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Map of Bhutan :

Location :
Southern Slopes of the eastern Himalayas North Longitude: 88 45’ - 92 10’ East, Latitude: 26 45’ - 28 15’ North

Capital : Thimphu

Area : 38,394 square kms.

Geography :
Bhutan has a land area of 38,394 square kilometres bordered by China in the north and India in the south. The country is not only landlocked but has one of the most formidable mountainous terrains in the world, ranging from 100 metres to 7,500 metres in height. The climatic conditions vary due to the mountainous nature of the country. The country is subject to the monsoon rain in summer, with a relatively dry winter. About 72 percent of the land area is covered by forests of temperate and sub-tropical species that are a natural habitat of a diversity of flora and fauna. The country has one of the richest biodiversity in the world with about 3,281 plant species per 10,000 square kilometres and has been declared as part of one of the ten global biodiversity ‘hotspots’. The country is also endowed with a river system that has an estimated potential to generate 30,000 MW of hydroelectricity. The four major rivers, Amo Chhu, Wang Chhu, Punatsangchhu, and the Drangme Chhu and their tributaries have carved fertile valleys in central and western parts of the country, and provide irrigation to the southern and eastern plains before flowing into the Brahmaputra river basin. The steep and unstable terrain and the relatively young mountain system however render the country to be ecologically very fragile. Agricultural production is also severely constrained, as only around 16 percent of the land area is cultivable. The population is largely rural with 79 percent of the population still living in villages despite a growth in urban drift in recent years. It is estimated that 39.1 percent of the population is under the age of 15. While there are several language groups and communities, the country is essentially composed of two broad ethnic groups, the Drukpas who are mongoloid and are of Buddhist faith making up 80 percent of the population, and people of ethnic Nepalese origin who are mainly indo-aryan and of Hindu faith. Administratively, the country is divided into 20 Dzongkhags composed of 201 Gewogs (Blocks).

Climate :
Bhutan has three distinct climatic zones corresponding broadly to the three geographical divisions – hot and humid Southern belt, cool temperate central zone, and alpine Northern region.

Population : 634,982 (2005)

Religion : Drukpa Kargyupa tradition of Mahayana Buddhism, Hinduism

The National Flag :

The upper yellow half of Bhutan’s flag signifies the secular authority of the King. It is the colour of fruitful action, both in religious and state matters. The orange half of the flag denotes the religious practice and spiritual power of Buddhism as it is manifested in the Kargyupa and Nyingmapa sects, the historic springs of the Bhutanese faith. The dragon honours the people’s name for their country: Druk Yul, Land of the Thunder Dragon. Its colour, the white of purity expresses the loyalty of the country’s many racial and linguistic groups. The dragon’s snarling mouth expresses the stern strength of the male and female deities protecting Bhutan, the jewels it clasps in its claws are symbols of the land’s wealth and perfection.

The National Emblem :

The symbol of the sacred jewel at the top of the royal crest signifies that the Buddhist Sovereign is raised supreme above all heads, in the compassionate form of the triple gem. The crossed Vajras (diamond sceptres) in the centre represent the harmony between the noble and ancient customs of spiritual and secular law, and modern power and authority. The qualities essential for harmony flow naturally and imperceptibly from the spiritual essence of the Vajra. The male and female turquoise thunder dragons embrace in unity symbolise the name of the Kingdom: Druk Yul. Druk means thunder dragon, Yul means land. The thunder of summer storms like a dragon’s roar reverberates across mountains and valley speaking of the country’s glory.

National Day : 17th December

History :
Bhutan is a small Himalayan kingdom situated between China and India. A conscious policy of isolation complemented by formidable geographical barriers enabled the kingdom to maintain its independence throughout its history. Ancient stone implements and other archaeological findings indicate that there were settlements in the country dating back to 2000 B.C. The chronicled history of the kingdom, however, begins with the advent of Buddhism in the 8th Century.

In 747 A.D. the Buddhist sage, Padmasambhava, popularly revered in Bhutan as Guru Rimpoche or the Precious Master, visited the country and introduced Buddhism. Since then, Buddhism has occupied a predominant role in shaping the social, political, economic and cultural evolution of the country. In the centuries that followed, various Lamas or Buddhist teachers and local nobility established their own separate domains throughout the country.

