Bhutan: The most popular destination today beckons:
On the roof of the world, nestled on the lap of the Eastern Himalayas is Bhutan or the kingdom of the Thunder Dragon. Here, centuries old way of life, culture and tradition blend harmoniously with modern times to create a fairy-tale realm like no other.
Bhutan has never been colonized and its people are fiercely protective about their independence. After centuries of self-imposed isolation, Bhutan has emerged strongly from the shrouds of myth as a nation exemplified for choosing all the right paths. Bhutan is perhaps the only country in the world where billboards and tobacco are banned. Their absence further heightens the nation’s intact forest cover of more than 70 percent of its entire land. Bhutan is among the prestigious top 10 global hotspots for environmental conservation. Bhutan is also the recipient of the Champions of The Earth Award 2005 from the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).
Gross National Happiness:
Underlying all policies of the king through the year of unprecedented development is the principle of Gross National Happiness (GNH). The approach of people’s happiness over gross national product has generated intense study, debate and interest worldwide. In Bhutan, it has always been the interest of the people first for the benevolent monarch, and GNH the ultimate aspiration.
A mythical history of saints and legends:
In the 8th century, Guru Rimpoche, a Tantric Buddhist saint arrived in Paro on the back of a flying tigress and meditated in a cave. A temple is built around this cave on a sheer rock face overlooking the valley of Paro. The spread of Tantric form of Buddhism thus began. Recorded history began in 1616 with the coming of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel from Tibet. He was a great leader of the Drukpa school of Mahayana Buddhism. He established a temporal and spiritual system of governance and introduced the first code of laws.
The monarchy is born:
Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck, founded the monarchy in 1907. A historic Assembly of the clergy, the official administration, and the people unanimously elected Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck as the first hereditary king of Bhutan. He was succeeded by his son Jigme Wangchuck.
The third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, known as the “Father of the Modern Bhutan”, initiated planned development and led the country into the global arena with memberships in the United Nations and the other international organizations.
In 1972, King Jigmi Singye Wangchuck became the youngest Monarch in the world. In the short span of four decades of his rule, Bhutan has leapt from the medieval to one of the fastest developing nations of the new millennium.
The king champions democracy:
The Fifth King of Bhutan, Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck is himself steering the kingdom towards democracy. Presently, the nation is run by a council of elected Ministers.
An unrivalled culture, tradition and art:
The Bhutanese language and literature, the arts and crafts, ceremonies and events, social and cultural values draw their essence from religious teachings. The policy of the Government, royal patronage and the faith of the people have ensured their preservation and promotion.
One of the significant features of the Bhutanese identity is architecture. The combination of engineering skill and aesthetic beauty is unparalleled in the massive monastic fortresses to houses and bridges.
Music and dance performed by the monks and the lay people play an important role in national, village or domestic functions and festivals. Bhutan is equally renowned for its handicrafts and its textile tradition has become internationally recognized.
Way of life:
More than 80 percent of the Bhutanese live on subsistence farming, scattered in sparsely populated hamlets across the nation. The Bhutanese are fiercely independent, but friendly and hospitable. They are deeply religious and their everyday lives are influenced by the tenets of Buddhism. They enjoy their sports, unique variations of archery, Khuru (darts), Dego (quoits) and never miss an opportunity to sing and dance.
The best that nature has to offer:
Bhutan’s terrain ranges from the sub-tropical foothills in the south, through the temperate zones to dizzying heights of over 7,300 meters. Each zone boasts the highest density of rare herbs, flowers, birds and animals.
46 varieties of Rhododendrons grow on alpine slopes and the national flower, Blue Poppy, are visual delights across the country. The Blue Sheep, the Snow Leopards, the Black Bears, the Golden Langurs and Takins, the national animal roam abundantly. Some valleys are also the roosting grounds of the endangered Black Necked Crane in winter.