Bhutan’s early history remains shrouded in mystery but ancient stone implements and tools suggest the area could have been inhabited as early 2000 BC.

Some historians theorise a more recent prehistoric period when the region was known as Lhomon (southern darkness) or Monyul (land of the Monpas) before the advent of Buddhism. Ancient Bhutanese and Tibetan texts have referred to the area as Lhomon Tshendenjong (southern mon sandalwood country) and Lhomon Khashi (southern mon country of four approaches).

Bhutan’s more recent and chronicled history begins with the advent of Buddhism in the eighth century following the visit of Guru Padmasambhava, an Indian tantric master.

The name Bhutan, it has been suggested, may have been derived from Sanskrit word Bhota-ant (meaning highlands or the end of Tibet (Bhot)) the use of which gained prominence in the late 19th century among foreigners.

Since the 17th century, Bhutanese have referred to themselves as Druk Yul, country of the Drukpa people, a reference to Drukpa, the dominant Buddhist sect in the country. This happened after Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal arrived from Tibet in 1616. He unified Bhutan as a country and gave it its identity. He also successfully fended off several Tibetan invasions, codified laws, established a monastic body, laid out an administration system and started the dual system of governance.

Following the Zhabdrung’s death in 1651, which was kept a secret for half a century, Bhutan fell into a period of internal strife as local chieftains vied to fill the vacuum left by the all Supreme Zhabdrung.

In 1907 Bhutan became a monarchy when it installed Trongsa Penlop, Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck, as the first hereditary King ushering an era of stability, peace and prosperity.

In 2008, Bhutan transited to a parliamentary form of governance, after 100 years of Monarchy, with the country electing a government for the first time. It held its second general in July 2013.

Throughout its history, Bhutan has remained an independent kingdom protected by extreme geography and was never colonised by the 19th century European powers.