Bhutan is the happiest country in Asia, and the eighth in the world, despite widespread poverty and illiteracy. A survey pointed to the landlocked Himalayan kingdom’s beautiful mountain scenery, isolated culture and strong sense of national identity as reasons for the contentment of its citizens.
The national identity was strictly and sometimes brutally enforced by the country’s ruling monarchy by banning foreign tourism, expelling thousands of ethnic Nepalese and Gurkhas, and by forcing its people to wear national costume – a tartan judo-style jacket known as Driglam Namzha – during daylight hours.
Television was banned until 1999, when King Jigme Singye Wangchuck decided it would help to modernize his isolated kingdom.
King Jigme Singye Wangchuck had a democratic epiphany in the late 1990s, introduced a new constitution in 2005 and abdicated in favour of his young son, today’s royal groom, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, in 2008.
The former King’s greatest legacy was his concept of the ‘Gross National Happiness’ to measure of a nation’s wellbeing as an alternative to the Gross National Product. Bhutan is rated as far more ‘happy’ on a range of indicators than its powerful and wealthy neighbour India, which is ranked as only the 125th happiest country ion the world. The idea has inspired similar approaches in France and by David Cameron in Britain.