Bhutan may have been inhabited as early as 2000BC, but not much was known until the introduction
of Tibetan Buddhism in the 19th century, when uncertainty conflicts in Tibet forced many monks
to flee in Bhutan. In the 12th century, the Drukpa Kagyupa School was established and remains
the dominant form of Buddhism in Bhutan today. The country’s political history is intimately
tied to its religious history and the relations among the various monastic schools and monasteries.
Bhutan and Nepal are the only two countries which have been independent throughout the history,
never conquered, occupied, or governed by an outside power. Although there has been speculation
that it was under the Kamarupa Kingdom or the Tibetan Empire in the 07th to 09th centuries,
firm evidence is lacking. From the time history is clear, Bhutan has continuously and successfully
defended its sovereignty.
The consolidation of Bhutan occurred in 1616 when Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, a Lama from Tibet defeated
three Tibetan invasions, subjugated rival religious schools, codified the Tsa Yig, an intricate and
comprehensive system of law and established himself as the ruler over a system of civil administrators.
After his death, infighting and civil wars eroded the power of the Zhabdrung for the next 200 years.
When in 1885, Ugyen Wangchuk was able to consolidate and cultivate closer ties with the British in India.
In 1907, Ugyen Wangchuck was elected as the hereditary ruler of Bhutan, crowned on December 17, 1907 and
installed as the head of the state Druk Gyalpo (Dragon King). In 1910, King and the British signed the
Treaty of Punakha which provided that British India would not interfere in the internal affairs of Bhutan
if the country accepted external advises in its external relations. When Ugyen Wangchuck died in 1926,
his son Jigme Wangchuck became the next ruler. When India gained independence in 1947, the new Indian
government recognised Bhutan as an independent country. In 1949, India and Bhutan signed a treaty of
peace and friendship, which provided that India would not interfere in Bhutan’s internal affairs but
would be guided by India in its foreign policy. Succeeded in 1952 by his son Jigme Dorji Wangchuck,
Bhutan began to gradually emerge from its isolation and began a programme of planned development.
Bhutan became a member of the United Nations in 1971, and the National Assembly was established
and a new code of law, as well as the Royal Bhutan Army and the high court.
In 1972, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck ascended the throne at the age of 20. He emphasized modern
education, decentralization of governance, the development of hydroelectricity, tourism and drastic
improvements in rural developments. He was perhaps best known internationally for his overarching development
philosophy of “Gross National Happiness” it recognises that there are many dimensions to development and that
economic goals alone are not sufficient. Satisfied with Bhutan’s transitioning democratization process,
he abdicated in December 2006 rather than wait until the promulgation of the new constitution in 2008.
His son, Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck, became King upon his abdication.