Meaning of BHUTAN, FLAG OF in English

diagonally divided (yellow-orange over orange-red) national flag featuring a white dragon in its centre. Its width-to-length ratio is 2 to 3. Traditionally, the sound of thunder in the many mountains and valleys of Bhutan is believed to be the voice of dragons, and the country is known as the Land of the Thunder Dragon in its native language. However, the flag's dragon design may have been influenced by similar designs used for centuries by the neighbouring Chinese. In its claws the dragon on the flag grasps jewels, standing for national wealth and for perfection. The dragon, which was originally green, is now white, symbolizing purity and the loyalty of various ethnic groups within the country. The yellow-orange colour, which the Bhutanese government officially describes as yellow, is symbolic of the power of the king, as head of the secular government, while the orange-red is associated with the Bka'-brgyud-pa (Kagyupa) and Rnying-ma-pa (Nyingmapa) Buddhist sects and with the religious commitment of the nation. The exact date of introduction of this flag is unknown, but it may have occurred in 1971 when Bhutan joined the United Nations. Until the 1960s Bhutan was largely closed to the outside world; its foreign relations had been conducted through the United Kingdom (191049) and by India (from 1949 to the 1960s). Bhutan's isolation and lack of a seacoast strictly limited the circumstances under which a national flag was required. Whitney Smith History Bhutan's rugged mountains and dense forests long rendered it almost inaccessible to the outside world, and the country's rulers reinforced this isolation by banning foreigners until well into the 20th century. Then, under pressure of neighbouring countries with strategic interests in Bhutan, a slow change began, and the lack of outside contacts became a hindrance to modernization. Bhutan's government is now committed to the twin policies of modernization and economic development. The period of isolation The historical origins of Bhutan are obscure. It is reported that over three centuries ago an influential lama from Tibet, Sheptoon La-Pha, became the king of Bhutan and acquired the title of dharma raja. It seems probable that Bhutan became a distinct political entity about this period. La-Pha was succeeded by Doopgein Sheptoon, who consolidated Bhutan's administrative organization through the appointment of penlops (governors of territories) and jungpens (governors of forts). Doopgein Sheptoon exercised both temporal and spiritual authority, but his successor confined himself only to the spiritual role and appointed a minister to exercise the temporal power. The minister became the temporal ruler and acquired the title of deb raja. This institution of two supreme authoritiesa dharma raja for spiritual affairs and a deb raja for temporal mattersexisted until the death of the last dharma raja in the early 20th century. Succession to the spiritual office of dharma raja was dependent on what was considered a verifiable reincarnation of the deceased dharma raja, and this person was often discovered among the children of the ruling families. When the last dharma raja died in the 1930s, no reincarnation was found, and the practice and the office ceased to exist. For much of the 19th century Bhutan was plagued by a series of civil wars as the penlops of the various territories contended for power and influence. The office of the deb raja, in theory filled by election by a council composed of penlops and jungpens, was in practice held by the strongest of the governors, usually either the penlop of Paro or the penlop of Tongsa. Similarly, the penlops, who were to be appointed by the deb raja, in practice fought their way into office. Throughout most of Bhutanese history a continuous series of skirmishes and intrigues took place throughout the land as superseded jungpens and penlops awaited an opportunity to return to power. In 1907, after the dharma raja had died and the deb raja had withdrawn into a life of contemplation, the then-strongest penlop, Ugyen Wangchuk of Tongsa, was elected by a council of lamas, abbots, councillors, and laymen to be the hereditary king (druk gyalpo) of Bhutan; the lamas continued to have strong spiritual influence. Bhutan's present king, Jigme Singye Wangchuk, is the fourth in this line of hereditary rulers. The economy Development projects With the assistance of India, Bhutan's development planning began in 1959 and culminated in the launching of its first five-year plan in 1961. The main priority was to end the country's geographic isolation, and consequently much of this plan's budget was devoted to improving Bhutan's road network. Besides continued road building, subsequent five-year plans emphasized the development of Bhutan's rudimentary education and health-care systems and the exploitation of the country's agricultural and power resources. Bhutan itself has been able to finance less than 10 percent of