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The Kingdom of Bhutan

History

The written history of the Kingdom began in the 8th century with the legendary visit of Guru Padmasambhava to the valley of Bumthang in 747 A.D, who for the first time began the propagation of Tantric strain of Mahayana Buddhism Known as the Secret Vajrayana. In the following centuries, many great masters came to Bhutan and preached the faith resulting in full bloom of Buddhism. Although sectarian at first, the country was eventually unified in the early 17th century by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, of Drukpa Kagyupa order of Mahayana Buddhism. The Shabdrung codified a comprehensive system of laws and built a chain of Dzongs, which guarded each valley from the enemies and invaders. These dzongs now serves as the religious and administrative centre of the region. Towards the end of the 19th century, the Tongsa Penlop, Ugyen Wangchuck, who then controlled the central and eastern region, overcame all his rivals and united the nation. He was unanimously crowned as the first King of Bhutan in 1907 at Punakha.

Starting 2008, Bhutan became constitutional democracy, where the King will be an adviser to government and support to general people.

Bhutan is the last Mahayana Buddhist Kingdom, and the teachings of this school of Buddhism are living faith among its people. The air of spirituality is pervasive even in urban centers where the spinning of prayer wheels, the murmur of mantras and glow of butter lamps are still important features of everyday life. Bhutan’s religious sites and institutions are not museums, but the daily home of its people.

People

With the population of about 600,000, Bhutan has three main ethnic groups; the Sharchopas, who are held to be indigenous inhabitants, the Ngalogpas whose ancestry is traced to neighboring Tibet and the Lhotshampas, the recent immigrants of Nepalese origin. The inhabitants of Bhutan are gracious gentle and very hospitable, they are peace loving and possess lively sense of humor.

About 82% of Bhutan’s people are farmers living in the temperate central valleys where villages are decorated in bright colors, terraced rice paddies cover the fertile mountain slopes, and rivers flow through the major towns. The plains and foothills of the tropical southern lowlands are home to many species of exotic wildlife, including the golden langur monkey, elephant, bison, tiger, rhinoceros, and a fascinating array of butterflies. Semi-nomadic people live in the high Himalayas of northern Bhutan, a pristine region of glaciers and lakes.

Religion

The State religion of Bhutan is Drukpa Kagyupa, a branch of Mahayana Buddhism. It has been institutionalized in the Dratshang (Central Monk body), headed by the Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot) who is chosen from among the most learned lamas and enjoys an equal rank with the King. Bhutan is the only country in the world to have adopted Mahayana Buddhism in its Tantric form as its official religion.
Even though the state religion in Bhutan is Buddhism, Hindus, few Muslim and some Christians.

Architecture

One of the most striking physical features of Bhutan is its architecture. The characteristic style and colour of every building and house in the Kingdom is a distinct source of aesthetic pleasure. The Dzongs – themselves, imposing 17th century structures built on a grand scale without the help of any drawing and nail – are outstanding examples of the best in Bhutanese architecture. Patterns of rich colours adorn every monasteries, temples and typical Bhutanese house in traditional splendor.

Arts and Crafts

Like its architecture, its art and crafts are important aspects of Bhutanese culture and they depict the spiritual depth of Bhutanese life. Bhutan’s thirteen Arts and Crafts known as Zhorig Chusum, Painting, Carpentry, Carving, Sculpture, casting, Blacksmith, Bamboo works, Glodsmithing and Silver smithing, weaving Embroidery, Masonry, leather works and Paper works are still strongly preserved. Whether it is on a wall, or one of the renowned Thangkhas or murals, painters use vegetables dyes to give their work the subtle beauty and warmth seen nowhere else in the world.

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