The Bhutanese refer their country as The Land of the Thunder Dragon. The name Bhutan is derived from the Sanskrit “Bhotant” meaning “the end of Tibet”or from “Bhu-uttan” meaning “highland”.
There is evidence that Bhutan was inhabited as early as 2000 BC. By 1500 BC, people lived in Bhutan by herding animals. Buddhism was introduced into the country in the 7th century AD. Ever since, Buddhism has been an integral part of the culture of Bhutan. By the 10th century, Bhutan’s political development was heavily influenced by its religious history.
Until the early 17th century, the people of Bhutan were disunited. After that, the area was unified by Ngawang Namgyal - the Tibetan lama and military leader who had fled religious persecution in Tibet. To defend the country against Tibetan forays, Namgyal built several dzongs or fortresses. May such dzongs still exist and are active centers of religion and district administration. Namgyal also divided government of Bhutan into spiritual and secular. Meanwhile, in 1627, two Portuguese were the first recorded Europeans to visit Bhutan on their way to Tibet. In the 18th century, the country lapsed into internal conflict. At the same time, the British gained more power in India. Bhutan first made a treaty with the British in 1774. War finally broke out in 1864. After the war, British took over Duars, the lowest hills of Bhutan.
In 1907 Ugyen Wangchuk was elected king of Bhutan. Then in 1910, Bhutan and Britain signed a treaty. Britain agreed not to interfere in the internal affairs of Bhutan as long as the Bhutanese accepted British advice on its external relations. In 1947, India became independent. Two years later, India signed a treaty with Bhutan. India agreed not to interfere in Bhutanese affairs as long as Bhutan accepted Indian advice on its internal affairs.
In the 1960s Bhutan ended its isolation. Bhutan joined the Colombo Plan in 1962. Bhutan joined the Universal Postal Union in 1969 and joined the UN in 1971. Meanwhile, the king of Bhutan introduced a number of reforms although he was keen to preserve Bhutanese traditions. The king created the National Assembly and the Royal Bhutanese Army.
In 1999 satellite TV was allowed in Bhutan for the first time. Then in the early 21st Century Bhutan became a democratic country. In 2005 the king unveiled a new constitution. The first democratic elections for parliament were held in 2008.