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Traditional names of Bhutan

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In course of its history, Bhutan has been addressed by several names. The names are given at different times when there were major changes or advent of lamas. Their origin is mostly from Tibetan views, the closest neighbour in ancient days which have the traditional and ancestrol linkage.

Bhutan becomes at times Bhootan and Bhotan and its inhabitants Bhootaniers, Bhotias or Bhoteahs. (peter Collister, Bhutan and the British, page ix)

The most ancient name given to the country was ‘Lho Mon’ [southern village of darkness]. When the preaching of Buddhism flourished in Tibetan community Bhutan was still back from the light of Buddhism. It reveals that the country was still underway from the light of the religion. However, Bonism was said to have some influence.

The other words used for the decoration of Bhutan's names are ‘Lho Mon Tsenden Jong’ {The country of cypress trees}, ‘Lho Yul’ {the southern village}, ‘Lho Jong Men Jong’ {southern country having clustered medical herbs}, ‘Lho Mon Kha Zhi [the country of four approaches] etc. To all these names the word Lho is used which means the ‘south’. This shows that Bhutan is south of Tibet and that all these names are given from Tibetan view. And that it had close relation with Tibet.

In the time of Mahabharata, Bhutan was known by the name as Mahapradesh. In Mahabharata epic it is said that when Duryodhan humiliated Bidur [who is said to be the fair judge], Bidur came to the bank of Ganga. He married there [at Vyas Ashram] a girl named Sudhringi. She gave birth to two sons named Bhot and Bharat. Bhot travelled through Tibet to Bhutan preaching Buddhism. He was respected there as king and from his name the place was called Bhotan. It is also called the birthplace of priest Kashyap’s wife, “Bhuti” and the place was named as Bhutistan [the birthplace of Bhuti] and ultimately the Bhutan.

Shabdrung later in 17th century named the country as Druk Gyalkhap and called the general people 'Drukpas' though the easterners are called Sharchops, westerners are called Ngalongs and southerners are called Lotshampas.

“Under the pressure of the reformist Gelukpa sect, some of the olden sects found themselves forced out of Tibet and sought fresh pasture for evanelical work outside their country. The Drukpas who had proceeded to Bhutan were so successful in their missionaries enterprise that the country of their adoption was soon established as the main stronghold of the Drukpa sect and come as a result to be named Druk Yul”.

Beside this, the next name given to the country was Bhot-ant, which means the end of Bhot (Tibet). It is a Sanskrit word and said to be reformed into modern name Bhutan. Bhu-uttam is also the Sanskrit name given to the country Bhutan by the Indians as Bhutan has higher land than India’s. It is said to be given during the time of Gupta reign and that Bhu-uttam is now changed to Bhutan. Thus, today’s official name came into existence from a long run. No record is found when Bhutan is used firstly as official name to represent the country. But after the enthronement of Sur Ugyen Wangchuck in the golgen throne, word Bhutan is used in official records.

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