If ever there be a place that can take the clinches cut of Sangrilla, then that place is Bhutan. The land of the thunder dragon does justice to the legend of that wonderland, hidden far and away from the prying eyes and humdrum ways of the modern world.
It is still as much about magic and mystery, simplicity and tranquility; and about a way of life that has escaped the clutches of time.
The Buddhist Kingdom of Bhutan lies along the lofty ridges of the eastern Himalayas, bordered by China (Tibet) to the north and northwest, and by the Indian states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, West Bengal and Sikkim on the east, south and west respectively.
With an area of 46,500 square km., Bhutan is comparable to Switzerland both in its size and topography. It was the mighty Himalayas which protected Bhutan from the rest of the world and left the Kingdom blissfully untouched through the centuries. The Drukpa Kagyupa school of Mahayana Buddhism provided the essence of a rich culture and a fascinating history. The Bhutanese people protected this sacred heritage and unique identity for centuries by choosing to remain shrouded in a jealously guarded isolation.
The Kingdom is sparsely populated, with a population of only 600,000. Four main linguistic groups constitute Bhutans population: the Sharchopas, who are held to be indigenous inhabitants.
The Bumthangpas and the Ngalongpas who originate in neighboring Tibet, and the Lhotshampas, recent immigrants of Nepalese origin.
The inhabitants of Bhutan are gracious, gentle and very hospitable. They are peace loving and possess a lively sense of humor.
Today it is the last bastion of Mahayana Buddhism. The religion which influences every aspect of life here was also the main impetus behind its birth.
The history of the Kingdom dates back to the 8th century, with Guru Padmasambavas legendary flight from Tibet to Bhutan in 747 A.D, on the back of a tigress. The Guru, also considered as the second Buddha, arrived in Taktsang (Tigers Nest), on the cliffs above the valley of Paro, and from there began propagation of the Tantric form of Mahayana Buddhism. In the ensuing centuries many great masters preached the faith, resulting in the full bloom of Buddhism in the country by the middle ages. Although sectarian at first, the country was eventually unified under the Drukpa Kagyupa sect of Mahayana Buddhism in the early 17th century, by the religious figure, Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. The Shabdrung codified a comprehensive system of laws and built dzongs which guarded each valley during unsettled times, and nowadays serve as the religious and administrative centers of their respective regions. In the next two centuries, the nation was once again fragmented into regional fiefdoms with intermittent civil wars.