The Kingdom of Bhutan, also known as the land of the Thunder Dragon, is largely a mountainous Region spread across an area of 38,894 sq. km. Set along the soaring ridges of eastern Himalayas, the kingdom is surrounded by the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China in the north and India to its south. Isolated from the rest of the world, people of Bhutan have preserved their vibrant culture and rich flora and fauna in their pristine form, thereby making this kingdom a popular destination to rejuvenate in the lap of nature.

Bordered by India and China, Bhutan is an independent kingdom that remained closed to the rest of the world until the 60s. Owing to this isolation, Bhutanese people have managed to preserve their cultural heritage, age-old traditions, and the environment in their immaculate state. Predominantly, people here practice Mahayana Buddhism that is reflected in almost every aspect of their lives. The landscape is dotted with various monasteries, prayers flags, and monuments and one can spot monks wearing saffron clothes almost at every step. Bhutanese folks are known to be warm and hospitable in nature. Their courteousness and chivalry are sure to impress any outsider.

The topography of this kingdom is mostly mountainous with 72% forested area. The government of Bhutan has laid down many rules in order to protect the abundant natural flora and fauna. This includes maintaining a minimum of 60% of the land under forest cover at all times. The government also follows a policy of ‘high value-low impact tourism’ to protect its environment and culture. In 2013, the kingdom got enlisted amongst the top five places to visit by the New York Times and selected as the third finalist for the Tourism for Tomorrow Award 2013 by World Travel and Tourism Council. Besides, it is the only carbon negative country and the last surviving Mahayana Buddhist country

POPULATION

The Kingdom of Bhutan a country with a growth rate of about 2.1% per year currently has a population of about 700,000, 85% of which still lives in rural areas. This country has three ethnic groups namely:

Sharchops: This comprises of people who are of the Indo Mongoloid origin. They reside in the eastern part of the Kingdom and they are originally known to be the original inhabitants of Bhutan

Ngalops: They are descendants of Tibetan immigrants who in the 9th century inhabited the western region of Bhutan.

Lhotshampas: They arrived at the Bhutan Kingdom in the late 19th century, they are of Nepalese origin and upon their arrival, they decided to settle in the southern part of the country. The sub-groups of this ethnic group are Brahman, Chettri, Gurung, Rai, and Limbu

HISTORY

The name Bhutan can be derived in two ways. In Sanskrit, “Bhotant” means “the end of Tibet” and “Bhu-uttan” refers to the “high land”. The natives refer to it as Druk Yul- the Land of the Thunder Dragon.

The ancient documents begin telling the history of this kingdom from 747 A.D., the time when Guru Padma Sambhava also was known as Guru Rinpoche arrived here from Tibet, flying on a tigress’s back. He landed in the Paro Valley, at a place called Taktsang Lhakhang or Tiger’s Nest. Guru Rinpoche is not only reckoned to be the originator of the Nyingmapa religious school but also known and variations in the ecosystem. This varied landscape adds to the variation in the climatic conditions, from subtropical to temperate to polar-type. It experiences five seasons distinctively; summer, monsoon, autumn, winter, and spring

HEALTH AND EDUCATION

As part of measures to ensure that both inhabitants and visitors have a wonderful experience while in the Kingdom of Bhutan, a free healthcare scheme is offered by the kingdom mainly to citizens in order to improve the efforts of medical facilities. As proof of the efforts taken, portable water is now available to over 50% of the population and the 100% child immunization target has almost been reached.

Prior to the 1950s, monasteries were the only educational centers in the country. In as much as they are still of essential value, western education has also been made accessible throughout the country. Basic education is considered a right for every citizen and this has helped in increasing the literacy rate to a significant level

GOVERNMENT

There is a democratic monarchy in the kingdom with His Majesty, King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck as the head of the state. He is fifth in the line of the Wangchuck dynasty and ascended the Golden Throne on 9th December 2006 and the public coronation ceremony was held on 1st November 2008 coinciding with the 100 years’ monarchy in Bhutan.

The National Assembly, the National Council, The Judiciary, the Council of Minister and the Sectoral Ministries are the main institutions that facilitate the good governance of the kingdom. Different mechanisms placed at the district, block and village levels help in making the governance of the kingdom more inclusive.

GEOGRAPHY

Spread across an area of 38,394 km2, Bhutan is a landlocked country situated on the southern slopes of eastern Himalayas with India and the Tibet Autonomous Region bordering it. This elevated land lies between latitudes 26°N and 29°N, and longitudes 88°E and 93°E. The topography mainly comprises of steep mountains, lush green valleys, and rivers draining into the Indian plains. The altitude ranges between 200m to 7,000 m, contributing to the biodiversity and variations in the ecosystem. This varied landscape adds to the variation in the climatic conditions, from subtropical to temperate to polar-type. It experiences five seasons distinctively; summer, monsoon, autumn, winter, and spring.

ECONOMY

The Kingdom of Bhutan largely depends on agriculture for generating its income and 80% of the citizens’ practices either agriculture or livestock farming. Industrialization and mining are at a budding stage but showing rapid growth.

The most important resource in Bhutan in Hydroelectricity and this is exported to other countries. This constitutes 25% of the countries revenue. Calcium carbide, wood products, cement and agricultural products, such as apples, oranges, cardamom, potatoes, asparagus, and mushrooms are also exported to other countries with the aim of generating revenue.

Tourism and airline industry, the means of earning foreign exchange, form a very small part of the Gross National Product

CULTURE AND HERITAGE

Bhutan is a politically independent country despite being located between two countries that are regarded as the most populated in the world. This has helped in the preservation of the native culture of the country. Buddha’s teachings, introduced in this kingdom by Guru Padmasambhava, are strongly reflected in the daily lives of the citizens. Here, people have highly valued their traditions and followed them religiously. This embodiment has carved this nation’s identity. The uniqueness of character has been the base for all major policy formations and the means of survival as a sovereign kingdom.