A Modern History of Bhutan | Druk Asia

Modern History of Bhutan

Updated on 12/March/2024
Year     Important Events

The British government sent a representative to Bhutan to present Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck with the insignia of the Knight Commander of the Indian empire (KCIE) for his role in the negotiations between Great Britain and Tibet in 1904.

1906 The British government invited Ugyen Wangchuck to India, where he was honoured as the leader of the Bhutanese people
1907 The representatives of the clergy, government, and public unanimously elected Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck as the first hereditary King of Bhutan on 17th December. The enthronement ceremony was held in Punakha Dzong.
1910 The 1865 Treaty of Sinchula between British-India and Bhutan was revised as the Treaty of Punakha. The British increased the annual subsidy to Bhutan from Rs 50,000 to Rs 100,000 and agreed not to interfere with the internal administration of Bhutan. Bhutan agreed to consult the British government in regard to its external relations.

The signing of the treaty ensured peace between the two countries.
1914 Forty-six boys from Bhutan were enrolled in Dr. Graham’s Homes, a Scottish mission school in Kalimpong. Bhutan’s first school was inaugurated in Haa, with teachers from the Church of Scotland mission. In 1915, another school opened at the King’s palace in Bhumtang.
1927 Jigme Wangchuck was enthroned as the Second Druk Gyalpo on 14th March 1927 in Punakha. The British presented the insignia of Companion of the Indian Empire to the new King. His Majesty Jigme wangchuck’s reign can be best described as a period of unification, consolidation and national integration. His Majesty was one of the first Bhutanese to receive modern eduction in English, Hindi and Buddhist literature.
1949 The Indo-Bhutan Friendship Treaty of 1949, the basis for friendly relations between Bhutan and India, was signed on 8th August in Darjeeling. The treaty focused primarily on friendship and peaceful co-existence, in addition to free trade and commerce between the two countries.
1952 His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck was enthroned in 1952 as the Third King of Bhutan. In 1945, he was appointed as the Dronyer of Trongsa. In 1950, he was sent to Kalimpong for private studies and then to the United Kingdom. He was appointed as the Paro Penlop in 1950. His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck is known as the father of modern Bhutan for initiating the process of modernization.
1953 The Tshogdu, National Assembly, was established in 1953, creating a representative form of government. In 1968, the rules and regulations of the National Assembly were revised with the King voluntarily surrendering his power over the decision of the Tshogdu.
1958 His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck abolished serfdom. People without land were given land. The King also granted citizenship to Nepalese settles in Southern Bhutan.

The Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, made his historic visit to Bhutan, cementing the bonds of friendship between Bhutan and India. In his address to the Bhutanese public in Paro on 23rd September, he said: "Some may think that since India is a great and powerful country and Bhutan is a small one, the former might wish to exercise pressure on Bhutan. It is, therefore, essential that I make clear to you that our only wish is that you should remain an independent country, choosing your own way of life and taking the path of progress."
1961 The first five-year development plan was launched in 1961, beginning the process of economic development. With an outlay of Rs.174.7 million, the first plan focused on building basic infrastructure, including roads, communication systems, agriculture, animal husbandry, transport and power. Phuentsholing was connected to Thimphu by road, Samdrup Jongkhar to Trashigangm and Gelephu to Zhemgang and Trongsa. By the end of the plan, Bhutan had over 59 schools with total enrollment of over 3,000 students, three hospitals and 40 dispensaries.
1965 His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck instituted the Lodroe Tshogdu, the Royal Advisory Council. The council advised the King and the Council of Ministers on key issues of policy and ensured the implementation of the resolutions passed by the National Assembly.
1968 On 2nd May, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi traced her father’s footsteps to Bhutan. His majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck and Mrs. Gandhi expanded Bhutan-India relations. An envoy of the Indian government was set up in Thimphu.
1971 Bhutan and India established official representation through embassies in both countries. Bhutan became a member of the United Nations Organisation on 21st September.
1972 His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo ascended the throne at the age of 17, after the demise of his father, the Third King of Bhutan, on 21st July.
1973 Bhutan joined the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).
1974 His Majesty King Jigme Singye Wangchuck was coronated as the Fourth Druk Gyalpo on 2nd June.
1979 His Majesty King Jigme Singye Wangchuck declared, in an interview with the India media, that Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross National Product. GNH became the guiding philosophy of Bhutan’s development.
1981 The Dzongkhag Yargye Tshogchung (District Development Committee) was established., devolving decision-making authority for development programmes from the centre to the 20 districts of Bhutan.
1985 Bhutan became a founding member of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). SAARC was formed as non-political forum to create cooperation among Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
1991 The Gewog Yarge Tshogchung (GYT) was established in 1991. The gewog leaders were made responsible for planning and implementing development activities.
1998 His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo dissolved the existing cabinet and delegated executive power to an elected Council of Ministers. The Royal Kasho stated: "Our country must have a system of government which enjoys the mandate of the people, provides clean and efficient government, and has an inbuilt mechanism of checks and balances to safeguard our national interest and security."
2001 The Fourth Druk Gyalpo initiated the drafting of Bhutan’s first Constitution on 3rd November. Under the chairmanship of the chief Justice, the 39th Constitution Drafting Committee submitted the first draft to the Druk Gyalpo on 9th December 2002.
2003 Bhutan had become a hideout to three militant groups from India. Repeated meetings and dialogues held to make the militants leave Bhutanese soil peacefully failed. As a last resort, in December 2003, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck commanded the Bhutanese forces in an operation aimed at flushing out the militant from their hideouts in the jungles of southern Bhutan.
2005 On 17th December, the Fourth King announced that he will relinquish the throne in favour of the Crown Prince Jigme Khesar.

The draft Constitution was released to the public in March 2005, followed by consultations with the people in all 20 districts, conducted first by the Fourth Druk Gyalpo and then by the Trongsa Penlop Jigme Khesar Namgyel wangchuck.
2006 On 9th Decemeber, His majesty King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck ascended the throne. The formal coronation was schedule for 2008.

His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, in his first National Day address at the Changlimithang ground on 17th December, said that his generation would preserve Bhutan for the future.

The 1,020 MW Tala Hydropower Projects were commissioned.
2007 The Indo-Bhutan Friendship Treaty was updated by the two countries and signed by His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck in the Indian capital, New Delhi, on 8th February 2007.

The updating of the treaty was a historic moment in the India-Bhutan relationship and a reflection of the mutual desire to enhance the relationship to a higher level of cooperation and goodwill.

The process of introducing democracy was begun with the Election Commission of Bhutan initiating the election process. Voter education messages were widely disseminated, and two rounds of nationwide mock elections were conducted.

Political parties - the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) - were formed and registered in September.

Bhutan began celebrating 100 years of monarchy, from 17th December.
2008 The first general election was held with a 79 percent voter turnout.

The Druk Phuensum Tshogpa won a landslide victory to form Bhutan’s first democratic government.

The Constitution of Bhutan was signed in a historic and sacred ceremony on 18th July.

Planning to travel to Bhutan during a festival?

On popular dates of travel such as during festival time, flight tickets tend to get fully reserved 5 months prior. Due to limited flight and seats available, we recommend you to reserve your ticket as early as possible. You can reserve your ticket for free with us and plan your trip to Bhutan with a peace of mind knowing that you will have a spot on your flight to Bhutan.


We will never spam you or share your contact information with third parties.

Whats App