The Kingdom of Bhutan is a landlocked South Asian nation situated between India and the People’s Republic of China. The entire country is mountainous except for an 8-10 mile (13-16 km) wide strip of subtropical plains in the extreme south which is intersected by valleys known as the Duars. The elevation gain from the subtropical plains to the glacier-covered Himalayan heights exceeds 23,000 feet (7,000 m). Its traditional economy is based on forestry, animal husbandry and subsistence agriculture however these account for less than 50% of a GDP now that Bhutan has become an exporter of hydroelectricity. Cash crops, tourism, and development aid (the latter mostly from India) are also significant. Population estimates range from 734,000, to 2.23 million. Thimphu is the capital and largest town.
Bhutan is one of the most isolated nations in the world; foreign influences and tourism are heavily regulated by the government to preserve its traditional Tibetan Buddhist culture. Most Bhutanese follow either the Drukpa Kagyu or the Nyingmapa school of Tibetan Buddhism. The official language is Dzongkha (lit. “the language of the dzong”). Bhutan is often described as the last surviving refuge of traditional Himalayan Buddhist culture. Non-Buddhists complain of human rights violations. Approximately 100,000 ethnic Nepali (who are generally Hindu) left the country in the 1980s because they were unhappy with new government policies designed to reduce the growing illegal immigration from Nepal.
Bhutan has been a monarchy since 1907. The different dzongkhags were united under the leadership of Trongsa Penlop. The current king, Jigme Singye Wangchuk, has made some moves toward constitutional government.
Origins of Name ‘Bhutan’
The origins of the name Bhutan are unclear. Historians have suggested that it may have originated in variations of the Sanskrit words Bhota-ant (the end of Bhot – a variation of the Indian Sanskrit word “Buddha” meaning enlightened, another word for Tibet), or Bhu-uttan(highlands). The word Bhutan as a name for the country dates from the late 19th Century.
The Dzongkhag (and Tibetans) name for the country if Druk-Yul(“Land of Dragona”)
Historically, Bhutan was known by many names, such as Lho Mon (Southern Land of Darkness), Lho Tsendenjong (Southern Land of the Sandalwood), and Lhomen Khazhi(Southern Land of Four Approaches)