Flag of Bhutan
The national flag of Bhutan is one of the national symbols of the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan. The flag is based upon the tradition of the Drukpa lineage of Tibetan Buddhism and features Druk, the Thunder Dragon of Bhutanese mythology. The first national flag was introduced in 1949 and used only for the signing of the Indo-Bhutan Treaty. A second incarnation of the national flag was introduced in 1956 for the visit of Druk Gyalpo Jigme Dorji Wangchuk to eastern Bhutan. The 1956 flag was described as based upon photos of the 1949 flag, with Druk being changed from green to white.
The Bhutanese discovered in the late 1950s that their flag did not flutter like the Indian flag, and the flag was redesigned to match the measurements of the Indian flag. Other changes, including changing the dark red background to orange led to the current national flag. The National Assembly of Bhutan codified a code of conduct in 1972, which governs the design of the flag, and rules relating to the acceptable sizes and hoisting of the flag.
Historically, Bhutan is known by numerous names, but the Bhutanese call the country Druk, having a historical basis dating back to 1189. Tsangpa Gyare Yeshe Dorje, the founder of the Drukpa lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, was in Phoankar, Tibet when he saw the Namgyiphu valley covered with rainbow and light. Considering the site to be auspicious for the construction of a monastery, he went into the valley to choose a site, when a dragon thundered three times in the clear winter sky. The monastery he built in 1189 was named Druk Sewa Jangchubling, and his school of teachings became known as Druk. This school later split into three lineages, including Drukpa, founded by Önrey Dharma Sengye, Tsangpa Gyare's nephew and spiritual heir, and it was Drukpa which became popular in Bhutan after the arrival of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1616, which eventually led to the unification of the Bhutanese state. The nation would become known as Druk, and it is Druk that forms the basis of the national flag of Bhutan.
First national flag
The historical development of the flag is described in a document issued by the Centre for Bhutan Studies in 2002 ("the CBS document"). The document states that the first national flag was introduced in 1949 during the signing of the Indo-Bhutan Treaty, its design guided by the second Druk Gyalpo, Jigme Wangchuk. Black and white photos survive showing this flag at the ceremony, and the colours may be inferred from the CBS document.
The flag was embroidered by Lharip Taw Taw, who was one of the few painters available to the royal court at the time. Druk was painted green in accordance with traditional and religious references to yu druk ngonm (Dzongkha, or turquoise dragon.
The first flag was used only for the occasion of the signing of the Indo-Bhutan Treaty, and according to the Centre for Bhutan Studies, nothing more has been heard of or known about the flag since then, although it notes that a sample of the flag (with some changes) is displayed behind the throne in the National Assembly Hall in Thimphu.
As described in the document, the flag was a bicolour square flag divided diagonally from the lower hoist to the upper fly. The field of yellow extended from the hoist to the upper fly, and the red field extended from the fly end to the lower hoist. In the centre of the flag, at the convergence of the yellow and red fields, is a green Druk, located parallel to the bottom edge, and facing the fly.
The CBS document is not, however, entirely consistent with the photos. It describes the flag as "square", while the flag in the photos has proportions closer to 4:5; with a dragon "facing the fly end", while the dragon visible in the photos faces the hoist. The dragon is described as "parallel to the fly" (meaning, according to a diagram in the document, parallel to the length along the bottom edge of the flag), while the dragon in the photos appears to have a slightly rising vertical slant. The dragon is described as "green", but the shade in the photos, if indeed green, must be very pale.
The second incarnation of the national flag came in 1956 during the visit of the third Druk Gyalpo Jigme Dorji Wangchuk to eastern Bhutan. Members of the Druk Gyalpo's Secretariat began the use of a flag during the trip. The flag was based upon a photograph of the first national flag as it was used in 1949 at the Treaty signing ceremonies, with the colour of Druk being changed from green to white. As part of the trip of the Druk Gyalpo, there was a convoy consisting of over one hundred riding and pack ponies. A small version of the flag was placed on the saddle of every tenth horse in the convoy, and a large flag of approximately 6 square feet (0.56 m2) in size was hoisted in the camp. Dasho Shingkhar Lam, who was Secretary to the Druk Gyalpo, noted that on the first day of the trip, His Majesty's entourage only managed to make the trip from Dechenchholing to Simtokha; as the camp was set up, the national flag was hoisted to the sound of a bugle.
