Secluded in the foothills of the Himalayas between China and India, Bhutan is a unique country which has maintained a delicate balance between tradition and modernity. It is a national pride for the Bhutanese to claim that they are the happiest people on earth. It is not merely due to the development philosophy of Gross National Happiness, but because the traditional communal, ecological, religious, and cultural values are still intact.
Since 2008, Bhutan became a Democratic Constitutional Monarchy. The reigning monarch of Bhutan is the fifth Druk Gyalpo (Dragon King) His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck. The political system, which grants universal suffrage, consists of two houses of Parliament, namely the National Council and the National Assembly. His Majesty the King is also part of Parliament.
Most Bhutanese practice Buddhism as their spiritual heritage, which is also the state religion. The national language of Bhutan is Dzongkha, and the national dresses are the gho for men and the kira for women.
The Kingdom of Bhutan, often referred to as the Last Shangri-La is a successful amalgamation of a traditional way of life and modernization.
Bhutan – The first carbon-neutral country
The Kingdom of Bhutan is globally recognized for her dedicated commitment to the conservation of biodiversity as mandated by the constitution. The constitution requires that “a minimum of sixty percent of Bhutan’s total land shall be maintained under forest cover for all time”.
This is reflected in the allocation of more than 40% of the country’s territory as national parks, reserves and other protected areas. Moreover, a further 9% of the land area is designated as biodiversity corridors connecting the protected areas. Despite the temptation of rapid industrialization to address the current economic needs, Bhutan has pledged to remain carbon-neutral.
Gross National Happiness
Bhutan is well-known for its unique development philosophy of Gross National Happiness (GNH) which recognizes the need to balance material well-being with the spiritual, emotional, and cultural well-being of individuals and society for holistic development. Although GNH philosophy is rooted in the profound Buddhist doctrine of ‘Middle Path’, in layman’s terms, it could be defined as economic development without losing socio-cultural and spiritual values. GNH comprises four pillars and nine domains.
1. Sustainable and equitable socio-economic development
2. Environmental conservation
3. Preservation and promotion of culture
4. Good governance
1. Living standards
5. Community Vitality
6. Time use
7. Psychological well-being
8. Good governance
9. Cultural resilience and promotion
GNH is can be seen not only as a development vision but also as a set of values and processes which would define the boundaries for acceptable behaviour and future policies. This philosophy does not completely negate the significance of economy for the country. However, it recognizes that there is a limit to how much economic development can contribute to well-being in the absence of softer values.
The primacy of socio-cultural, spiritual and environmental values to well-being is captured by Fourth King Jigme Singye Wangchuck when he said that “Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross National Product.”
Facts about Bhutan
Area: 47,000 sq km.
Location: Eastern Himalayas between India and China.
Population: 735, 553 (2017)
Time: Bhutan is plus 6 hours GMT.
Form of government: Democratic Constitutional Monarchy.
State religion: Buddhism
National language: Dzongkha.
Currency: Ngultrum (at par with Indian rupee).
National bird: Raven
National flower: Blue poppy
National tree: Cypress
National animal: Takin
National Day: December 17
National Dress: Gho for men and kira for women