10 Interesting Facts about Bhutan
The Kingdom of Bhutan is a small sovereign Himalayan nation, sandwiched between the giants, China to the north and India to the south. To help guard the precious sovereignty, a strong emphasis is laid on the preservation and promotion of its unique culture. This also has developed an awe-inspiring uniqueness that catches the eyes of every visitor the moment they set foot on Bhutanese soil. Here, we present ten interesting facts that keep Bhutan unique.
1. A COUNTRY THAT HAS NEVER BEEN COLONIZED
There are only a handful of countries on our planet that were not colonized by a European country. Bhutan, a tiny kingdom with a population of just 750,000, is one of them. This achievement is largely attributed to its inaccessible geography, close knit communities, self-reliance, and the smart and timely negotiations of the far-sighted kings and spiritual leaders of the past. The absence of outside influence over the years has preserved Bhutan to such an extent that a good part of it still remains unexplored.
2. THE CONCEPT OF GROSS NATIONAL HAPPINESS
Gross National Happiness (GNH), is a farsighted gift to a nation and its people from the Golden Throne. GNH is a holistic and sustainable approach to development that aims to achieve a balanced development in all aspects of life that are essential for the happiness of the general population. Sustainable and equitable socio-economic development, good governance, environmental conservation, and preservation of culture are the four pillars of GNH. Every decision made for the country is made with the interest of enhancing GNH.
3. THE ONLY CARBON-NEGATIVE COUNTRY IN THE WORLD
Bhutan is the first country in the world with specific constitutional obligations to maintain and protect 60 percent of forest cover at all times. These protected forests, in turn, absorb three times the amount of carbon generated annually (2.2 million tonnes), creating a carbon sink. Bhutan also exports most of the renewable hydro-electric power generated from the rivers and aims to export enough electricity by the year 2020 which will offset 17 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in India every year. Mass tree plantation campaigns, a ban imposed on timber export, a nation-wide plastic bag ban and free electricity provision for farmers to cut down on forest dependence have also immensely contributed to this achievement. Bhutan celebrated the birth of our new prince by planting 108,000 trees in the year 2016.
4. A BUDDHIST DEMOCRATIC MONARCHY
Bhutan officially shifted from a state of absolute monarchy to democracy in the year 2008, a sacred gift from the far sighted Golden Throne to its people. The Fourth King of Bhutan, in his pursuit for democracy and GNH, abdicated the Golden Throne in 2006 in favor of his son, His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuk. The first democratic elections were held in the year 2008 (the same year the Fifth King ascended the throne).
5. THE HIGHEST UNCLIMBED MOUNTAIN IN THE WORLD
Bhutan is home to 18 peaks that rise above the 7,000m mark. These mountains are considered to be so sacred that locals chant prayers, burn juniper leaves and hang prayer flags to appease gods and spirits and ask forgiveness for having set foot on their pure abodes. Bhutan forbids summiting high mountains as a means not to upset the gods and spirits. And, for this reason, the world's highest unclimbed mountain, Mt. Gangkar Puensum (24,840 feet), is in Bhutan.
6. THE NATIONAL ANIMAL IS AS UNIQUE AS THE COUNTRY ITSELF
The National animal of Bhutan, Takin, owes its special place in Bhutanese culture to the eccentric tantric saint, Drukpa Kunley, who lived in Bhutan five centuries ago. It is believed that when the Bhutanese people begged Drukpa Kunley to perform a miracle for them, he agreed on the condition that he first be fed a whole cow and a whole goat for lunch. When nothing but a pile of bones remained, Drukpa Kunley reassembled the skeletons, placing the goat's head on the body of the cow. With a click of his fingers, life was breathed into this bizarre combination, and the takin has walked Bhutan's hillsides ever since.
7. THE FIRST COUNTRY TO IMPOSE A NATIONWIDE BAN ON TOBACCO PRODUCTS
In 2004, Bhutan became the first country to ban tobacco nationwide. Defaulters are slapped fines or jail terms if found smoking in prohibited areas. Officially, Bhutan is a tobacco-free country and smoking in public places or at official events is forbidden.
8. HIGH VALUE, LOW IMPACT TOURISM
In order to protect the Bhutanese culture, tradition and environment, the government adheres to a policy of "High Value, Low Impact Tourism." This policy aims to attract discerning tourists who will respect the unique culture and values of the Bhutanese people — and to provide visitors with an unforgettable, nourishing experience.
9. INTERNET AND TV DIDN’T EXIST UNTIL 1999
Bhutan was formally introduced to the world of television in June of 1999, in the form of the Bhutan Broadcasting Service; who adopted the motto of ‘the last country to open up to television broadcasting’. The collective request of the general population for a live broadcast of the ’98 World Cup Finals led to the government finally allowing the introduction of television. The internet was introduced in 2001.
10. NOT A SINGLE TRAFFIC LIGHT
Bhutan by decree has no traffic lights. There was such a public outcry against unwanted complications brought about by the installation of a single signal a few years back that it had to be removed as quickly as it was installed.