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Bhutan

Kingdom in Asia, on the NE border of India, and S of the Tibet region of China. The Himalaya Mountains run north and south here, dividing the land into valleys that are heavily cultivated. Ethnically linked to the Tibetans, most of the populace practices a form of Buddhism related to Lamaism. Bhutan’s early history is vague, but it has existed as an entity for centuries. The Tibetans conquered it in the 16th century, and c. 1630 a refugee Tibetan lama made himself dharma raja (spiritual ruler) and named a deb raja (temporal ruler). For a time after 1720 the Chinese established suzerainty over Bhutan. In the 18th and early 19th centuries there were attempts by the British to secure control, and in 1907 Sir Ugyen Wangchuk, the first of a hereditary line, was crowned king with British support.

In 1949 newly independent India took over the management of Bhutan’s defense and foreign affairs from Great Britain. The following year China occupied Tibet and claimed Bhutan, which caused India to make greater provision for defense. King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, who ruled from 1953 to 1972, abolished slavery and the caste system, emancipated women, and divided up large estates. In 1969 the monarchy was made more democratic. Jigme Singhi Wangchuk became king in 1972. The new king gradually introduced democratic structures into the Bhutanese government. In 1989, there was an uprising of ethnic Nepalese against the imposition of Bhutanese culture and thousand s were expelled from the country to Nepal. In 1999, the head of government became head of the cabinet, which is responsible to the national assembly (though the king retained much influence). In 2003, Bhutanese troops attacked bases in Bhutan where Assamese rebels had been making incursions into India. In 2005, a draft of a new constitution was released. Thimbu is the official capital, but Punaka is the traditional capital.


     

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