According to archeological artefacts unearthed so far Bhutan was inhabited and existed 4000 years ago. Ancient stone implements and other archaeological findings indicate that there were settlements in Bhutan dating back to 2000 B.C. These early inhabitants were followers of Bon, an animistic tradition that was the main religion of the Himalayan region before advent of Buddhism. The chronicled history of the Kingdom however begins with the advent of Buddhism in the 8th century. In 747, A.D., the Buddhist sage Padmasambhava, popularly revered in Bhutan as Guru Rimpoche or the Precious Master, visited the country and introduced Buddhism. Since then, Buddhism has played a predominant role in shaping the social, political, economic and cultural evolution of the country. In the centuries that followed, Lamas or Buddhist teachers and local nobility established their own separate domains throughout the country.
Another important chapter in Bhutanese history unfolded in the early part of the 13th century when the Buddhist teacher, Phajo Drugom Zhigpo, introduced the Drukpa Kagyu school of Mahayana Buddhism in the western Bhutan. Over the years many other saints and religious figures helped shape Bhutan’s history and develop its religion. The most dynamic era in Bhutanese history came in the 17th century with the arrival of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (1594-1652), a leader of the Drukpa Kargyu School of Buddhism. Shabdrung was born in 1954 at Gor-gong in Tibet in the family of prince-abbots and was installed as the 18th prince-abbot of the Drukpa monastery at Ralung in 1606. following, theological and succession disputes about him, he was forced into exile to Bhutan in 1616. During his 35 year reign,Shabdrung consolidated the country under a unified power, constructed several important Dzongs (fortress), monasteries, and religious institutions and firmly established Drukpa Kargyu as the state religion, established the foundations for national governance and the Bhutanese identity that he came to be known as the founder of Druk Yul as a nation.
After the demise of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the country was torn with civil strife until 1907 when Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck was unanimously elected by all regional governors and the central monastic body to be the First Hereditary King of Bhutan. The establishment of monarchy ushered in an era of peace and stability and most significantly unified the country under a central authority. It also set in motion a process of contact with the outside world and laid the foundation for the country as a modern nation state.
Over the years, the Kings of Bhutan have taken the country and its people into the 21st century, transforming a subsistence farming society into a modern nation. Bhutanese people are now on the path to democracy, a revolutionary move initiated from the throne, the Fourth King Jigme Singye Wangchuck. But monarchy remains the soul of the Bhutanese nation and will continue to be a vital institution in a rapidly changing society. The Kings of Bhutan are known for their selflessness, dynamism, farsightedness and love for their people. The institution of monarchy has attained its highest level. The King is the primary symbol of national unity and peace and harmony.