the construction of the Jampa Lhakhang (‘temple’) in Bumthang and Kyichu Lhakhang in Paro. The arrival of Padmasambhava, also known as Guru Rinpoche, in 747 AD further consolidated Buddhism as the dominant religion in the country.
The name ‘Bhutan’ appears to derive from the ancient Indian term ‘Bhotanta’ which means the end of the land of the ‘Bhots’ (Tibet). The Bhutanese themselves refer to their country as ‘Druk Yul’ (The Land of the Dragon). Druk means dragon and extends from the predominant Drukpa school of Tibetan Buddhism.
Bhutan was not unified under a central authority until the 17th century, although the Buddhist religion in the country had provided some sort of cohesion during the Middle Ages. Buddhism gained a foothold in Bhutan in the 7th century with
Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, a prominent lineage holder of the Drukpa Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism, designed the present system of intertwined religious and secular government. He came to Bhutan in 1616. At that time no central authority existed and regional conflict had persisted for centuries. In his quest to unify the country, he gained the support of many powerful families of his school and constructed Dzongs (fortresses) in the main valleys of western Bhutan. The Shabdrung fought and won a battle against the Tibetans in 1639 and assumed the title of Shabdrung, meaning “at whose feet one submits.” In effect he became the first secular and religious leader in Bhutan.
During the next two centuries, civil wars intermittently broke out and the regional Penlops (Governors) became increasingly more powerful. At the end of the 19th century, Trongsa Penlop Jigme Namgyal (who controlled central and eastern Bhutan) emerged as the most powerful Penlop and was recognized as the overall leader of Bhutan. His son, Ugyen Wangchuck, was elected as the first King of Bhutan in 1907 by an assembly of representatives of the moastic community, civil servants and the people.
This monarchy has thrived ever since and the present King, His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck, the first King’s great great grandson, receives overwhelming support from his people.
Modern Times and Democracy
On December 15th, 2006, the fourth Druk Gyalpo (King of Bhutan), His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, abdicated all of his powers as King to his son, Prince Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, with the specific intention to prepare the young King for the country's transformation to a full-fledged, democratic form of government due to occur in 2008.
In December 2007, the country began its transition to a constitutional monarchy with nonpartisan elections for the National Council. Elections for the National Assembly were held in March 2008 where nearly all seats were won by the Bhutan Prosperity Party (DPT).
On the 8th day of the 9th month of the Bhutanese lunar calendar, the 6th of November 2008, His Majesty Jigmi Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck, was enthroned as the 5th Druk Gyalpo in the Throne Room of the Tashichodzong in Thimphu.
In his first address to the nation as Druk Gyalpo, His Majesty Jigmi Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck is recorded to have said, “Our generation of Bhutanese have been gifted a strong and dynamic nation by our forefathers. I am confident that as long as we are willing to work with their commitment and dedication and follow their example, we can bring peace, happiness and prosperity to our country.”