutan's foreign relations was signed 8
August 1949 with the newly independent India.
In 1953, King
Jigme Dorji Wangchuck established the country's
legislature – a 130-member National Assembly –
to promote a more democratic form of governance. In
1965, he set up a Royal Advisory Council, and in 1968
he formed a Cabinet. In 1971, Bhutan was admitted to
the United Nations, having held observer status for
three years. In July 1972, Jigme Singye Wangchuck
ascended to the throne at the age of 16 after the
death of his father, Dorji Wangchuck.
In late 2003,
the Bhutanese army successfully launched a large-scale
operation to flush out anti-India insurgents who were
operating training camps in southern Bhutan. It is
called Operation: All Clear and the Royal Bhutan Army
drove out the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA),
National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), and
Kamtapur Liberation Organization (KLO) insurgent
groups hiding in Bhutan's jungles.
reform and modernization
information: Law of Bhutan and Constitution
Singye Wangchuck introduced significant political
reforms, transferring most of his administrative
powers to the Council of Cabinet Ministers and
allowing for impeachment of the King by a two-thirds
majority of the National Assembly.
In 1999, the
government lifted a ban on television and the
Internet, making Bhutan one of the last countries to
introduce television. In his speech, the King said
that television was a critical step to the
modernisation of Bhutan as well as a major contributor
to the country's Gross National Happiness (Bhutan is
the only country to measure happiness), but warned
that the "misuse" of television could erode
traditional Bhutanese values.
constitution was presented in early 2005. In December
2005, Jigme Singye Wangchuck announced that he would
abdicate the throne in his son's favor in 2008. On 14
December 2006, he announced that he would be
abdicating immediately. This was followed with the
first national parliamentary elections in December
2007 and March 2008.
On November 6,
2008, 28-year old Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck,
eldest son of King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, was crowned