Based on the records of stone implements Bhutan was probably first inhabited early around 1500 – 2000 BC. Buddhism was outstandingly marked on the history of the religious land as Bhutan. It was first introduced in the country in the 7th century when a Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo built first two temples in Bhutan. The one is in Bumthang ‘Jambay Lhakhang’ and the other one is in Paro ‘Kichu Lhakhang’.
The Buddhist faiths become increasingly known when Padmashambhava or Guru Rimpoche brought the Tantric form of Buddhism into this secret land in 747 AD.
Since the 12th century, many religious schools had spread widely throughout the kingdom and from 13th century onwards, the people had more rapidly adopted Buddhism, but later there were conflicts among different religious schools. Moreover, from the 15th century when many clans and noble families started to rule the different regions of the country, quarrels frequently burst out among the rulers in different valleys. Besides these; many invasions by Tibet took place in 1634, 1639, 1645 & 1648.
The country had been seriously unstable politically and religiously until the 17th century when a religious leader Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel of Drukpa School fled from Tibet & took refuge here in Bhutan. He built most of the Dzongs (fortified monasteries) in Bhutan and also fought against enemies from abroad & inside the country. He then established himself as the religious ruler with the honorary title of Shabdrung (meaning: ‘at whose feet one submits’). Shabdrung died in 1651 but his political system continued till the beginning of 20th century. However, internal disputes, political conflicts and civil wars broke out after his death. In 1907, political stability was re-established in the country when Ugyen Wangchuk was elected to be the first king of Bhutan by the assembly of representatives of the monastic community, civil servants and the people, thereby hereditary monarchy was established under the Wangchuk Dynasty. The present king Jigme Singye Wangchuk is the fourth in line.
Bhutanese culture is very rich. In contrast with many countries, traditional arts, age-old ceremonies, festivals, social conduct and structures are not remnant of a bygone age. Traditional arts & crafts are still practiced as they were done hundreds of years ago. Lively festivals are celebrated and social principles like age-old etiquette and code of conduct are still evident as they have special significance in the daily lives of the people.
Bhutanese language & literature, arts & crafts, drama, music, ceremonies and events, architecture and basic social and cultural values draw their essence from Buddhism. The influence of religion is highly visible in everyday life. Hundreds of sacred monasteries, stupas, religious institutions, mani walls, fluttering prayer flags mark the countryside, providing a strong atmosphere for the teaching of their living faith.
If you are a guest of any tour operators in Bhutan, it is taboo to circumambulate monasteries anticlockwise. It is taboo to enter the temples & sacred institutions wearing shoes and it is taboo to wear hats or shorts when entering the Dzongs and witnessing festivals. We are not being superstitious but culture-conscious. Once visited one can almost feel the mysticism of the East in the very many myths and legends, races and religions, songs and dances, history and mystery, meandering roads and serpentine rivers, body shuddering cliffs and spine-chilling gorges, rich biodiversity, amazing customs and cultures that have interwoven our existence and civilization itself.
As soon as you land in Bhutan, you will feel a difference quite different from decadence, a difference contrary to what you are used to in your part of the world, a difference in the air you breathe and above all a difference in the people you meet and talk to, a difference absolutely unique to Bhutan.