Bowled Over by Bhutan - 2007

because a holy man meditated in a cave there or had a vision on that craggy

outcropping. The lamas and gurus who brought Buddhism to Bhutan are venerated but

also seem as real to the people as if they were living in the land today. Thus, echoes of

its past are actually very present in Bhutan today.


For the immediate present, the government of this country is an absolute monarchy

(with power shared somewhat unequally between the King and the Je Kempo, national

head of Buddhism). However, in 2008 the country will peacefully transform itself into a

constitutional monarchy with a legislative body elected by the people. At present, the

King’s advisory council is appointed by him as are all other officials, including judges.

There is a National Assembly elected by the people, but its power at present is very

limited. This monarchy is only 100 years old, having been formed under pressure from the

British in 1907. Prior to that time, the country was divided into several hereditarily

ruled districts led by constantly contentious warlords. The British wanted stability in

Bhutan as a buffer between China and their own colony, India. They strongly suggested

that the richest and most powerful of these warlords (the Wangchuks of Trongsa district)

become the leader of a centralized government.

Surprisingly, the Bhutanese people agreed peacefully to this suggestion and the first

monarch was crowned. He had authority over the internal affairs of the country while

Britain controllforeign relations and provided border security. In l947, when India gained

its independence from Britain, it assumed the same relationship with the Bhutanese

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