Bhutan General Information

Not 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 feudal lords in their separate valleys, not a central government, ruled the country.After 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.

Namgyal’s 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 early 1900’s. Conflict 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.

In 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.

Peoples of Bhutan

The official estimate of Bhutan’s population in 1990 was about 600,000 but other sources estimate the population for 2000 was just under 2 million. Those living in Bhutan of Nepali origin have been excluded from the official census since 1990 which results in such a large discrepancy in population numbers.

Bhutan has four major ethic groups: Bhutia, Sharchops, Nepali, and other indigenous groups. The Bhutia, who are descended from Tibetans, live in the central and northern regions of Bhutan. This ethnic group basically dominates politics in Bhutan particularly with it’s contribution of government officials and monks that come from it.

Believed to be Bhutan’s earliest settlers, the Sharchops live in the southeastern and eastern region. They speak both Tibeto-Burman languages as well as Hindi.

The Nepali people are the latest immigrants to Bhutan. Living in the southwestern and south central section of Bhutan, immigration of Nepali’s has been forbidden by the Bhutanese government since 1959. Fear of Bhutan becoming too heavily populated with Nepalis brought about this and the ban on living in the central Himalayan region. Bhutan traditions and culture are to be retained and not dilute Bhutanese distinctiveness.

There are small groups of ethnic minorities that live all throughout Bhutan with the largest group living in the Duars. This group is related to those groups living in India’s Assam and Bangla

Geography

The Kingdom of Bhutan is wedged between India and China along the lofty mountains of the eastern Himalayas, between longitude 88°45′ and 92°10′ east and latitude 26°40′ and 28°15′. With an area of approximately 38,394 square kilometers, Bhutan is comparable to Switzerland in both size and topography, being largely mountainous. With these borders a giant staircase is formed — from a narrow strip of land in the south at an altitude of 10,000 feet. These unclimbed Himalayan peaks are among the highest on Earth.

For centuries, the people and the rulers have vehemently protected their independence and Bhutan is one of the few countries that escaped the yoke of colonization. The independent state of Bhutan today is one of the last bastions of Mahayana Buddhism. Thus, Bhutan today remains one of the most sought after destinations in the world of tourism and travel.

Bhutan embarked on the path of socio-economic development in the 1960s and is now one of the fastest developing nations in Asia . The impressive strides in the development sector have not come at the cost of the culture and environment. With more than 70% of the total area covered by forests and diverse flora and fauna, the country has been declared as one of the “Ten Global Hotspots.” In cities and hamlets across the kingdom, the people have a way of life that is rich in tradition and steeped in the age-old system of hospitality. The pristine state of the environment and the vibrant tradition and culture and the kindness of the people are some of the long-lasting impressions that visitors touring & trekking in Bhutan have cherished long after they leave. The country has also not shied from the good that modern life has to offer. It is this ability of the Bhutanese people that fascinates the visitor. For instance, a sick Bhutanese can either go to see a doctor trained at the best medical schools of India or a traditional medicine practitioner well versed in the country’s own medicine. The intermingling of the Bhutanese culture and Western culture has produced a fascinating visage that makes a Tourism and travel to Bhutan a very memorable one.

The first tourists came to Bhutan in 1974 when the present monarch His Majesty the King Jigme Singye Wangchuk was crowned as the fourth King of this land, the Thunder Dragon. Ever since, Bhutan has welcomed thousands of visitors. One would think that years of development have eroded the beauty of this country, which was referred in the olden days as the “The Lotus Garden of the Gods.” All this progress has come in tandem with the preservation and promotion of the country’s cultural heritage. The Government pursues an active policy of preserving the numerous temples, monasteries and fortresses that dot the countryside. The monastic schools and meditation centers located across the kingdom are home to thousand of monks and priests who cater to the spiritual needs of the Bhutanese people. The weavings and a vast range of handicrafts of Bhutan are known for their beauty and make perfect gifts.
All in all, Bhutan beckons the traveler in you. So come and travel to Bhutan with us for a unique and enriching experience of your lifetime.

Climate

Bhutan’s climate is as diverse as it’s land. Depending on the altitude, area and amount of sunlight, the climate can range from bitter cold to a humid, hot tropical climate. The precipitation that Bhutan gets comes between the months of June to September and averages for the year about 25 inches (650 mm). A small country covering a little over 18,000 sq mi (47,000 sq km), Bhutan’s land is very varied. Snow peaks in the Himalayas, swamps and highlands are just some of the land conditions that are found in a short range from each other. The three main areas in Bhutan are the Great Himalayan Region, Middle Himalayan Region and the Duars.

The Duars, a plain only 5-8 miles wide (8-13 km), are located along the Indian border and have a tropical climate. The northern section of the Duars is home to wildlife such as tigers and deer with its rugged, coarse terrain. The southern portion of the Duars is cultivated for rice, but had at one time been a jungle filled with bamboo.The Middle Himalayan region is part of the Himalayan range that spreads down from the north and surrounds rich, broad valleys. The valleys, with their mild climate are cultivated and populated. The rainfall in this region is average, not humid and wet like the Duars.

The Great Himalayan Region borders Tibet and is relatively uninhabitable. The highest peak in Bhutan is located here, Kula Kangri (4,900-9,200 ft/1,500-2,800 m). The high valleys are home to a few people, but the main inhabitants in the bitterly cold climate are Bhutanese yaks.