The Kingdom of Bhutan (Dzongkha: འབྲུག་ཡུལ་; Wylie: 'brug yul; "Land of the Thunder Dragon"), is a landlocked country in South Asia, located at the eastern end of the Himalaya Mountains and bordered to the south, east and west by the Republic of India and to the north by the People's Republic of China. Bhutan is separated from the nearby Nepal to the west by the Indian state of Sikkim, and from Bangladesh to the south by Indian West Bengal.
Bhutan used to be one of the most isolated countries in the world. Developments including direct international flights, the Internet, mobile phone networks, and cable television have increasingly modernized the urban areas of the country. Bhutan balanced modernization with its ancient culture and traditions under the guiding philosophy of Gross National Happiness (GNH). Fervent protection of the environment has been a top priority. The government takes great measures to preserve the nation's traditional culture, identity and the environment. In 2006, Business Week magazine rated Bhutan the happiest country in Asia and the eighth-happiest in the world, citing a global survey conducted by the University of Leicester in 2006 called the "World Map of Happiness."
Bhutan's landscape ranges from subtropical plains in the south to the Sub-alpine Himalayan heights in the north, with some peaks exceeding 7,000 metres (23,000 ft). The state religion is Vajrayana Buddhism, and the population of 691,141 is predominantly Buddhist, with Hinduism being the second-largest religion. The capital and largest city is Thimphu. After centuries of direct monarchic rule, the King voluntarily abdicated himself for his son and devolved power to the people. Bhutan held its first democratic elections in March 2008 and Druk Phumtshum Tshogpa (Peace and Prosperity Party) won by a landslide margin (winning 45 out of the 47 seats). Among other international associations, Bhutan is a member of the United Nations and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and hosted the sixteenth SAARC summit in April 2010. The total area of the country is currently 38,816 square kilometres (14,987 sq mi).
Bhutan is a unique country both culturally and environmentally. Perched high in the Himalayas, it is the world’s last remaining Buddhist Kingdom. It has developed the philosophy of Gross National Happiness; where development is measured using a holistic approach of well-being, not just based on gross domestic product.
It is still termed as a third world country with subsistence farming practised in much of Bhutan. In broad terms the land is fertile and the population small. In addition, the current generation receives free education, and all citizens have access to free, although rudimentary, medical care. The sale of tobacco products is banned and smoking in public areas is an offence punished with fines.
Major sources of income for the kingdom are tourism, hydroelectric power and agriculture.
While traditional culture has been very well preserved, the opening of the country to TV and internet in 1999 has had a major effect, and modern-day culture is mostly centred on bars and snooker halls. As a result, there is very little or no evidence of quality contemporary art, theatre or music.
Culturally, Bhutan is predominantly Buddhist with Dzongkha as a national language (although there are regional variations - such as Sharchopkha, the predominant language in Eastern Bhutan), and a common dress code and architectural style. Bhutanese people primarily consist of the Ngalops and Sharchops, called the Western Bhutanese and Eastern Bhutanese, and Lhotshamphas (Southern Bhutanese), a people of Nepalese Gurkha Origin, respectively. The Ngalops primarily consist of Bhutanese living in the western part of the country. Their culture is closely related to that of their neighbour to the north, Tibet.
Because of the danger of their distinct culture being overwhelmed by Hindu Nepalese immigrants, some of whom had been in Bhutan for generations, many were expelled or fled as stateless persons to refugee camps in Nepal.
Gross National Happiness
This ideology was the brain child of King Jigme Singye Wangchuck who, having gained a modern education in India and the UK, realised that mere economic success did not necessarily translate into a content and happy society. Consequently, soon after his coronation in 1974, the young king began to float the idea of developing a new set of guidelines by which to govern the country. Slowly these ideas took shape, and in 1998 the GNH indicator was established. GNH stands for "Gross National Happiness" and is defined by the following four objectives: to increase economic growth and development, preserve and promote the cultural heritage, encourage sustainable use of the environment, and establish good governance. While the concept of GNH receives much international praise and is a major draw for tourists, potential visitors should be aware that the idea is very much in its incubation stage, and there is very little evidence of GNH in the country itself.
On 19 July 2011, 68 countries joined the Kingdom of Bhutan in co-sponsoring a resolution titled “Happiness: Towards a holistic approach to development,” which was adopted by consensus by the 193-member UN General Assembly. In follow up to the resolution, the Royal Government of Bhutan convened a High Level Meeting on “Happiness and Well Being: Defining a New Economic Paradigm” on 2nd April 2012 at the United Nations headquarters in New York. This meeting initiated the next steps towards realising the vision of a new well being and sustainability based economic paradigm that effectively integrates economic, social, and environmental objectives. Following this resolution, Bhutan continues to be a champion of the resolution and actively promotes the concept internationally.
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