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Bhutan

Druk-Gyal-Khab (Druk-Yul)

Last modified: 2014-11-29 by ian macdonald
Keywords: bhutan | dragon | druk-gyal-khab | druk-yul |
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[Bhutan] 2:3 by Sammy Kanadi
Flag adopted 1969, coat of arms adopted 1980.


See also:

On the web:


Meaning and Description

Bhutan is a Buddhist state where power is shared by the king and government. The country's name in the local dialect means Land of the Dragon. In Bhutan, thunder is believed to be the voices of dragons roaring. In about 1200, a monastery was set up called the Druk (Thunder Dragon) with a sect called the Drukpas, named after it. The name and the emblem of the dragon have been associated with Bhutan ever since. The dragon on the flag is white to symbolize purity.

The two colors of the flag, divided diagonally, represent spiritual and temporal power within Bhutan. The orange part of the flag represents the Drukpas monasteries and Buddhist religious practice, while the saffron yellow field denotes the secular authority of the dynasty.

Regarding the dragon, it represents Druk, the Tibetan name for the kingdom of Bhutan. The jewels clamped in the dragon's claws symbolize wealth. The snarling mouth represents the strength of the male and female deities protecting the country.
Source: Ultimate Pocket Flags of the World, DK Publishing Inc., 1997
Phil Nelson
, 4 March 1999

Regarding the colours:
Smith (1975) uses orange and red-orange respectively
DK Pocket Book (1997) uses saffron yellow and orange (same as used by Smith for upper triangle!)
Album des Pavillons (1995) mixes both: saffron yellow of DK Pocket Book and red-orange of Smith
Pedersen (1970) uses proportion 4:5, orange and maroon, and a dragon facing the hoist
Ivan Sache, 21 Jun 1999

The protocol manual for the London 2012 Olympics (Flags and Anthems Manual London 2012) provides recommendations for national flag designs. Each NOC was sent an image of the flag, including the PMS shades, for their approval by LOCOG. Once this was obtained, LOCOG produced a 60 x 90 cm version of the flag for further approval. So, while these specs may not be the official, government, version of each flag, they are certainly what the NOC believed the flag to be. For Bhutan: PMS 116 yellow, 165 orange and black. The vertical version is simply the flag in 5:3 format.
Ian Sumner, 10 October 2012


Variants of the flag

[Bhutan] image by Zoltan Horvath, 15 October 2014
[based on photograph of manufactured flag]

When I watched pictures of the recent coronation carefully, and googled some pictures about Bhutanese national flag, I noticed that a new rendition of dragon is depicted on newly taken photographs of Bhutanese national flag. The dragon has a different shape, it has some ribbon-like devices around its waist. Does anyone information about this change?
Zoltan Horvath, 4 October 2014

The Royal Bhutan Army flags page (http://www.rba.bt/flag) depicts a similar headquarters flag, but with a dragon very similar to the one I reported above.
Zoltan Horvath, 4 October 2014

 I don't know if this flag follows some new rules. It could also be some artistic license, something I have seen sometimes on Tibetan flags. I have tried to check if there was any new official design but I couldn't find any. According to Wikipedia, the constitution of Bhutan of 2008 is available at http://jurist.org/documents/constitutions/Bhutan_2008.php. The ribbon-like devices are probably fire streams or clouds.
Corentin Chamboredon, 4 October 2014

Jos Poels reported in 2012 the aborted process of adoption of a flag law. I imagine that there has been no significant progress on that matter, otherwise Jos would have told us.
Ivan Sache, 5 October 2014

I found one more variant of the Bhutanese National Flag, where the dragon is depicted as a colorized version: http://images.tmcnet.com/featurestory/ap/2011/10/15/Bhutan-Royal-Wedding-JPEG-2.jpg and http://www4.pictures.zimbio.com/gi/Penjor+Bhutan+Celebrates+King+Marries+xLSW6kJHDfIl.jpg at http://www.zimbio.com/pictures/ZpLVpf9WA54/Bhutan+Celebrates+King+Marries/xLSW6kJHDfI/Penjor. (These pictures were taken during the wedding celebrations in 2011.) Note under the picture says, it is the National Flag, but it's not, because there is a simpler white dragon on that one, not a colorized one. Or is it the Royal Flag of Bhutan? Please see http://www3.pictures.zimbio.com/gi/King+Jigme+Khesar+Namgyel+Wangchuck+Bhutan+Q1gv65Vabk5l.jpg where the same person offered this flag to the King or does the King bless it?
Zoltan Horvath, 13 October 2014

