Often referred as the last surviving Shangrila and a mythical-like country hidden deep in the Eastern Himalayas, Bhutan is a small country in terms of population as well as geographical size. Strategically sandwiched between China and India, the landlocked kingdom of 720,680 people has an area of 38,394 square kilometres endowed with lofty peaks, alpine meadows and densely forested hills. Bhutan was never colonized in history and has always remained independent nation-state from centuries to date.
Little is known about Bhutan’s early history. Stone tools that have been found indicate that the country was inhabited as early as 2000 BC while the recorded history begins with the construction of two monasteries circa 638 AD by the Tibetan Buddhist King, Songtsen Gampo - the Kyichu Lhakhang in Paro and Jampa Lhakhang in Bumthang, and visit in 747 AD by an Indian saint popularly known as Guru Rinpoche (the Precious Master), who brought Buddhism to Bhutan and the Himalayan world.
Between the seventh and seventeenth centuries, many Buddhist saints visited Bhutan and consequently people became Buddhist practitioners. An eminent lama called Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel (1594-1651) came from Tibet in 1616 and became the founder of Bhutan by uniting the numerous principalities under one central theocratic rule. Our medieval culture and socio-economic life evolved around this theocracy. However, after Zhabdrung’s death, a long civil strife between different factions struggling for power continued until Sir Ugyen Wangchuck was unanimously elected and crowned the first hereditary monarch on December 17, 1907. Since then, Bhutan has been ruled by successive monarchs of Wangchuck dynasty and the present king is fifth in the line of succession.
The devolution of power to the people and initiation of democratic process in Bhutan emanated from the Golden Throne. In fact, after centennial of absolute monarchy under the dynamic and farsighted leadership of Wangchuck dynasty, Bhutan became a democratic constitutional monarchy with the first ever parliamentary elections held on March 24, 2008. Now the organs of the Bhutanese government comprise of the Legislature, Judiciary and the Executive. The ruling political party, the opposition and the National Council forms the legislative body. The Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan, formally adopted on July 18, 2008, is today the supreme law of the country.