Culture Bhutan

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Amy Adejokun
Amy Adejokun Expert destination Bhutan

Bhutan : Discover the country's culture

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Bhutan: Lonely Planet

Bhutan : Discover the country's history

Historical dates

2000 BC: The estimated date of the first settlement on the current location of Bhutan.
7th century AD: According to Bhutanese tradition, the first two Buddhist temples (Kyichu and Jampey) are constructed by the Tibetan King, Songtsen Gampo.
8th century: A tantrist of Indian origin, Padmasambhava, also known as Guru Rimpoche in Bhutan and Tibet, arrives in the country and introduces Buddhism in its tantric form. He is considered a second Buddha.
12th century: The revival of Buddhism, marked by the arrival of new religious schools and monks arriving from Tibet.
Until the 16th century: The Drukpas build temples in the east and centre of the country, while the Lhapas settle in the west.
16th century: The religious head of the Drukpas school, Ngawang Namgyal (1594-1651), creates the bases for unification of the country and introduces the system of dzongs (monastery fortresses) as administrative headquarters for the provinces. He also establishes a state clergy.
From the end of the 18th century: The British continue to extend their colonial expansion in the Himalayas. After the Duars war, in 1864, the Bhutanese grant them the band of fertile land in the south of the country.
17th December 1907: Consolidation of a hereditary monarchy to end internal strife. Ugyen Wangchuck, the old governor of Tongsa, holds the office of king until his death in 1926.
1926-1952: The reign of the second king, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, was marked by a desire to be more open towards the outside world. Installation of first western-style schools.
From 1952 to 1971: The third king, Jigme Dorje Wangchuck, was considered to be the father of modern Bhutan. The independence and birth of the Buddhist kingdom.
1959: China takes over Tibet and Bhutan accepts almost 6,000 refugees.
2nd June 1974: King Jigme Singye Wangchuck is crowned. For the first time, the international media is allowed into the country and it is the beginning of organised tourism.
Since 1990: Part of the population of Nepalese origin has been obliged to leave the country and is today in refugee camps in Nepal, while they wait for their situation to be rectified.
June 1998: The King dissolves the Council of Ministers and announces that ministers formerly appointed by him would need to stand for open election. A rotating chairman fronts the resultant cabinet.
2005: King Jigme Singye Wangchuck announces his intention to adbdicate the throne and move towards a democratic constitutional monarchy by 2008. Prince Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck circulates a draft constitution around the country which reinforces the King's idea of having a democratic government.
14th December 2006: Abdication of King Jigme Singye and coronation of Jigme Khesar Namgyel.

Bhutan : Stay up to date on the country's holidays and events

Events

Don't miss the festivals, one of the best reasons to visit Bhutan. Make sure to differentiate between the secular festivals, like the New Year celebrations whose dates vary in accordance with the regions and the year, from the religious festivals (of which the best-known is Tsechu).

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