Very interesting, although I have no idea of what this flag could be. Could it be that the dragon should theoretically be in color but isn't in most of the cases if the flag is too small? It would then be a sort of high-quality flag.
Corentin Chamboredon, 13 October 2014

I doubt he's blessing it; his pose doesn't seem right for that. Anyway, at http://www.zimbio.com/pictures/ZpLVpf9WA54/-/EPJfjNWvtOG is a second image, but I think they are out of order. The royal couple is offered mar-chang. When the mar-chang is removed a flag is offered in its stead. So, I guess this tells us that it's a ceremonial flag. Why it has that exact pattern, you'd have to ask.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 15 October 2014

Regarding the mar-chang, this is not only offering but blessing also as a part of the ceremony. Please see note 19 at: http://books.google.com/books?
Zoltan Horvath, 16 October 2014

 I found some information about the marchang ceremony in Yul and Yul lha : the territory and its deity in Bhutan, an article of the Bulletin of Tibetology n°1, volume 40 of 2004, by Françoise Pommaret, p. 59: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/bitstream/id/637339/bot_2004_01_02.pdf/

The worship of the deity of the territory mays also include a mar chang ceremony. It is a ceremonial offering of alcohol, butter and an arrow to protective as well as local deities. A large copper or bronze vat containing alcohol is placed on a stand in front of the person representing the lord or high authority of the territory. The vat is ornamented with horns made of butter. The master of the ceremony who stands in front of the vat facing the lord, offers a ladle of alcohol while saying a short prayer. Then he brings the lord a long arrow (mda' dar) wrapped in pieces of cloth of five different colours. The lord quickly touches it, ending the short ceremony, which is clearly at the same time a ritual of propitiation and allegiance to the deities. Besides this particular occasion, the mar chang is also performed in many other circumstances and there is no official function in Bhutan which does not include a mar chang. To my knowledge, this ceremony has not been mentioned in any ethnographic or historical writings about Tibet, although the symbolism and role of the arrow is well documented.
Corentin Chamboredon, 16 October 2014

There is one more image of the color-dragon flag used during the wedding ceremony, but in this case all elements of dragon are visible more clearly than on the previously posted pictures: http://photogallery.indiatimes.com. However it seems that not only the king uses this flag but prime minister does it as well. Please see this image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/meaindia/9649250755/ and this one http://photodivision.gov.in/writereaddata/webimages/upload/Wa-0288l.jpg.
Zoltan Horvath, 17 October 2014


The present national flag

Based on the on-line book entitled "The Origin and Description of the National Flag and Anthem of the Kingdom of Bhutan", the modern flag shape dates to the late 1950's. During a visit of an official from India it was noted that the square flag did not fly as well as the 2:3 Indian flag. The national flag was then redesigned based on the size of the Indian flag - 9 feet by 6 feet. Two other changes have been introduced. The dragon was embroidered diagonally along the colour join so that when flying in a light wind it would not give the impression that the dragon was facing the ground. Lastly, the red was changed to orange in 1968 or 1969 upon a royal command.

Rob Raeside, 18 November 2004

On page 70 of Pedersen (1970) is the Bhutan state flag, diagonally halved with upper hoist gold and lower fly brownish. Proportions are 4:5. I have drawn it with RGB 255-204-0 and RGB 153-0-0 respectively [shown above as "Second Version of the National Flag"]. These colours of course are open to speculation, but they do seem to differ somewhat from the Bhutanese national flag in use today (the colours are orange-yellow/orange). Smith (1975c) gives us "Usage initiated in the nineteenth century" and of course, Znamierowski (2000) agrees here. "Flags of the world" by Barraclough and Crampton (1978) sheds more light, reporting "the present exact form of the flag was adopted when Bhutan entered the United Nations".

