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Bhutan

Bhutan, monarchy in South Asia, in the eastern Himalayas, on the Indian subcontinent. It is bounded on the north by the Tibet region of China, and to the south, east, and west by India. During most of its early history, Bhutan was divided into a number of independent principalities located in the major valleys. A unified Bhutan emerged with a dual system of civil and spiritual rule in the 16th century. Since 1907 it has been ruled by a hereditary monarch of the Wangchuck family. Bhutan remained a secluded country until the 1950s. In 1960 the government began to transform the country into a modern nation with economic aid from India. While the development process has gained considerable momentum in recent years, Bhutan is still grouped by the United Nations (UN) among the least developed countries of the world. Democratic reforms began to be introduced in 1998, launching Bhutan’s transition from an absolute to a constitutional monarchy. The name Bhutan means “Land of the Thunder Dragon” in Dzongkha, the country’s official language. The capital of Bhutan is Thimphu.

Language and Religion:

Dzongkha is the official national language of Bhutan. It is based on Tibetan and uses chhokey (the Tibetan script) for writing. English is also widely used, particularly in education. Ngalopkha, also derived from Tibetan, is spoken in western Bhutan. Sharchopkha, which is an Indo-Mongoloid language, is the dominant language in eastern Bhutan. Nepali is spoken in the south.

The Drukpa sect of Mahayana Buddhism is the state religion of Bhutan. Nearly 75 percent of Bhutan’s population practices this form of Buddhism, which is closely related to Tibetan, or Lamaist, Buddhism. The rest mainly practice Hinduism, which varies in Bhutan from traditional Hinduism to a fusion of Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism, in which the beliefs and practices as well as the gods and shrines of both religions are worshiped. Although religious and secular authority is vested in the king, Buddhist lamas (monks) also exercise a powerful influence on national affairs.