Bhutan has recorded history since 7th century when a Buddhist prince named Guru Rinpoche first visited Bhutan in 746 AD. After his arrival Buddhism flourished in Bhutan and has today become the national religion.
The great Buddhist saint is said to have subdued many demons and evils who were residing in the deep valleys of Bhutan and turned them into protectors of Buddhism. Today, there are many sacred places across the country which has imprints and historical evidence of miraculous incidents and acts performed by Guru. Some of the tour plans include visiting these places which instills an aura of peace and zen into the visitors.
It was not until the Tibetan master named Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel who came to Bhutan in 1616 A.D. brought cultural invention and systems in Bhutan. First, he defeated all local factions trying to overpower him. Second, he united the country and instituted the dual system of governance. Two systems were separated into religious body with its head to be called Je-Khenpo and temporal system with its head to be called Desi. This system persisted until early 1900s when the country faced internal crisis of temporal leadership where a courageous man named Ugyen Wangchuck united the country and became the first hereditary king of Bhutan in 1907. The hereditary kings would thereafter become the head of temporal system with Je-Khenpo still at the helm of religious affairs.
Zhabdrung also introduced first legal system in Bhutan around 1629 by codifying the laws in Nga-Chu-Drug-Ma (the 16 legal codes) which is the foundation of moral discipline.
Zhabdrung is known to have subdued powerful evils and demons and turning them into guardians of Buddhism. Today, Bhutanese worship two of these male and female guardian protectors. The male guardian is called Yeshey Gempo (Mahakala in Sanskrit) and female guardian being Pelden Lhamo (Mahakali).
Zhabdrung was also responsible for introducing and creating unique styles of arts and crafts in Bhutan which were extensively taught in religious schools. He also initiated rituals and prayers which are still practiced today.
Bhutanâ€™s national dress is also invented by Zhabdrung.
After the death of Zhabdrung civil wars broke out in the country which became the game of power grabs. The internal turmoil persisted till 1885 when Ugyen Wangchuck, the son of brave man Jigme Namgyel, consolidated the power by uniting the country and succeeded in building ties with the then British rule in India. Consequently, Ugyen Wangchuck was enthroned as the first hereditary monarch of Bhutan on 17th December in 1907 which is today observed as the National Day.
In 1910 Bhutan and British India signed historic deal known as Treaty of Sinchula in which the British India agreed not to interfere in its internal affairs whereas Bhutan would seek formerâ€™s advice in its foreign relations. The treaty also provided that Bhutan would receive monetary compensation for the lands in southern belt which was captured by the British during a brief war fought before Ugyen Wangchuck became the first king.
After the death of the first king in 1929 his son Jigme Wangchuck became the second king. India recognized Bhutan as an independent sovereign nation when India got its independence from British rule in 1947. Bhutan and India signed another treaty in 1949 which replicated the terms and conditions put under the Treaty of Sinchula.
In 1952, the third king was enthroned. He gradually brought modernization into the country by initiating the planned developments in the country through the five-year-plan model. Under his leadership Bhutan became the member of United Nations in 1971.
The kind instituted the first National Assembly (in 1953) as the highest decision-making body in the country and thereby enacting new code of laws. He also formed the Royal Bhutanese Army and the High Court to bring justice to the people involved in legal issues.
Modern amenities like roads, hospitals and schools were built across the country by making public services like health and education free of cost. To all such accomplishments the king is referred to as the Father of Modernization.
In 1972 the third king was succeeded by his son Jigme Singye Wangchuck at the very age of 17. The fourth king consolidated the development works initiated by his father. He is particularly known for propounding the development concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH) which has today become the pragmatic tools of developing the country. This GNH defies the western development model of considering only economic metrics in developing the country but not the spiritual and emotional wellbeing of the people. So GNH is a middle path to development that integrates both material wellbeing of the country alongside spiritual and emotional wellbeing of the people.
The fourth king decentralized the powers by instituting local governments. Bhutan became member of many regional and international organizations.
In 1998 the King relinquished his powers as the head of the government and bestowed the full executive powers to the cabinet ministers with one of them becoming the chairman for a year.
At the turn of the 21st century, the king called for drafting the first ever constitution of the country. Consequently the constitution was formally adopted in 2008. It was the same year when Bhutan instituted the democratic government system in the country thereby giving its people the right to vote and choose their leaders.