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History of Bhutan ...

History of Bhutan dates as far back as the 6th century A.D., while the real historical period started with the introduction of Buddhism from 7th century A.D. Since then, Buddhism has largely shaped the history of Bhutan and the way of life of its people. The earliest notable relics visible of the history of Bhutan, today, are the two monasteries, the Kyichu Lhakhang in Paro and Jambay Lhakhang in Bumthang which were built in the 7th Century A.D. Little is known about Bhutan of that period.

The geographical situation kept the world at bay and together with the policy of isolationism this small kingdom was never colonized which is a matter of great pride to the Bhutanese. Its ancient history, which is a mixture of the oral tradition and classical literature, tells of a largely self-sufficient population that had limited contact with the outside world until the turn of the century. Bhutan is one of the only countries which has been independent throughout its history, never conquered, occupied, or governed by an outside power. Although there has been speculation that it was under the Kamarupa Kingdom or the Tibetan Empire in the 7th to 9th centuries, firm evidence is lacking. From the time historical records are clear, Bhutan has continuously and successfully defended its sovereignty.

The consolidation of Bhutan occurred in 1616 when Ngawanag Namgyal, a lama from Tibet, defeated three Tibetan invasions, subjugated rival religious schools, codified an intricate and comprehensive system of law, and established himself as ruler (Shabdrung) over a system of ecclesiastical and civil administrators. After his death, infighting and civil war eroded the power of the shabdrung for the next 200 years when in 1885, Ugyen Wangchuck was able to consolidate power and cultivated closer ties with the British in India.

In 1907, Ugyen Wangchuck was elected as the hereditary ruler of Bhutan, crowned on December 17, 1907, and installed as the head of state Druk Gyalpo (Dragon King). In 1910, King Ugyen and the British signed the Treaty of Punakha which provided that British India would not interfere in the internal affairs of Bhutan if the country accepted external advice in its external relations. When Ugyen Wangchuck died in 1926, his son Jigme Wangchuck became the next ruler, and when India gained independence in 1947, the new Indian Government recognized Bhutan as an independent country. In 1949, India and Bhutan signed the Treaty of Peace and Friendship, which provided that India would not interfere in Bhutan's internal affairs but would be guided by India in its foreign policy. Succeeded in 1952 by his son Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, Bhutan began to slowly emerge from its isolation and began a program of planned development. Bhutan became a member of the United Nations in 1971, and the National Assembly was established and a new code of law, as well as the Royal Bhutanese Army and the High Court.

In 1972, Jigme Singye Wanchuck ascended the throne at age 16. He emphasized modern education, decentralization of governance, the development of hydroelectricity and tourism and improvements in rural developments. He was perhaps best known internationally for his overarching development philosophy of "Gross National Happiness." It recognizes that there are many dimensions to development and that economic goals alone are not sufficient. Satisfied with Bhutan's transitioning democratization process, he abdicated in December 2006 rather than wait until the promulgation of the new constitution in 2008. His son, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, became King upon his abdication.

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