According to a manuscript found in the archives of the Druk Gyalpo's Secretariat, the creation of a national flag was deemed to be necessary, as every country has a national flag which is used to symbolise the identity of that country, and laid out what would be in the Bhutanese national flag. The manuscript noted that the flag is half yellow and half red, with the yellow spreading from the summit to the base, whilst the red spreads from the base and forms the "fluttering" end.
The Druk Gyalpo is deemed to be the summit and root of Drupka Kagyu of Palden Drukpa. As the Druk Gyalpo wears a yellow robe, the yellow symbolises the Druk Gyalpo. The significance of red on the flag is that the Kingdom of Kagyud Palden Drukpa is governed from the feet of the Druk Gyalpo, and is consistent with the dual monastic and civil systems of the country; this implies that the borders of the country and its centre are consistent with the Dharma. Druk spreads equally over both the red and yellow fields, and this symbolises that the people are united in speech and mind in defending the interests of the Kingdom. Druk symbolises that in the eyes of the Palden Drukpa, there is no discriminations against any peoples, and that they are being governed with an eye towards peace and prosperity.
Changes after 1956
In the late 1950s an Indian political officer based in Gangtok travelled to Bhutan, and the Bhutanese noticed that the square Bhutanese flag did not flutter like the rectangular Indian flag hoisted near the Indians' camp by Dechencholing Palace. The Bhutanese flag was hence at some point redesigned on the measurements of the Indian flag. In addition, the dragon, formerly horizontal, was embroidered diagonally along the line between the background colours. This was due to the flag's always being in a slumped state when hoisted, forcing Druk to face the earth. The lower half was changed from red to orange, on the basis of an order by Druk Gyalpo in 1968 or 1969.
Current national flag
The design of the flag is divided diagonally from the lower hoist-side corner; the upper triangle is yellow and the lower triangle is orange; centered along the dividing line is a large black and white dragon facing away from the hoist side. According to The Legal Provisions of the National Flag of the Kingdom of Palden Drukpa as Endorsed in Resolution 28 of the 36th Session of the National Assembly held on June 8, 1972, the yellow signifies civil tradition, and embodies the Druk Gyalpo's being; this signifies the basis of monastic and civil traditions. The orange half which forms the fluttering end of the flag signifies monastic traditions of Buddha's teachings, and signifies the traditions of Kagyu and Nyingma flourishing in harmony. Druk, which spreads equally over the line, signifies the Kingdom of Druk. Druk being white signifies that while there are many peoples in Bhutan of differing cultures, their inner thoughts and deeds are pure, and they highly cherish patriotism. This denotes that the sacred bond between sovereign and people is strong. The finial is a norbu, or jewel. The tradition of flying the national flag in front of government offices was regularised by the Druk Gyalpo, after his Secretariat was moved from Taba to Tashichho Dzong in 1968.
Code of conduct
The code of conduct governing usage of the national flag was passed by the National Assembly of Bhutan on 8 June 1972, and the Assembly approved the National Flag Rules which were drafted by the Cabinet. The Rules have eight provisions covering the description and explanation of the flag's colouring, fields and coat of arms. Other rules relate to the size and dimensions of the flag, and codes with respect to hoisting of the flag. The Rules specify places and occasions for the hoisting of the flag, and specifies entitlements of the flag on cars.
The National Assembly stipulates that the ratio of the dimensions of the flag should be 3:2, with these accepted sizes:
* 21 × 14 ft (6.4 × 4.3 m)
* 12 × 8 ft (3.7 × 2.4 m)
* 6 × 4 ft (1.8 × 1.2 m)
* 3 × 2 ft (0.9 × 0.6 m)
* 9 × 6 in (23 × 15 cm), for car flags.
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