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Bhutan History Timeline

Prehistory

Bhutan’s prehistoric(Bhutan History Timeline) era fell roughly between 500 B.C. and A.D. 500. Natural calamities and man-made activities like fire, earthquake, flood, and battles destroyed whatever records may once have existed. For instance, the fire accident in 1832 in a Dzong (monastery-fortress) in the old capital Punakha, and the major damages caused to the same structure by an earthquake in 1897 were the specific causes of destruction to Bhutan’s historical documentation of that era. Nevertheless, several stone tools and megaliths available suggest that Bhutan was populated as early as 2000-1500 B.C.

Also little is known about the country’s early history. The preserved artifacts available in some of the ancient monasteries indicated, that Bonism, a shamanistic ritual, was followed in Bhutan before the advent of Buddhism. The Bon tradition and ritual are still observed in some rural areas of Bhutan during the celebration of local festivals.

debri painting | Bhutan History Timeline
debri painting of guru rinpoche in Bhutan
Early history

The country’s recorded history dates back to the era of the introduction of Buddhism in the 7th century A.D. Soon after, Buddhism greatly shaped the history of Bhutan and the tradition of its inhabitants. Bhutan’s physical location kept the ancient world at bay and together with the policy of self-imposed isolation this small kingdom was never colonized which is a matter of great pride to the Bhutanese. Its ancient history is a mixture of oral tradition and classical literature and tells of a largely self-sufficient population that had little contact with the outside world until 1900.

Two visible and treasured structures of ancient Bhutan are the Kyichu monastery in Paro and Jambay Lhakhang monastery in Bumthang which were built in the 7th Century A.D., a period when little was known about the land. However, only after the visit of a great Buddhist Saint Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) in 747 A.D., did the foundation of Buddhism become strong in the country. Some of the most revered and sacred sites of pilgrimage related to the Guru still exist in Paro and Bumthang valleys; the places where he meditated, transformed the local demons and left the imprint of his body on a rock.

Bhutan’s prehistoric era fell roughly between 500 B.C. and A.D. 500.

Phajo Drugom Zhingpo was the Buddhist spiritual master who arrived in the early 13th century and founded the Kagyu institution of Mahayana Buddhism in Bhutan.

The dual system of government established by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal consisted of a spiritual leader, the Je Khenpo, as the religious head and the Desi as the temporal leader, with each looking after different aspects of governance.