Sunday, November 2, 2008

Bhutan, Kingdom of: A Short Summary

Differentiating Facts:

1) Population: 672,425. Called Land of the Peaceful Thunder Dragon in the Himalayas between India and China. Never colonized by other nations. Last remaining monarchy left in South Asia, the Wangchuck dynasty. New King, 28, crowned The Dragon King, November 6, 2008 at 8:31 a.m.*** (long-awaited). Bhutan had first democratic elections in March 2008.

2) Created the Gross National Happiness (GNH) Index with four components, in 1998. “A new set of guide lines by which to govern the country, is “defined by the following four objectives: to increase economic growth and development, preserve and promote the cultural heritage, encourage sustainable use of the environment, and establish good governance.”* Accordingly, in 2006 Business Week rated Bhutan the happiest country in Asia and the eighth happiest country in the world citing a global survey conducted by the University of Leicester in 2006 referenced to as the "World Map of Happiness".**

3) Has the highest unclimbed mountain in the world, the Gangkhar Puensum at 24, 835 ft (7,570 m)

Historical and Geographical Facts:

1) Capital and largest city is Thimphu. Very mountainous. Temperature ranges from subtropical in the south to polar in the north.

2) Fortresses (Dzong) were built (by a Tibetan military leader) in the 17th C to defend Bhutan against Tibetans. Bhutan also had border disputes with India (and the British East India Company) but all hostilities were ended by 1865 treaties.

3) Inheritance generally follows the female line. Love marriages in urban areas common. But polygamy is often a device used to keep property contained in a family unit. One of the safest countries in the world.

Economic Facts:

1) Few embassies in Bhutan. Informal outside contact is mostly with India. “The Indo-Bhutan Friendship Treaty of 2007 strengthens Bhutan’s status as an independent and sovereign nation.”**

2) Per capita income is US$1,321. Currency, begun in the 1960s, is the Ngultrum, pegged to the Indian rupee (also used). The military takeover of Tibet in 1959 closed all historic trade routes over Himalayas. Most trade is with India (71.3%),

3) Economy is 80% based on agriculture, rice, buckwheat, livestock farming. Hydroelectric power to India provides revenues, as do forestry, handicrafts and alcohol. Country is 64% covered in forest. Railways are nonexistent, and roads are rugged. Banned items include tobacco and plastic bags. Television was banned until 1999.

General Facts:

1) Age-old code of conduct and use of language (Dzongkha) are promoted. Law requires Bhutanese dress in public areas, and for formal wear.

2) Literacy rate is 59.5 %. Median age is 22.3 years, and life expectancy is 62.2 years. Previous King stepped down (retired) at age 52.

3) Religion is ¾ Vajirayana Buddhism, and ¼ Hinduism (roughly) and they co-exist peacefully. Nepalese immigrants to Bhutan, forced out in the 1990s, have been resettled in America. Archery, darts, shot put are national sports. Cricket, football increasing.

Source: * http://wikitravel.org/en/Bhutan

** http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhutan

***http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/nov/06/bhutan-nepal

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