So what about the image here? I presume many variants were in existence in the nineteenth century, as it is an extremely complicated design to standardise - at least in those days! All I can surmise is that it was in use from 1800's to whenever Bhutan joined the UN. The "Observers book of flags" (1966 edn.) also agrees that the dragon is *white*, but confuses the issue by describing lower fly colour as "red" - very nebulous! No literature at my disposal ever shows *green* as reported by Jaume Ollé.  But of course - who is to know exactly what the situation was at that time?
Martin Grieve, 21 February 2003

The information I have, gleaned from William Crampton, is that the present form of the flag dates from c1965, and that the Kingdom of Bhutan was founded in 1910. The colours are given by the Flag Institute of Great Britain as saffron over orange-red (PMS116 and PMS165 although I think perhaps that this could be bettered?).
Christopher Southworth, 21 February 2003

The Parliament of Bhutan is in the process of drafting a Flag Law. The process started in June last year. There is a Bill, which was discussed in January in the parliament. The Bill was then changed. The new version of the Bill was discussed on July 6. All relevant documents are to be found here:
http://www.nationalcouncil.bt/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/7th_Sess_Res_Eng.pdf
http://www.nationalcouncil.bt/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Final%20English%20version%20of%20the%20National%20Flag%20Bill%202012.pdf
http://www.nationalcouncil.bt/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Final%20Dzongkha%20version%20of%20the%20National%20Flag%20Bill%202012.pdf
http://www.nationalcouncil.bt/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/8th_Sess_Res_Eng.pdf
Jos Poels, 3 August 2012

Bhutan's Flag Bill was discussed again on the 6th of July, but was not adopted. It was a private Bill, the first private Bill introduced ever in this country. The upper en lower house of Bhutan are now arguing about the 'legality' of the Bill. See more:
http://www.kuenselonline.com/2011/?p=33505
http://www.kuenselonline.com/2011/?p=34231
Jos Poels, 4 August 2012


Legal prescription

The national flag and emblem of Bhutan are prescribed in Article 1 ("Kingdom of Bhutan"), Paragraph 5, of the Constitution of The Kingdom of Bhutan, and described (without illustration) in the First Schedule attached to the Constitution.

Article 1.5
The National Flag and the National Emblem of Bhutan shall be as specified in the First Schedule of this Constitution.

First Schedule.
The National Flag and the National Emblem of Bhutan

The National Flag
The upper yellow half that touches the base symbolizes the secular tradition. It personifies His Majesty the King, whose noble actions enhance the Kingdom. Hence, it symbolizes that His Majesty is the upholder of the spiritual and secular foundations of the Kingdom. The lower orange half that extends to the top symbolizes the spiritual tradition. It also symbolizes the flourishing of the Buddhist teachings in general and that of the Kagyu and Nyingma traditions in particular. The dragon that fully presses down the fimbriation symbolizes the name of the Kingdom, which is endowed with the spiritual and secular traditions. The white dragon symbolizes the undefiled thoughts of the people that express their loyalty, patriotism and great sense of belonging to the Kingdom although they have different ethnic and linguistic origins.

The National Emblem
Within the circle of the national emblem, two crossed-vajras are placed over a lotus. They are flanked on either side by a male and female white dragon. A wish-fulfilling jewel is located above them. There are four other jewels inside the circle where the two vajras intersect. They symbolize the spiritual and secular traditions of the Kingdom based on the four spiritual undertakings of Vajrayana Buddhism. The lotus symbolizes absence of defilements, the wish-fulfilling jewel, the sovereign power of the people, and the two dragons, the name of the Kingdom.

Full text of the Constitution (PDF)
https://web.archive.org/web/20110706163717/http://www.constitution.bt/TsaThrim Dzongkha (A5).pdf (Dzongkha)
https://web.archive.org/web/20090306122100/http://www.constitution.bt/TsaThrim Eng (A5).pdf (English)
Ivan Sache, 5 October 2014


National Coat of Arms

[Bhutanese coat of arms] located by Esteban Rivera, 22 October 2005

Source: Bhutan website


Aircraft Markings

[Bhutanese roundel] by Eugene Ipavec, 23 July 2006

The Royal Bhutan Army Air wing operates 3-4 planes, most of them Mi-4/8 helicopters. The only reference to a roundel was found in http://wp.scn.ru/camms/roundels/asia/0005/index.shtml?0005  showing a yellow/orange ring with an inner white circle.
Dov Gutterman, 12 June 2004