Brief History 

The ancient history of Bhutan is shrouded in mystery. The absence of archeological evidence and documented records makes it all more the vague. However according to many legends that abound and the folklore associated with Bhutan we can safely conclude that this time forsaken enclave nestled in the high Himalayas was looked upon as a fantasy land since times immemorial. Early Tibetan texts have described it as ‘Lho-Mon- Kha-Zhi’ southern (Mon) country of four approaches. Also as ‘Lho-Jong-Men-Jong’ southern valleys of medicinal herbs or as ‘Lho-Mon-Tshenden-Jong’ southern valleys where sandal wood grows. Sanskrit scholars referred to it as ‘Bhot-Anta’ meaning the end of Tibet. The later allusion provided the basis for its name. Today it is known to the world at large as Bhutan.

Although not much is known about the preceding years the history of Bhutan can actually be chronicled with the advent of the great tantric saint and Buddhist philosopher Padmasambhava in the year 757 A.D. known in Tibet and Bhutan as Guru Rinpochoe ( precious master) Padmasambhava is considered to be the second Buddha by the followers of Mahayana Buddhism. Worshiped as the patron saint of Bhutan this venerable master of tantrism and a most influential Buddhist preacher is held in utmost reverence by practitioners of Mahayana (tantric) Buddhism all over the world. Going by one of the most enduring legends of all time Padmasambhava is believed to have arrived in Bhutan riding on the back of a flying tiger. The spot where he landed on a rocky cliff overlooking the scenic Paro valley is one of the most celebrated pilgrimage sites in Bhutan. A monastery built to commemorate this fateful historical event at the place known as ‘Tak-Tsang’ (tigers lair) is today one of the most picturesque landmarks of Bhutan.


The introduction of Buddhism in Bhutan brought settlers from Tibet especially in the 9yh and 10th century A.D when wide spread internal strife and religious persecution was rampant in Tibet. During that turbulent period in Tibet many religious preachers, aristocrats, leaders of powerful clans and followers of different sects fled the Tibetan hinter land and sought refuge in the remote regions of Bhutan. Over the years they gradually assumed power and spread their religious and cultural influence over the lands they came to occupy. Bhutan came under the ambit of Mahayana Buddhism rapidly after the revival of Buddhism in Tibet from the 11th century onwards. By the beginning of the 13th century Bhutan gained prominence in the sphere of expansion and consolidation of tantric Buddhism. Many saints and scholars spread their missionary activities in the southern valleys. Some of the most sacred temples, monuments and monasteries dedicated to the Buddhist faith were built and established in Bhutan during this period. By the later half of the 15th century almost all of the entire region had been converted.


Though Buddhism as a religion and way of life spread its tentacles in Bhutan and reached the far flung corners of the country. It did little to bring about political integration of the region. For centuries internecine wars were commonly fought among sectarian clans, tribal chieftains and war lords who were in constant conflict with one another. In the early half of the 17th century 1616 A.D onwards the ‘Drukpas’ led by Ngawang Namgyal a charismatic leader who later assumed the title ‘Zhabdrung’ (at whose feet one submits) emerged as the most powerful sect in western Bhutan. The Drukpas quickly established their might and power in the valleys of Thimphu, Paro, Punnakha and Wangdi Phodrang. After a series of conquests in central and eastern parts of the country under the able leadership of the Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal the Drukpas were finally able to subdue all opposition and unify the country under a strong central authority. By 1656 A.D Bhutan finally took its definitive shape and identity as a country ruled by the Drukpas.


Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal died in 1651 A.D but his death was kept secret for almost half a century. While the quest was still on for a worthy successor Bhutan once again became embroiled in a state of perpetual turmoil. Intermittent civil war broke out and generations of Drukpas owing allegiance to either one of the two most powerful governors/’Penlops’ (Paro penlop and the Trongsa Penlop continued to wage war against each other. The bitter power tussle lasted for more then a century and a half. The final battle that decided the course of history of the nation took place in 1885 A.D. it was fought between the Paro penlop governor of western Bhutan and the Trongsa penlop who governed the central and eastern region. The grounds of Changmlimithang near Thimphu the present day capital witnessed a historic event in which the armies led by Ugyen Wangchuck the Trongsa penlop defeated their arch enemy the forces led by the Paro penlop. The victorious Trongsa penlop ‘Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck’ went on to claim supremacy over all other rivals and became recognized as the most powerful leader of the Drukpas.


He reinstated the power of the central authority institutionalized by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. A system of government in which political secular and civil governance was shared between the temporal head who presided over the clergy had the power to decide over matters of religious importance. The political head was vested with discretionary powers of civil governance and administration.


After the establishment of a strong and powerful authority at the center smooth function of governance and administration took roots in Bhutan. Towards the end of the 19th century. Bhutan came to be recognized as a strong and sovereign entity upon the coronation of Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck as the first Druk Gyalpo (king of Bhutan) elected through an unanimous vote passed by an assembly of representatives of the people civil servants and the monastic body in the year 1907.


Ever since then hereditary monarchy has been established in Bhutan for over a century. Under the able leadership and guidance provided by successive generations of benevolent kings of the Wangchuck dynasty. The people of Bhutan have been enjoying a blissful period of unprecedented peace prosperity and political stability. One of the most remarkable events in the history of Bhutan is the peaceful transition of power now vested into the hands of the people by the reigning monarch himself. In one of the rarest cases ever recorded His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck the fourth king of Bhutan himself championed the cause of democracy. In the present system the king remains as the head of state while directly elected council of cabinet ministers headed by the prime minister is delegated with the power and responsibility of administration and governance.

In an epoch making ceremony in the year 2008 that has opened a new chapter in the history of Bhutan. His majesty the fourth king of Bhutan voluntarily announced the end of his reign so as to let his son and heir to the throne succeed him as the 5th king. thus the 5th king of Bhutan his majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck was crowned as the new king on 6th November 2008.