its total development expenditures. For the other 90 percent, it has depended on external assistance from India, the World Bank, the United Nations, and the Asian Development Bank. The success of the five-year plans has depended largely on the regular flow of funds from India and upon the availability of Indian technical personnel. The Chhukha Hydel project, which harnesses the waters of the Raidak River, is the largest single investment undertaken in Bhutan and represents a major step toward exploiting the nation's huge hydroelectric potential. The surplus energy from the Chhukha project is sold to India, which has financed the entire venture. Agriculture The Bhutanese economy is mainly agrarian; most of the population is engaged in agriculture and livestock raising. The amount of land available for agriculture is only a fraction of the total area of the country, however, and an adverse climate, poor soil, and steep slopes have made it necessary to leave a large land area covered with forest growth, meadows, and grasslands. The relatively low, well-watered, and fertile valleys of central Bhutan have the largest percentage of cultivated land. Because of the great variations in altitude and climate, a variety of crops is grown in Bhutan. Rice, corn (maize), potatoes, citrus fruit, and wheat are the chief crops. Yaks, cattle, sheep, pigs, and horses are raised on Bhutan's scattered pastures. Most Bhutanese farms are small in size, and terraces are used extensively to raise crops on hillslopes. Progressive changes in farming practices are being introduced to increase the productivity of agriculture. A large number of orchards have been established, and thousands of fruit plants have been distributed to farmers to popularize fruit growing, as the soil and climate are eminently suitable for the purpose. Another major emphasis on agriculture since 1967 has been to develop minor irrigation schemes. The land Relief Physically, Bhutan may be divided into three regions from north to south: the Great Himalayas, the Lesser Himalayas, and the Duars Plain. The Great Himalayas The northern part of Bhutan lies within the Great Himalayas; the snowcapped peaks in this region attain a height of more than 24,000 feet (7,300 metres). High valleys occur at elevations of 12,000 to 18,000 feet, running down from the great northern glaciers. The Alpine pastures on the high ranges are used for grazing yaks in the summer months. North of the Great Himalayas are several marginal mountains of the Plateau of Tibet that form the principal watershed between the rivers respectively running southward and northward. A dry climate is characteristic of the Great Himalayan region. Until about 1960, the tempo of life continued in the Great Himalayas much as it had for centuries. Long undisturbed in their ways, Bhutanese traders carried cloth, spices, and grains across the mountain passes into Tibet and brought back salt, wool, and sometimes herds of yaks. The absorption of Tibet by China, however, broke the tranquil isolation and disturbed the traditional way of living in these high regions, where military precautions have been taken to guard against the potential danger of a Chinese incursion from Tibet. The people There are three major ethnic groups in Bhutan: the Bhutia, Nepalese, and Sharchops. The Bhutia, who are also called Ngalops, are the largest ethnic group and make up as much as 60 percent of the population. They are the descendants of Tibetan immigrants who came southward to Bhutan from about the 9th century onward. The Bhutia are dominant in northern, central, and western Bhutan. They speak a variety of Tibetan dialects, and the most common of these, Dzongkha, is Bhutan's official language. The Bhutia's written language is identical with Tibetan, and they adhere to the Drukpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. They dominate Bhutan's political life. In southern and southwestern Bhutan, an ethnically mixed population with a predominance of Nepalese settlers is found. The Nepalese, or Gurung, are the most recent arrivals in Bhutan and constitute about one-third of the population. They speak Nepali and practice Hinduism. Their growing numbers prompted the Bhutanese government to ban further Nepalese immigration beginning in 1959. The Nepalese are also prohibited from settling in central Bhutan. Little assimilation takes place between the Tibetan and Nepalese groups, and discrimination against the Nepalese constitutes a major internal political problem for Bhutan. Most of the people in eastern Bhutan are ethnically related to the hill tribes living in adjacent areas of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. The Sharchops, as these people are called, are Indo-Mongoloid in origin and are believed to have been the earliest inhabitants of Bhutan. Though the Sharchops are Tibetan Buddhists, they are less strict in their observance of religious customs than are the Bhutia.

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