In the 17th Century, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (1594-1652), a leader of the Drukpa Kargyu school of Buddhism consolidated the country under a unified power and established the Chhoesi or dual system of the Royal Government, whereby both the temporal and religious authority were separated and vested in the Druk Desi and Je Khenpo respectively. By the end of the 17th century, the country emerged with a distinct national and cultural identity as well as an unprecedented degree of political stability.

By the second half of the 18th century, the country witnessed a resurgence of political instability. The unity of the country was affected by internal dissent. External threats in the latter half of the 19th century added a new dimension to the political quandary. It was against this background that the need for strong national leadership emerged. Peace and stability was restored with the enthronement of His Majesty King Ugyen Wangchuck as the first hereditary monarch of the kingdom in 1907. The establishment of the monarchy ushered in a new era of peace and stability and most significantly unified the country under a central authority. It also set in motion a steady process of engagement with the outside world and laid the foundations for the country as a modern nation state.

During the reign of the second King, His Majesty Jigme Wangchuck (1926-1952), the country took its first steps towards modernization by sponsoring a program of education and training of Bhutanese abroad. The third King, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck (1952-1972) instituted far-reaching political, social and economic reforms. He instituted the National Assembly, the High Court, the Royal Advisory Council and a system of Government which would be responsive to the social and economic needs of the country. He started the planned development process in 1961. He also guided Bhutan to membership in the UN in 1971, ensuring the kingdom a place in the international community.

Since his coronation in 1974, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the fourth King, has dedicated himself to defining and realizing a long-term vision and direction for the country. He promoted an approach of development which calls for careful balance between creation of material wealth and the spiritual, cultural and social needs of the society. He set up a system of Government which is responsive to the political, social and development needs of the country. The functions of state were clearly defined and divided among the various organs of governance. He also pursued a process of democratization and involvement of the people in their own affairs from the national to the community level. His Majesty’s philosophy and approach have been clearly established and increasingly been recognized, enhancing the country’s identity and role in the international community.

The establishment of Dzongkhag1 Yargye Tshogdus (DYT)2 in all 20 districts of Bhutan 1981; Gewog3 Yargye Tshogchungs (GYT)4 in all 201 gewogs of the country in 1991; the devolution of full executive authority to an elected Council of Ministers directly accountable to the National Assembly of Bhutan in 1998; and the drafting of a written constitution in 2001 are some of the significant initiatives taken by the fourth King.

1 District
2 District Development Committees
3 Administrative Unit or Block. A gewog is a made up of a number of villages.
4 Block Development Committee

On 14th December 2006, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the fourth King, voluntarily abdicated the throne and handed over His responsibilities as the Monarch and Head of State to the Crown Prince His Royal Highness Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck who has since assumed responsibility as the fifth King of Bhutan.

Bhutan is currently undergoing important political changes initiated by the fourth King. Public consultations on the draft Constitution have been held in all 20 districts of the country and the first national elections to elect a government under a system of parliamentary democracy will take place in 2008.

Language :
Bhutan’s official language is Dzongkha. English is the medium of instruction in secular schools while Choekey (classical Dzongkha) is used in traditional and monastic schools.

Head of State :
His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck
King of Bhutan

Prime Minister & Minister for Foreign Affairs : Lyonpo Khandu Wangchuk

Speaker of the National Assembly : Dasho Ugen Dorje

Chief Justice : Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye

The Bhutanese system of governance is in many respects unique in the world. It provides people with direct access to the nation’s monarch, and offers a forum in which the elected representatives debate and take decisions on matters of national importance, with an agenda that is based upon the concerns and aspirations of the local community. Immense importance is accorded to decentralisation aimed at further empowering local communities and providing opportunities for them to share in decision-making on the future of the nation.

While far-reaching initiatives were undertaken by successive monarchs to strengthen the Kingdom’s political and legal institutions and establish an effective democratic framework, the most significant political changes were initiated by His Majesty King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, fourth in the Wangchuck Dynasty.

In 1981, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck introduced a programme of administrative and political decentralisation. This was implemented initially through the establishment of District Development Committees and subsequently through the establishment, in 1991, of Block Development Committees. The devolution of power has enabled people to play a more active role in the decision-making processes at all levels, given them greater social responsibilities, and created transparent processes.

