Bhutan, or Kingdom of Bhutan, a country in the Himalayas, bounded by India and the Chinese autonomous region of Tibet. Bhutan's area is about 18,000 square miles (47,000 km2), roughly half that of Indiana. The country consists mainly of rugged mountain ranges separated by deep valleys. Along the Tibetan border, peaks exceed 24,000 feet (7,300 m). In the central valleys, where most of the population is concentrated, elevations range from 5,000 to 9,000 feet (1,500 to 2,700 m). Thick forests cover most of the slopes. Several rivers flow southward into the Brahmaputra River in India. The climate varies from warm and humid in the south to extremely cold and dry in the highest mountains,
The people live mainly by raising livestock and a variety of grains and fruits. Forestry and mining are being developed, and there is some industry. External trade, mainly with India, includes exports of timber, fruit, and cement and imports of petroleum and textiles. Several hydroelectric stations are in operation. A paved road extends across the country east to west and connects with roads to India. There is an international airport at Paro.
The majority of people are Bhotias (also called Sharchops), of Tibetan origin; Nepalese form the second largest group. There are also Lepchas, an indigenous people, and Paharias and Santals from India. Thimbu is the capital of Bhutan.
Most of the people speak Tibetan dialects; one of these, Dzongkha, is the official language. Lamaism, a form of Buddhism, is the predominant and official religion. The Nepalese and Indians practice Hinduism. About 80 per cent of the people are illiterate. Primary and secondary education are free but are not available in many parts of the country. A teacher-training college is the only institution of higher learning.
Bhutan is governed by a hereditary monarch and the National Assembly, with a majority of members elected by village headmen. Members of the National Assembly serve three-year terms. The assembly chooses the Council of Ministers, which serves as a cabinet. Council ministers serve five-year terms. The Royal Advisory Council is appointed by the king.
During much of its history, Bhutan has been dominated by Tibet. The Bhutanese were frequently in conflict with the British in India until 1866, when they made peace in return for an annual subsidy. The hereditary monarchy was established in 1907. A 1910 treaty gave Britain control of external affairs. After becoming independent in 1947, India undertook to maintain Bhutan as a buffer state between itself and China.
During the 1960's, Bhutan's King Sigme Dorji Wangchuk, with Indian assistance, began a vast program of modernization and development. Bhutan joined the United Nations in 1971. In 1972, the throne passed to 16-year-old Sigme Singhi Wangchuk.
|Facts in brief about Bhutan|
|Official language: Dzongkha, a Tibetan dialect.|
|Form of government: Monarchy.|
|Area: 18,147 mi2 (47,000 km2). Greatest distances—north-south, 110 mi (177 km); east-west, 200 mi (322 km).|
|Elevation: Highest—Kula Kangri, 24,783 ft (7,554 m) above sea level. Lowest—150 ft (46 m) above sea level in the south.|
|Population: Current estimate—718,000; density, 40 persons per mi2 (15 per km2); distribution, 89 percent rural, 11 percent urban. 2005 census—672,425.|
|Chief products: Agriculture—barley, fruit, rice, vegetables, wheat. Handicrafts and industries—blankets, leatherwork, pottery, preserved fruit, textiles. Mining—coal.|
|Flag: The square flag of Bhutan is divided diagonally into yellow and orange halves. A white dragon in the center has a jewel in each claw.|
|Money: Basic unit—ngultrum. One hundred chetrums equal one ngultrum.|