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History of Bhutan (Based on Buddhism)

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Item Code: NAM645
Author: Dr. C. T. Dorji
Publisher: Prominent Publishers
Language: English
Edition: 1994
ISBN: 8186239014
Pages: 284 (8 Color and 22 B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 9.5 inch x 7.0 inch
Weight 540 gm
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Book Description

This book is a slightly revised version of the thesis entitled "History of Bhutan based on Buddhism" submitted to the Magadh University, Bodhgaya, India for Doctorate in Philosophy. As a matter of fact, I started the work on this thesis in January 1975 availing the opportunity of some leisure and only completed it in 1990. The work continued on a slow and steady basis for 15 long years.

The History of Bhutan based on Buddhism is, indeed, the first book ever to appear on this subject in English by a Bhutanese. With the exception of some erudite books in Chhokey, little has been written on such a subject in English by Bhutanese scholars. My long years of contact with contemporary men and my personal experience of the many historical, events within the country are invaluable in writing this book. The numerous conversations and personal observations that I made during the course of my many pilgrimages and visits to historical places throughout the country enabled me to gather a first-hand knowledge of the history of my country. My detailed study of the Buddhist literature in Chhokey was also a great help. It is my sincere hope that more Bhutanese scholars will come forward, in the near future, to contribute to the development of Bhutanese literature in English. Bhutan being the last sovereign independent country of Mahayana Buddhism always fascinated men of adventure and daring. It is hoped that this work will help bring about a greater awareness of the richness and intellectual depth of Bhutanese civilisation and history.

The entire structure of government, social, culture, customs and traditions of Bhutan are bound up with Mahayana Buddhism. The Chhosi- Nyidhen or dual system derives its inspiration principally from the Buddhist doctrinal lore and the ethical concepts of the trinity of the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha known as Sangye Chhyo-dang Gedun Soom. Accordingly, people do respect such value system as Tha-dag Dham- Tshi (complete pledge) and Lay-dangIum-Day (works, their causes and their results). The Bhutanese code of conduct popularly known as Driglam Namzha 'is strictly, followed by all. It emphasises a strong sense of discipline with respect for elders and seniors, and love for youngers and juniors. Importantly, the seniors must' know how to receive and reciprocate the respect shown by the juniors.

The dates mentioned in the book are on the basis of the Bhutanese almanac in the absence of a correspondence between Bhutanese and the Western system of reckoning time. An attempt has been made to use the most appropriate Bhutanese words and phrases in this book wherever possible. Therefore, I have given a glossary of non-English words and pharases used in the book. The original words and phrases exude a flavour which is so much a part of the Bhutanese way of life and culture. •It is important to mention that one can only give an approximate rendering of the words and phrases, as they appear; frankly speaking, they are un-translatable and carry their owe meaning, thought and feeling which the English language cannot exactly communicate.

The younger generation of today, who will be the leaders of our nation tomorrow, must learn to appreciate the wisdom and valour of our rulers and national heroes, and their great efforts and sacrifices in preserving the sovereignty and independence of our kingdom against foreign aggression and internal rebellion through the periods of our history. Among them, Lama Phajo, Drugom Zhigpo and his four sons; The Zhabdrung, Ngawang Namgyel; His Highness, Desi Umzey Tenzin Drugyel; His Highness, Tongsa Penlop Jigme Namgyel; His Majesty, King Ugyen Wangchuck; His Majesty, King Jigme Wangchuck; His Majesty, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuckand His Majesty, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck are notable. The young Bhutanese, armed with courage and determination, should also follow in the footsteps of our illustrious forefathers and emulate their noble examples to preserve the sovereignty and independence of our country. The Dharma must continue to flourish like the golden sun-shine in the Druk Yul, the Land of Thunder Dragon.

This humble work is an attempt to inspire young Bhutanese scholars to undertake research work on the valuable social and cultural heritage, customs and traditions, religion arid history of Bhutan. I hope, this book will fill an important gap in our present needs and it will be informative and useful, not only to students, but also to general readers wishing to find out more about the history of the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan.

As a humble student of history, I have undertaken this modest work as a means to broaden my own understanding and any flaws or inconsistencies it may contain are a reflection of my own ignorance. I must avail this opportunity to emphasise that the views expressed in the book are strictly and entirely my own and do not represent the views of any of the persons whose names have been mentioned. Therefore, I am wholly responsible for the views expressed in the book.