In addition to being the Head of State, His Majesty the King was also the Head of Government until 1998 when he introduced major changes during the 76th session of the National Assembly. Through an unprecedented Royal Edict, he called for greater people’s participation in the decision-making process and devolved full executive authority to an elected Council of Ministers. The old Cabinet was dissolved and the National Assembly elected six new Cabinet Ministers through a secret ballot. In keeping with the Royal Edict, the National Assembly also adopted a mechanism to register a Vote of Confidence in His Majesty the King. The 77th session of the National Assembly in July 1999 further debated and endorsed the mechanism for a vote of confidence in the King. The 81st session of the National Assembly, which concluded in August 2003 elected an expanded Council of Ministers of ten members thereby strengthening the government.

His Majesty the 4th King believed that it was his personal responsibility to establish a political system whereby the people can govern themselves. A significant political reform in recent years has been the drafting of a Written Constitution. Following a Royal Decree issued by His Majesty the King in September 2001, a drafting committee comprising of eminent representatives of the clergy, government, and the people drafted a Written Constitution for Bhutan to establish a dynamic system of governance which would uphold the true principles of democracy.

Bhutan is currently undergoing important political changes initiated by the fourth King. The draft Constitution was released in March 2005 and public consultations on the draft Constitution were held in all the 20 districts of the country. The first national elections to elect a government under a system of parliamentary democracy will take place in 2008.

The National Assembly, the Royal Advisory Council, the Judiciary, the Council of Ministers and the ten Ministries form the core of the government in the Kingdom of Bhutan.

The Tshogdu (National Assembly), established in 1953, is composed of 150 members of whom 105 are directly elected, 10 represent the clergy, and 35 are nominated by the government. The National Assembly is the highest legislative body and is an independent institution which elects the Council of Ministers, approves the annual budget, legislates Acts governing the country, and discusses national issues.

The Judiciary is independent of the legislature and the executive. A High Court is headed by a Chief Justice with seven judges. Each of the twenty districts has a district court with a District Judge.

The Lhengye Zhungtshog (Cabinet) was established in 1968. With the devolution of power by His Majesty King Jigme Singye Wangchuck in 1998, the Cabinet is now the highest executive body in the country. It consists of the Council of Ministers and members of the Lodey Tshogdey (Royal Advisory Council). Its members are collectively responsible to His Majesty the King and the Tshogdu (National Assembly).

The Lodey Tshogdey (Royal Advisory Council or RAC) was formally established in 1965 to advise the King and government ministers and to supervise the implementation of programmes and policies laid down by the National Assembly. The Royal Advisory Council continues to be a consultative and advisory body. There are nine members of the Royal Advisory Council including the Chairman. Six members are elected representatives of the public, two are elected representatives of the clergy, and one is nominated by the government who serves as the Chairman of the RAC.

Given the long religious history of the country, the Dratshang (Monastic Body), continues to play an important role in the spiritual and cultural lives of the people. It not only engages in religious practices, but also participates in important state institutions such as the Tshogdu (National Assembly) and the Lodey Tshogdey (Royal Advisory Council). The Monastic Body comprises of the Central Monastic Body and the District Monastic Bodies. The current strength of the Monastic Body is about 5,000 registered monks. It is financed by an annual grant from the Royal Government. The Monastic Body is the sole arbiter on religious matters. His Holiness, Je Khenpo, chosen from amongst high-ranking monks, is the head of the Monastic Body and is assisted by four high-ranking monks.

Bhutan is divided into twenty administrative districts composed of 201 blocks. Each district is administered by a District Administrator, responsible for civil administration and development. The District Administrator is assisted by a Deputy and various sectoral officials, who are responsible for implementation of activities in their respective districts. The larger districts are sub-divided into sub-districts headed by Sub-District Administrators.

Except for a few nominated members, all other members of the National Assembly, Royal Advisory Council, District Development Committees and Block Development Committees are elected by the people through secret ballot.

The institution of Trongsa Penlop, started by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, is more than 350 years old. It signifies and establishes the true heritage to the Bhutanese throne. Bhutan celebrated the accession of His Royal Highness Dasho Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck as the 16th Trongsa Penlop in 2004. This landmark event has a symbolic and functional significance. It is symbolic by way of upholding an important national tradition. Its functional significance lies in the continuity of monarchy that defines the Bhutanese character. The investiture ceremony of His Royal Highness Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck as Trongsa Penlop became the formal declaration of his status as the Crown Prince.

His Majesty Ugyen Wangchuck, the first King of Bhutan, served as the Trongsa Penlop between 1882 and 1907. His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the fourth King, was installed as the Trongsa Penlop on 15th May 1972 at the age of 16 years.

