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Bhutan

 
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Bhutan

BHUTAN

[GIF]

Bhutan's national symbol. The traditional sacred wheel of Buddhism is used to symbolize the king (center) surrounded by his ministers (the spokes). The two dragons surrounding the wheel stand for religious and secular administrations. The jeweled umbrella, a Buddhist symbol of luck, suggests spiritual protection for the people of Bhutan; the lotus blossom at the bottom represents peace and gentleness.

"IN THE THUNDER DRAGON KINGDOM, adorned with sandalwood, the protector who guards the teachings of the dual system; he, the precious and glorious ruler, causes dominion to spread while his unchanging person abides in constancy, as the doctrine of the Buddha flourishes, may the sun of peace and happiness shine on the people." These few words--the text of the national anthem of Bhutan--sum up much about the spirit and culture of a society that sprang from an aboriginal people and was enriched by Tibetan, Mongol, and Indo-Burman migrants. Buddhism has been a pervasive influence in Bhutan throughout most of its history and has long been the state religion and source of civil law. Unified Bhutan has had two forms of monarchy: from the sixteenth century to the early twentieth century, a dual system of shared civil and spiritual rule; and since 1907 the hereditary monarchy of the Wangchuck family.

Once one of the many independent Himalayan kingdoms and principalities, Bhutan, like Nepal, is situated between two Asian powers, India and China, which, at best, have had an uneasy standoff politically and militarily for nearly half a century (see fig. 2). Bhutan's independence has long been at issue in the geopolitical maneuverings between Tibet (and later China) and India. In the late twentieth century, Bhutan has fended off this external threat with conscientiously planned economic development. A serious internal threat to Bhutan's traditional identity started peacefully in the 1950s and 1960s among the growing Nepalese minority, which represented 28 percent or more of the population in the early 1990s and emerged as a violent "prodemocracy" movement in the late 1980s. The 1990s promised to be a crucial period for the monarchy as it continued to foster economic and administrative reform amid efforts to retain traditional culture and to assuage minority unrest.

Data as of September 1991

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