I have become increasingly aware of the unlimited scope for revising and improving this book. Therefore, suggestions, advice and sympathetic cooperation of all students and teachers of Bhutanese history and others working in this subject will be of tremendous help to me and I sincerely welcome them.


Bhutan, or "Druk Yul" which means the land of the Thunder Dragon, lies between Tibet and India along the slopes of the Himalayas, completely land-locked and cut off by mighty mountains. The Kingdom remained a sealed book for many centuries. Known as "the world's last Shangri-La", it was opened to the outer world only three decades ago. In fact, Bhutan was known in ancient times by several other names such as:

1LhoMon- Southern country of Mon
2Lho Yul- Southern land
3Lho long- Southern valley
4Lho Men long- Southern valley of medicinal herbs
5Lho Tsenden Jong- Southern valley of sandal-wood
6Lho Mon Khazhi- Southern Mon country of four entrances or
There are tour different entrances into Bhutan:

i) Sha Dungsam Kha in the east
ii) Lho Pasam Kha in the south
iii) Nup Dalim Kha in the west and
iv) Jang Taktse Kha in the north
N . B. ' Lho' which means 'south', is prefixed to all names as the country is situated in the southern range of the Himalayas.

7. Bhutan is derived from the Sanskrit word Bhu-Utam which means "High land".


Bhutan has an area of 47,000 square kilometres bordered to the north by Tibet, to the south by Assam and Bengal, to the east by Arunachal Pradesh and to the west by Sikkim. It lies between 88°45' and 92°10' longitude east and between 26°40' and 28°15'latitude north.

Geographically Bhutan can be divided into three zones, firstly the foothills, secondly the central belt and thirdly the highlands. The climate in the first zone is hot and humid and is unhealthy especially during the monsoon. The second zone consists of mountain valleys with moderate rainfall. The third zone is the snow-capped mountains which is covered by snow throughout the year.

The first zone includes the whole of southern ranges such as, from east to west: Diafam, Samdrupjongkhar, Nganglam, Gayleyphug, Sarbhang, Kalikhola, Phuntsholing, Samtse, Chengmari, Sibsoo and Dorokha. The vegetation and forest are very dense. Mostly tropical, deciduous forest is found here where sal, sisoo, khair, semal and teak trees grow. The altitude varies upto 3000 ft. above sea level. The second zone consists mainly of the valleys of, from east to west, Tashigang, Mongar,Bumthang, Tongsa, Wangdiphodrang, Punakha, Thimphu, Paro and Ha. In this zone temperate coniferous forest is found. The trees include fir mixed with birch, rhododendrons, pine and oak. The altitude varies from 3,000 ft. to 10,000 ft. above sea level.

The northern zone comprises Himalayan mountam ranges and the three high peaks of Kula Gangri, Jumolhari and Gangar Pun Soom and passes running in between the snow ranges separating Bhutan and Tibet. These valleys and passes are mainly used for grazing sheep and yaks during the summer season. In this zone alpine vegetation, dwarf rhododendrons, moss, lichen and other flowering plants are found. The altitude varies from 10,000 ft. to 24,000 ft. above sea level.

Bhutan is the home for several interesting and rare animals, big and small. In the north are found the large, handsome wild sheep and wild goats, the snow leopard, the musk deer, the brown bear, the red panda and the illusive yeti or abominable snow-man. Fewer snow-men, however, have been seen by the present generation due perhaps to the fact that this rare beast is on the verge of becoming extinct. In southern Bhutan many wild animals such as elephants, buffaloes, deer and rhinoes abound. Bhutan is also proud to possess Golden Langur. All kinds of birds are found including hornbills, peacocks, impayan pheasants, monal blood pheasants, snow pigeons, bare headed geese, falcons, crested serpent vultures, great homed owls, wild fowl, pelcans, swans comorants and many others. Insects and a variety of butterflies are found in Bhutan including the rare and famous Bhutan Glory.

Bhutan is Asian Switzerland. The complex mountains and valleys, high peaks and steep slopes and peaks with snow covered approaches form a fantastic setting for the Kingdom of Bhutan. Between eternal snows and humid jungle clad foothills are beautiful gentle valleys, lakes and fast flowing rivers and streams still free of pollution.

