December 17 – Bhutan's National Day

Posted on December 17, 2014

Wishing a happy national day to the people of Bhutan—the happiest people in Asia.


The “happiest people in Asia”??? Says who?

Says the results of a 2006 survey published by Business Week.

I am pretty sure Bhutan SHOULD have some pretty happy people. How many nations do you know that have a Gross National Happiness Commission in charge of reviewing policy decisions to increase the well-being of its people? No other nation does this—other than today's celebrating country, the Kingdom of Bhutan.

What are they celebrating?

On this date in 1907, Ugyen Wangchuck was elected the hereditary king of Bhutan.

I know that electing a king seems weird—and, trust me, not everyone in Bhutan got to vote! But back when Bhutan wasn't so happy, in the 1700s and 1800s, the people were embroiled in a war with British India and later a civil war between two rival valleys in Bhutan. Finally, in the late 1800s, a powerful governor defeated his political enemies and united the country. You guessed it: it was Ugyen Wangchuck who won control of the country. And it was he who, a few years later, was unanimously chosen to be the king. The people who chose him were monks, government officials, and the heads of important families.

Since this “election” was for a king, there weren't yearly elections—because Ugyen passed down the crown to one of his sons, and so on and on.
On 1999, the Bhutanese government lifted a ban on television and the Internet. It was one of the last countries in the world to introduce television. The king told his people that television was an important step to modernizing the nation and could contribute to the nation's Gross National Happiness. But he also warned that the “misuse” of television could dismantle some of the things that make Bhutan a pretty happy place.

Since 2007, the country became a constitutional monarchy (like the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and many other countries in the world), and so now there are general elections for lawmakers.

Learn about Bhutan

Bhutan is a small, landlocked nation squished between China and India. It is near Nepal and Bangladesh, but certain Indian states lie between these nations.

Bhutan's national animal is the takin, otherwise known as a gnu goat.

Buddhism is the most common religion—and is also the state religion. Like other religions, Buddhism has split several times and has evolved in belief and practice.

The particular flavor of Buddhism that is Bhutan's state religion is Vajrayana Buddhism.

Buddhist temples and monasteries seem to be everywhere in Bhutan:
By rivers...

Clinging to cliffs...

Even at the top of the world!

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