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Bhutan

Bhutan, the landlocked Mountain Kingdom is bordered by Tibet, China, India, near Nepal and Bangladesh. Bhutan is a land of soaring snowcapped peaks, alpine meadows and densely forested hills and ravines abounding in exotic flora and fauna. From May to August, hills are covered with an awesome variety of flowers decorated with waterfalls and streams gushing in wild abandon.

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. The visit of Padma Sambhava in 747 AD is the important landmark in the history of the country.

The kingdom’s recent history begins with a hereditary monarchy that was founded in the 20th century and continued the country’s policy of isolationism. It was under the leadership of the third king that Bhutan emerged from its medieval past of serfdom and reclusion.

Despite the speed of modernization, Bhutan has maintained a policy of careful, controlled policy of development in order to preserve its national identity.

Though known as Bhutan to the outside world, to the Bhutanese, the country is known as Druk Yul, ‘land of the thunder dragon’. The people are known as the Drukpas.

The State religion 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.

The Buddhist faith has played and continues to play a fundamental role in the cultural, ethical and sociological development of Bhutan and its people. It permeates all strands of secular life.

Bhutanese are a mongolid race of people who originally migrated into and settled the country in the 7th Century AD. A nomadic and pastoral society at first, they gradually turned to agriculture in the fertile valleys.

There are three main ethnic groups – the Ngalongs in the western and central regions are the descendants of Tibetan immigrants who arrived in Bhutan from the 9th century. The Sharchops who live in the east of the country, are recognized as the original inhabitants of Bhutan. The third group is known as Lhotshampas. They represent the Nepali speaking ethnic group. The total population of Bhutan is about 600,000.

There are many religious festivals. The best-known festivals are the Tsechus which are held at different times of the year in different locations. Tsechus are celebrated for three to five days with both monks and laymen taking part in the ritual mask dances.

Bhutan is a botanical paradise. One of the ancient names given to Bhutan was ‘Southern Valleys of Medicinal Herbs’. To name a few floras in Bhutan- rhododendrons, junipers and magnolias several meters high, carnivorous plants, rare orchids, blue poppy (national flower), Edelweiss, gentian, medicinal plants, Daphne, giant rhubarb, high-altitude plants, tropical trees, pine, and oak etc.

Among the rare and exotic faunas found in Bhutan are – Golden Langur, Red Pandas, Black-necked Crane, Snow Leopard, Takin, Musk Deer, Himalayan Brown Bear, Himalayan Marten, and Tiger, hornbills, pheasants, mountain goats and timid blue sheep.

BHUTAN INFORMATION

Land Area (sq.km):38,394

Dzongkhags (districts):20

Geogs(Blocks):205

Currency: Ngultrum

National Language: Dzongkha

Capital: Thimphu

Population: 683,407

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