Punakha, The Former Capital City
The road winds a from Simtokha Dzong into pine forest and through small villages for 20 kms and then opens miraculously on to the Northern Ridges of the mountains. The view over the Himalayan panoply at Dorchula Pass at 10,500 ft is one the most spectacular in all Bhutan. Punakha lies about 2 hours drive from Dorchula...
Paro, The Only Airstrip
All visitors are required to enter the Kingdom at Paro by the national airline, Druk-Air. It may be more convenient for some visitors to leave the kingdom via the southern outlets of Samdrup Jongkhar or Phuentsholing in the west. Twenty-five years ago all visitors would have had to walk five days across the mountains to reach...
Thimphu, The Capital City
Thimpu, perhaps the most unusual capital city in the world, Capital city in the world, is a bustling town on the banks of its own river and set gloriously in the hills of its own valley. A regal town, Thimpu is home to the revered Bhutanese Royal family and to several Foreign mission and development projects. On the bank...
History of Bhutan
The name Bhutan appears to derive from the ancient Indian term Bhotanta that means the end of the land of the Bhots. Bhot was the Sanskrit term for Tibetans, thus Bhutan could mean the end of the of Tibet. It could also extend from the Sanskrit word Bhu’uttan or high land. No one seems to be sure. Ancient’s Tibetan writers called their fertile neighbour Lho Mon or Mon Yul, paradise of the south or land of the Monpas. The Bhutanese themselves refer to their country as Druk Yul or the Land of the peaceful Dragon. Druk meaning dragon and extending from the predominant Drukpa school of Tibetan Buddhism. Bhutan’s history parallels Buddhism history one also needs to understand its religion. Mystery surrounds Bhutan’s distant past, as books and papers were lost in consecutive fires at the national printing works and at punakha Dzong in 1828 and 1832. And then a massive earthquake in 1896 and a fire in Paro Dzong destroyed all but a few of the records that outlasted the first disasters. Despite these setbacks, enough reliable information has been recorded to piece together a history, which sets a party this small Kingdom from others in its vicinity.
Bhutan was unified under a central authority until the 17th Century; however, the religious presence in the country had been acting as a spiritual cohesion for many years. It was in 747 AD that Padma Sambhava who is known as Guru Rimpoche made his legendary carp from Tibet cross the mountains flying on a tigress’s back. He arrived in the Paro Valley at Takstang lakhang, Tiger’s Nest. A monastery now perches precariously on the Cliff’s face as a permanent memory to his name. Guru Rimpoche is the father of the Tantric strain of Mahayana Buddhism practiced in Bhutan. His eight manifestations are worshipped in temples throughout the kingdom and wherever he visited in the kingdom is today a pilgrimage site highly revered by Bhutanese. Guru Rimpoche is not only recognized a the father of the Nyingmapa religious school but he is also considered to be the second Buddha.
It was in the early Middle Ages that Buddhism blossomed in Bhutan. The Tibetan-based Kasyupa School was established at the beginning of the 12th Century and missionaries were sent south to spread its teachings. The Lhapa school, Kasyupa sect, was set up in western Bhutan at the end of the12th century and the Drukpha school (another subdivision of Kasyupa) in the first half of the 13th century. For the next 500 years, disputes between the two theories of Buddhist practice were common. in the end, the Drukpa school; reignedsupreme and was even accepted in the eastern and the central areas where Nyingmapa monks had previously dominated.
Many of Bhutan’s most celebrated ancestors descend from the Nyingmapa School, including the ancestors of the present- day royal family. Prema Lingpa, the known Nyingmapasaintdied in Bumthang, his home, in 1521. He was the reincarnation of Guru Rimpoche and Longchen Rabjampa the philosopher. In his lfe he founded the monasteries at Petsheling, Kungzandra and Tamshing in the Bumthang valley. Mamy of Pema Lingpa’s descendants settled in the east where they strengthened the Nyinmapa’s hold on the area.
Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, a Tibetan lama of the Drukpa School, designed the present system of intertwined religious and secular government. He was invited in Bhutan 1616. At that time no central authority existed ands regional conflict had persisted intermittently for centuries. In his quest to unify the country, he gained the support of many powerful families of his school and constructed Dzongs (fortress monasteries) in the main valley of western Bhutan. Designed to scare aggressors, the Dzongs command a powerful presence over the valleys in which they are still the centers of religious and civil authority.
Shabdrung Ngawang fought and won a battle against the Tibetan in 1639and assumed the title Shabdrung, meaning’ at whose feet one submits’. In effect the first secular and religious leader in Bhutan. Later the Shabdrung unified the country and established himself as the country’s supreme leader and vested civil power in a high officer known as the Druk Desi. Religious affairs were charged to another leader, the Je Khenpo. The country was divided into regions and in intricate system of law was codified.
Bhutan’s first Shabdrung died in 1651. Within five years of his death the whole country had unified under the control of the central government. The last vestiges Lhapa power disappeared and Drukpa became the focus of religious and civil obedience.
Ouring the next two centuries civil wars intermittently broke out and the regional Penlpos became increasingly more powerful. At the end of the 19th century the Penlop of Tongsa (who controlled central and eastern Bhutan) over come his greatest rival the Penlop of Paro who controlled western Bhutan and was soon afterwards recognized as the overall leader of Bhutan. The Penlop of Tonga, Ugyen Wangchuck,was elected the first King of Bhutan in in 1907 by an assembly of representatives of the monastic community, civil servants and the people.
The Monarchy has thrived ever since and their present King, his majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the first King’s great grandson, commands the overwhelming support of his people.