Secluded in the Eastern Himalayas between India and China ( Tibet ), as big as Switzerland , but sparsely inhabited (population barely 700,000), Bhutan certainly exudes charm, a mythical country with magnificent mountains, dense forests, delightful people, imposing architect and pure air, Bhutan is truly Shangri-la.
With 80 percent of the population engaged in agriculture or raising livestock, Bhutan remains a rural country almost devoid of industry, except in the south. The beauty of the pastoral landscape can seem unreal to travelers from the industrialized world: houses with brightly decorated window frames and shingled roofs, patchworks of green paddy fields, plots of tawny buckwheat, oak forests, a covered bridge, fences of intricately woven bamboo, a man leaning on a wooden rail trampling his harvest, a woman weaving in the open air, yaks browsing in a grove of giant rhododendron.
Archaeological evidence suggests Bhutan was inhabited possibly as early as 2000 BC. Buddhism was probably introduced in the 2nd century although traditionally its introduction is credited to the first visit of Guru Rinpoche in the 8th century. Guru Rinpoche is one of the most important figures in Bhutan ‘s history, regarded as the second Buddha.
Bhutan has been a monarchy since 1907. The different dzongkhags (districts) were united under the leadership of Trongsa Penlop. The forth king, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, made some moves toward constitution government, announced in December 2005 that he would abdicate in 2008 in favour of his eldest son. On December 14, 2006, the crown prince took over the throne. Mock election was held in April 2007, and the parliamentary elections are scheduled to be held in 2008.
The forth monarch, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, believed in the policy of controlled development with particular focus on the preservation of the environment and Bhutan’s unique culture. Among his ideals is economic self-reliance and what has now become widely known as ‘Gross National Happiness’. His coronation on June 2, 1974 was the first time the international media were allowed to enter the Kingdom, and marked Bhutan’s debut appearance on the world stage. The first group of paying tourists arrived later that year. In major political reform in June 1998, the king dissolved the Council of Ministers and announced that ministers formerly appointed by him would need to stand for open election. A rotating chairman fronts the resultant cabinet. In 1999 television and Internet were first introduced to Bhutan.