Bhutan, the ‘Land of the Thunder Dragon’ was isolated and almost non-existent in the annals of the twentieth century history.
This has been a blessing in disguise, for the country learnt about the mistakes made by other nations – especially the fact that development is a two edged sword- that it can destroy and not just bring about progress. Isolated and never colonized, the kingdom took the middle path in pursuing development. That is why it stands out unique and special.
Bhutan’s culture is a living organic evolution that has adapted to the changes of the world, but maintained its core norms. It is the only country in the world where the sale of tobacco is banned and the streets of the capital and other towns have no traffic lights.
It’s a country where television debuted as recently as 1999; where the first motor road was built as lately as 1964. It’s a country where the rice is red and chilies aren’t just a flavor but the main dish. It’s also a deeply spiritual land, where men and women wear the traditional dress (Gho for men/Kira for women) and giant protective phalluses adorn the walls of traditional houses. It’s also the birthplace of “Gross National Happiness” (GNH), a development philosophy that places GNH above “Gross National Product”.
Introducing the world’s newest democracy:
In 2008, Bhutan became the youngest democracy when an overwhelming 83% of the total population went to the polls (53% were women and 30% were below the age of thirty). It was also the centenary year of the Wangchuck dynasty with His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck officially crowned the fifth king of the kingdom. A figure as beloved as his father, at 29, he became “The Peoples’ King” and the youngest monarch in the world.
It’s indeed, the last Shangri-La, an enchanted land long forgotten now awakening the world.
Bhutan: The name
The ancient names of Bhutan provide insights into how it was perceived by the outside world. It was known as Lho Mon (Southern Land of Darkness) and LhoJong Menjong (Southern Land of Medicinal Herbs).
After the 17th century, Bhutan was known as Druk Yul- the land of the Thunder Dragon, a name derived from the Drukpa Kagyu sect of Buddhism. From the Sanskrit word, Bhu – Uttan, which means the high lands/head of India (when looked from the Indian plains). Accordingly, another Sanskrit word Bhotsant, which means the “tail” or end of Tibet is also attributed as a reason for the Name Bhutan.