Bhutan has made great progress in improving the living standards of its people since it first set forth on a plan for modernization in the early 1960s. Bhutan has enjoyed strong economic performance with GDP growth averaging 6% a year over the past two decades.

Bhutan’s development has been rapid. Until the 1950s, Bhutan isolated itself from the rest of the world, and its dispersed rural population depended on subsistence agriculture. Once it opened to the outside world in the 1960s, Bhutan embarked on a far-reaching development strategy that has been articulated in nine Five-Year Plans. The Ninth Five-Year Plan (July 2002 to June 2007) is currently under implementation.

Over the past decade, social indicators have improved. Infant mortality per 1,000 live births has been reduced from 77 in 2000 to 67 in 2004. Maternal mortality rates in 2000 were estimated at 420 deaths per 100,000 live births, compared to 564 in the South Asia region as a whole. The prevalence of child malnutrition in Bhutan has dropped from 37.9% in 1990 to 19% in 1999. Literacy and education enrollment rates have also risen. Unlike much of the rest of South Asia, primary school enrollment among girls is higher than boys in many urban areas, and nationwide almost half of primary school students are girls. Property rights are also much more equal than in most of South Asia, with women rather than men inheriting property in some areas.

GDP in million : Nu.36,915 (2005)
Average GDP growth : 6.5 per cent
Currency : Ngultrum (100 chetrum = 1 Ngultrum)

Gross National Happiness
The concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH) suggests that happiness is the ultimate objective of development. The concept of GNH, rather than GNP (Gross National Product), as a development objective and philosophy was envisioned and initiated by His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the fourth King, in the late 1980s.

Three factors have exerted a major influence on the course of Bhutan’s development :

  • a continuous and uninterrupted culture. Bhutan was never conquered or colonized, resulting in a nation with a strong identity of its own;
  • a difficult terrain, which isolated it geographically and politically; and
  • Vajrayana Buddhism provided a world-view upon which successive Kings of Bhutan have based their policies of developing Bhutan’s potential in every field.

The concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH) suggests that happiness is the ultimate objective of development. It recognises that there are many more dimensions to development than those associated with Gross National Product (GNP), and that development should be understood as a holistic process that seeks to maximise happiness rather than just economic growth. For the overall development of the individual and society, it is essential to achieve a sustainable balance between the economic, social, emotional, spiritual and cultural needs of the people. This has led to the declared objective of viewing development as a continuous process towards maintaining balance between the material and the intangible needs of individuals and society.

Four major thrust areas have been identified as the main pillars of GNH. These are: economic growth and development; preservation and promotion of cultural heritage; preservation and sustainable use of the environment; and good governance.

Guided by the philosophy of Gross National Happiness (GNH), Bhutan has been making steady progress in every sector. Hydroelectric power, economically the most significant sector for Bhutan’s goal of self-sustaining development, has had an impressive growth. Education and health sectors have made tremendous strides and continue to be most crucial social components of the country’s development programme. The government’s fiscal situation has been improving steadily. Progress has been made in the development of human resources and legal infrastructure. Full executive responsibility for running the government has been vested upon the Council of Ministers, elected by the National Assembly. Furthermore, the Constitutional Drafting Committee has recently completed the Draft Constitution for Bhutan which is intended to establish a dynamic political system by which people can govern themselves and ensure the progress of Bhutan as a nation.

Key Natural Resources :

  • Minerals: Dolomite, Limestone, Gypsum, Slate, Coal, Talc, Marble, Zinc, Lead, Copper, Tungsten,
  • Quartzite· Crops: Rice, Maize, Wheat, Potato, Millet, Buckwheat, Orange, Apple, Cardamom ·
  • Hydro-Power Potential of 30,000 MW
Bhutan is a land of rich mosaic of cultures, lifestyles, languages and belief systems. In a country with a population of just over half a million, as many as 19 different dialects and a few languages are spoken. This is attributed to the fact that in the past, Bhutanese communities settled in the valleys with limited communication. It is for the same reason that the sense of individuality and independence emerges as a strong characteristic of the people.

The Bhutanese are, by nature, physically strong and fiercely independent with an open and ready sense of humour. Hospitality is an in-built social value in Bhutan. People wear colourful dresses. The men wear a Gho, a long robe tied around the waist by a slim fabric belt, or Kera. Kira, the main garment of women is an ankle length wrap-around dress secured by a belt around the waist, and fastened at the shoulders with silver brooches called Korma.

