Bhutan, called Druk Yul by its people, is known as the “Land of the Thunder Dragon”. It is one of the world’s most beautiful, yet mysterious places. It is located on the eastern edge of the Himalayan Mountain region. A large part of the area is forested welcoming a diverse ecosystem of flora and fauna. The country stretches from subtropical valleys and plains to snowcapped mountain ranges. This landscape makes it the perfect place to trek through the majestic valleys or steep mountains to visit ancient architecture and Buddhist temples.
The country was originally known by many names including Lho Jong, ‘The Valleys of the South’, Lho Mon Kha Shi, ‘The Southern Mon Country of Four Approaches’, Lho Jong Men Jong, ‘The Southern Valleys of Medicinal Herbs and Lho Mon Tsenden Jong, ‘The Southern Mon Valleys where Sandlewood Grows’. Mon was a term used by the Tibetans to refer to Mongoloid, non-Buddhist peoples that populated the Southern Himalayas.
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 the Trongsa Penlop Ugyen Wangchuck was able to gain control and with the support of the people to establish himself as Bhutan’s first hereditary King in 1907. His Majesty Ugyen Wangchuck became the first Druk Gyalpo (Dragon King) and set up the Wangchuck Dynasty that still rules today.
In 2008 Bhutan enacted its Constitution and converted to a democracy in order to better safeguard the rights of its citizens. Later in November of the same year, the current reigning 5th Druk Gyalpo Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck was crowned.
The Tshanglas or the Sharchops as they are commonly known as, are considered the aboriginal inhabitants of eastern Bhutan. According to historians, Tshanglas are the descendants of Lord Brahma and speak Tshanglakha. They are commonly inhabitants of the eastern part of the country. Weaving is a popular occupation among their women and they produce beautiful fabrics mainly of silk and raw silk.
The Ngalops who have settled mostly in the six regions of western Bhutan are of Tibetan origin. They speak Ngalopkha, a polished version of Dzongkha, the national language of Bhutan. Agriculture is their main livelihood. They cultivate cereals such as rice, wheat, barley and maize along with a variety of other crops. They are known for Lozeys, or ornamental speech and for Zheys, dances that are unique to the Ngalops.
The Lhotshampas have settled in the southern foothills of the country. They speak Lhotshamkha (Nepali) and practice Hinduism. Their society can be broken into various lineages such as the Bhawans, Chhetris, Rai’s, Limbus, Tamangs, Gurungs, and the Lepchas. Nowadays they are mainly employed in agriculture and cultivate cash crops like ginger, cardamom and oranges.
hutan is the only Mahayana Buddhism Kingdom in the world, with Mahayana (tantric) Buddhism as its official religion. It is practised throughout the entire country by 75% of the inhabitants. Hinduism – closely related to Buddhism, is Bhutan’s second religion, practiced by about 25% of the population. Before Buddhism captured the heart of Bhutan, several forms of animistic religions were practiced. Minority groups still practice these traditions and rituals in some parts of the country.
Gross National Happiness (GNH)
Gross National Happiness, or GNH, is a holistic and sustainable approach to development, which balances material and non-material values with the conviction that humans want to search for happiness. The objective of GNH is to achieve a balanced development in all the facets of life that are essential; for our happiness.
We are in the age of the Anthropocene when the fate of the planet and all life is within the power of mankind. Boundless consumerism, widening socio-economic inequality and instability is causing rapid natura resource depletion and degradation. Climate change, species extinction, multiple crises, growing insecurity, instability and conflicts are not only diminishing our well-being but are also threatening our very survival.
Today, it is inconceivable for modern society to function without the business of commerce, finance, industry or trade. These very factors are altering human destiny by the day in extraordinary ways, both positive and negative. GNH directly addresses such global, national and individual challenges by pointing to the non-material roots of well- being and offering ways to balance and satisfy the dual needs of the human being within the limits of what nature can provide on a sustainable basis.