Much of Bhutan’s history is obscure, but it can be broadly summarized into three important eras: the advent of Buddhism, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel’s unification of the country and the institution of monarchy in 1907.
Before Buddhism arrived in the country, Bhutan is said to have been in a dark age with rampant evil, cannibalism and bon practice. Guru Padmasambhava who visited Bhutan on several occasions introduced Buddhism in the country.
In one occasion, guru Padmasambhava visited eastern Bhutan in pursuit of an evil spirit who fled from Tibet escaping the Guru’s wrath. Guru Padmasambhava subdued the evil spirit and blessed the site. Today it is an important pilgrimage site for every Bhutanese.
Bhutan’s ancient history abounds in Guru Rinpoche’s literature.
Until seventeenth century, Bhutan was divided among numerous warlords and rival factions. There were no laws and the country remained in anarchy.
Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel who visited Bhutan from Tibet is said to have unified the country together under a uniform law.
He also introduced the dual system of governance, the spiritual and the secular that is still in existence today. He was also responsible for warding off several Tibetan invasions.
After the death of Zhabdrung, which remained secret for a long time, the country once again plunged into fighting, rivalry and lawlessness. It continued until Ugyen Wangchuck, the first king of Bhutan, united the country once again.
Ugyen Wangchuck was officially declared the first king of Bhutan in 1907. The coronation of the fifth king of Bhutan, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck took place in Thimphu in 2008.
In the same year, the fourth king, Jigme Singye Wangchuck transferred power to the people by instituting democracy. Today, Bhutan is a constitutional monarchy with a ruling party, the opposition, and the national council, an independent house of review. The monarchy is the head of state.