There is no rigid class system in Bhutan and social and educational opportunities are not affected by rank or birth. Bhutanese women enjoy equal rights with men. Both men and women are free to choose their partners for marriage and both can initiate a divorce. Monks are held in great respect and play an important part in community life. Representatives of the monk body are present at all important occasions. In the past, it was common for one son from each family to enter the monastic order, a custom that is less prevalent today.

Bhutan’s traditional culture is alive in its performing arts, such as dance and music, which are integral parts of ceremonies and festivals all over the country.Unlike many countries, traditional arts, age-old ceremonies, festivals, social conduct and structures are not remnants of a bygone age. Traditional arts and crafts are still practiced as they were done hundreds of years ago. Vibrant festivals are celebrated and social principles like the Driglam Namzha (age old etiquette and code of conduct) are still evident because they continue to have a special significance in the daily lives of the people.

Bhutanese language and literature, arts and crafts, drama, music, ceremonies and events, architecture, and basic social and cultural values draw their essence from Buddhism. Just as the Kingdom’s history is characterised by religious landmarks, the influence of religion is highly visible in everyday life. Hundreds of monasteries, stupas, religious institutions, prayer flags and prayer wheels mark the countryside, providing a strong infrastructure and atmosphere for the teachings of their living faith.

Bhutan’s traditional culture is alive in its performing arts, such as dance and music, which are an integral part of religious ceremonies. In addition, secular performances such as dance, songs, traditional instrumental music, drama based on biographies of religious personalities hold a special place in the lives of the people as they play an important role in national, village, or domestic functions and festivals. Bhutan’s textile tradition has, in recent years, gone international. The distinct technique, colour and style of indigenous Bhutanese weaving is being increasingly appreciated by textile specialists, collectors and users from many parts of the world.

The state religion of Bhutan is the Drukpa sect of Kargyupa, a branch of Mahayana Buddhism. Since its introduction in the eighth century, Buddhism has shaped the nation’s history and played a vital part in the life of its people. Throughout Bhutan, from the most densely populated valleys to the most remote mountain way-stops, religious monuments and symbols bear witness to a deep and respected faith. One comes across prayer wheels, prayer flags and the sacred mantra Om Mani Padme Hung carved on stone slabs and rocky hillsides.

Chortens (Stupas) housing the sacred relics dot the landscape. Goenpas (Monasteries) and Lhakhangs (Temples), some dating back to as early as the eighth century, are the focal point of each village. Bhutanese arts are deeply imbued with a strong sense of morality, with many art forms epitomising the eternal struggle between forces of good and evil.
Bhutan’s membership in the ACD was confirmed during the ACD Foreign Ministers’ Meeting held on the sidelines of the 59th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on 27th September 2004. Bhutan participated in the ACD Ministerial Meeting for the first time at the Fourth ACD Ministerial Meeting in Islamabad from 4-6 April 2005.

In the region, Bhutan is a founding member the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) which was established in 1985. Bhutan became a member of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) in 2004.
Bhutan Portal https://www.bhutan.gov.bt
Internet Service Provider for Bhutan https://www.druknet.bt
Kuensel (The National News Paper) https://www.kuenselonline.com
Centre of Bhutan Studies https://www.bhutanstudies.com
Ministry of Foreign Affairs https://www.mfa.gov.bt
Ministry of Agriculture https://www.moa.gov.bt
Bhutan Broadcasting Service Corporation https://www.bbs.com.bt
Druk Air https://www.drukair.com.bt
Department of Information Technology https://www.dit.gov.bt
Planning Commission https://www.pcs.gov.bt
Ministry of Trade & Industry https://www.mti.gov.bt
Royal Civil Service Commission https://www.rcsc.gov.bt
Ministry of Finance https://www.mof.gov.bt
Royal Audit Authority https://www.raa.gov.bt
Construction Board https://www.cdb.gov.bt
Cultural Trust Fund https://www.ctf.gov.bt
Department of Employment and Labour https://www.employment.gov.bt
National Technical Training Authority https://www.ntta.gov.bt
Department of Tourism https://www.tourism.gov.bt
Youth Development Fund https://www.youthdevfund.gov.bt
Bhutan Health Trust Fund https://www.bhtf.gov.bt
Education Division https://www.education.gov.bt
Royal Institute of Management https://www.rim.edu.bt
Bhutan Post https://www.bhutanpost.com.bt
Bhutan Telecom https://www.telecom.net.bt
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