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Bhutan History and Culture

     Bhutan is known to the Bhutanese as "Druk Yul" or "Land of the Thunder Dragon". It is located at the south of Tibet and the north of north east of India as Assam and Sikkim. It is the only independent Buddhist Monarchy in the world. It remained isolated to the Western world until 1974, when the government decided to allow the first foreign visitors to enter the country.
     Buddhism was introduced in the 7th century. At this time there was no central government in the country, but as Buddhism matured within Bhutan, it became a unifying element for the country. Bhutan's early history is steeped in Buddhist tradition and mythology.
     Bhutan's medieval and modern history was a time of warlords, feuds, giant fortresses and castles. By the 10th century, the monks of the Kargyupa sect of Mahayana Buddhism began to build dzongs (fortified monasteries) in the valleys of Bhutan.
     The Drukpa subsect of the Kargyupa sect spread through Bhutan and became a dominant religion. In 1616 a Drukpa monk, Ngawang Namgyal, founded a theocratic government, uniting the powerful Bhutanese families.
     During the Ngawang Namgyal's ruling, Bhutan developed a dual system of government with two leaders; a spiritual leader entitled dharma raja and a civil government leader entitled deb raja. In the late 1800s Ugyen Wangchuck, the governor of Tongsa, brought the country under his control.
     After the dharma raja died in 1903 and no suitable replacement was found until 1906, the dual system of government was abolished. In 1907 Ugyen Wangchuck was installed as the first hereditary druk gyalpo of Bhutan; he reigned until 1926. He was succeeded by his son Jigme Wangchuck, who reigned from 1926 to 1952. The third druk gyalpo, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, ruled from 1952 to 1972.
     During this period Bhutan began its program of modernization and development. Jigme Dorji Wangchuck ruled until his death in July 1972 and was succeeded by his seventeen-year-old son, Jigme Singye Wangchuck.
     Despite the speed of modernization, Bhutan has maintained a policy of careful, controlled policy of development in order to preserve its national identity.
     Bhutan is comprised of a mosaic of different peoples who continue to live in valleys isolated from one another and the outside world by formidable mountain passes.
     Differing ethnic groups are also distributed according to the varying environments. It is possible to divide Bhutan's population into three broad ethnic groups, though the distinctions blur in places. Mainly Nepalese farmers who arrived in the country at the end of the 19th century inhabit Southern Bhutan. They brought the Hindu religion with them as well as the Nepalese language, which is still spoken today over much of Southern Bhutan.
     The central Himalayan region is the home of the Drukpa people, who are of Mongoloid origin. Most breed cattle or cultivate the land, and their dwellings are spread over a wide area. The Northern Himalayan Zone, over 3,000 meters (9,000 feet), is the haunt of semi nomadic yak herdsmen.
      They spend most of the year in their black yak hair tents, but also possess dry-stone walled houses, where they spend the coldest months of the year and which are used to store their goods.
      Additives to a diet composed mainly of yak milk, cheese, butter and meat are barley and winter wheat, plus a few root vegetables grown in small fields. Believed to be the earliest inhabitants of Bhutan, the Sharchops are of Indo-Mongolian type, though their exact origin is unknown (Tibet being the most likely source). At present, they live mainly in the east of Bhutan.


Acknowledgements: ASIATRAVELMART.COM

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