The scenery, temples, shrines" Dzongs and traditional Bhutanese houses are like something out of a geography book. At present Bhutan has twenty Dzongkhags. These are as follows:


15Tashi Yangtse
There is a rural charm about-the mountains and their natural liveliness. The mountains of Bhutan are covered with perennial snow. The main peaks with their heights are given below:

1Gangkar Pun Soom- 23,524 ft./7, 170 mtr.
2Gangphukhang- 23,524 ft./7, 170 mtr.
3Jaikhang- 23,484 ft./7,158 mtr.
4Jumolhari Gang- 24,000 ft./7,314 mtr.
5Kula Gangri- 24,953 ft./7,600 mtr.
6Masang Gang- 23,484 ft./7, 158 mtr.
7Monla Karchung- 23,950 ft./7,300 mtr.
8Tshering Gang- 23,163 ft./7,060 mtr.
Rivers Bhutan has numerous rivers and streams which flow from north to south. These rivers are never navigable but they transport logs in summer and generate hydro electric power. The following are the principal rivers of Bhutan:

The Am-mo-chhu river starts from high peaked Dangla in Tibet and flows through Chhumbi valley and enters into western Bhutan. It enters the Brahmaputra through Phuntsholing as Toorsa river.

Two rivers flow from Jumolhari through the valley of Paro, one is known as Tsang-chhu and the other as Do-chhu. They join near Paro Dzong to form the combined river Pa-chhu which joins the Wang-chhu (Thimphu chhu) at Chhun zom. The combined river of Pa-chhu and Wang-chhu joins Ha-chhu near Chapchha and flows into the Brahmaputra via Chhukha known as Raidak in the Indian plains. This is the longest river in Bhutan and is 356 km. long.

The Pho-chhu river starts from Mt. Rinchhen Dzyo near Lunana which joins the Mo-chhu below Punakha Dzong. The Mo-chhu river starts from Masang Gang and Yagla Gang near Gyon in Gasa. The combined river is called Tsang-chhu which flows through Punakha valley and meets with Dang-chhu river near Wangdiphodrang Dzong. This combined river flows through Kalikhola and then through the Indian plains as the Sankosh before joining the Brahmaputra.

Mangde-chhu river starts from Gangkhar Pun Soom and flows through the valley of Tongsa and Zhemgang which joins with Bumthang-chhu, Kuru-chhu and Dangme-chhu. Bumthang- chhu is a combination of two rivers flowing from Mela Karchung and Bumthang Dar and flows through Bumthang Changkhar and is also known as Changkhar-chhu. Kuru-chhu starts from Kula Gangri and flows through the valley of Kurtyo (Luntshi). Dangrne-chhu starts from the greater Himalayas and joins with the Nyamjang-chhu in the extreme eastern part of the country. These three rivers meet near Gayleyphug and take the name of the Manas which flows into the Brahmaputra in the Indian plains.

RACE: The present population of Bhutan is 6,00,000 . The average density of population is greater in the second zone which consists mainly of the valleys. The original inhabitants of Bhutan are the Monpas, a Mongoloid stock who lived in the dense forests of the Southern Himalayas. This race is still found in the Tongsa, Zhemgang and Dagana Dzongkhags.

Milo is another race of Bhutanese who inhabited the western part of the country. Milo in Dzongkha means one who does not go back. Sometime in the 9th century during the reign of King Relpachen (805 - 836) in Tibet, the Tibetan army invaded Bhutan. Some soldiers liked the country and decided to settle down in Bhutan. They were called Milo.

Chhoje-Dungjyu are the noble families who are the descendants of high Lamas and ruling families in Bhutan. The present Royal family also hails from such a clan.

Lhotshampas (Southerners) are the inhabitants of Southern Bhutan. They originally migrated from Nepal and settled down in Bhutan for good.

Since there was slavery in India in the olden days, some of the slaves were bought by Bhutanese to work as their servants, They were known as Jowo and Jaam for males and females respectively. However, the system of slavery was abolished by the third King of Bhutan, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck (1952 - 1972). They were also given land and equal status in the country.

A tribal people known as. Tabab-Damteb (Dongya) lives on the banks of the Am-mo-chhu river under Samtse Dzongkhag. The population is very meagre and they lead an isolated life. This tribe resembles to the Todas race of North Bengal, India. Their clothes and customs are quite different from elsewhere in Bhutan. They live on the sale of a special betel leaf called paney todum which is very popular in Bhutan.


Foreword vii
Acknowledgements ix
Preface xiii
I Bhutan: An Introduction 1
II Guru Padmasambhava 29
IIILam Kha Nga 45
IV Lam Phajo, Drugom Zhigpo 55
V The Zhabdrung, Ngawang Namgyel 67
VI His Highness, The Druk Desi 99
VII His Holiness, The Je Kbenpo 151

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