This page is part of © FOTW Flags Of The World website

History of Bhutan Flags

Last modified: 2016-03-12 by ian macdonald
Keywords: bhutan |
Links: FOTW homepage | search | disclaimer and copyright | write us | mirrors

See also:


Smith (1975) mentions in the past "close relations with the emperors of China whose flag was golden yellow with a dragon".
Ivan Sache, 21 Jun 1999

The first national flag

[Bhutanese Flag 1949] modified from an illustration by Jaume Ollé

Based on the on-line book entitled "The Origin and Description of the National Flag and Anthem of the Kingdom of Bhutan", the first version of the national flag appeared during the signing of the Indo-Bhutan Treaty of 1949.  The king, His Majesty Jigme Wangchuck, designed a square flag diagonally divided yellow in the upper hoist over red in the lower fly, with a green dragon "at the centre of the yellow-red fields, parallel to the fly, facing the fly end". I think that means the dragon is upright. The original flag was embroidered by Lharip Taw Taw, a court painter. The dragon was painted in green, in reference to the traditional yu druk ngonm (གཡུ་ རབྲུག་ སྡོནམ), the turquoise dragon. An extant sample of this flag is in the National Assembly Hall in Thimphu, but it shows the dragon "embroidered along the fimbriation [the red-yellow join in this case - sic], not parallel to the fly". I think that means on the diagonal. The location of the original first flag is unknown.
Rob Raeside, 18 November 2004

From the book "Polity, Kingship and Democracy" by Sonam Kinga, pg. from 245 to 247:

The national flag
The national flag was first used during the signing of the Indo-Bhutan Treaty of 1949. King Jigme Wangchuck initiated the design, and Lharip Taw Taw from Pesiling, Bumthang did the embroidery. As important as the treaty was for Bhutan to assert her sovereignty, the availability of a national flag reinforced this assertion. Rather than the original flag, a photograph of it had survived with the treaty. A few court officials re-designed the flag and used them when the King made the first of his four trips to eastern Bhutan in 1956. His entourage consisted of 150 people with over a 100 pack and riding ponies. A small flag was fixed on the saddle of every tenth horse in the convoy. A larger flag was hoisted when they set up camps every night. "On the first day of the journey, the entourage got only as far as Simtokha from Dechenchholing. As soon as the camp was settled, the national flag was hoisted and a bugle sounded. This was done at every camp in the evening. The flag was square and the dragon, instead of being diagonally placed, was straight.
Sorin Cosoveanu, 11 February 2016

Second version of the national flag

[Bhutanese Flag c.1965] 4:5 by Martin Grieve (colours reversed by Ian MacDonald)

Based on the on-line book entitled "The Origin and Description of the National Flag and Anthem of the Kingdom of Bhutan", the next time a national flag was needed was during a royal tour in 1956. A flag was made based on a photograph of the flag used in the 1949 treaty, but the dragon was changed to white. Many flags were made, to affix to the saddles of every tenth pony in a convoy, and a larger flag, about 6 sq. feet to be hoisted at the camps. "The flag was square and the dragon, instead of being diagonally placed, was straight."

A manuscript in the archives of the king's secretariat (translated by Penjore and Kinga) records:
"Every country has a national flag as a symbol of its identity. Hence, the explanation of our national flag is narrated comprehensively.

  1. The national flag is half yellow and half red. The yellow spreads from the summit to the base and forms the fluttering end (see note).
  2. His Majesty, the Dharma King is the summit and root of the Drukpa Kagyud of the Palden Drukpa. As he wears the yellow robe [scarf], the yellow represents the being of His Majesty.
  3. The significance of red is that the Kingdom of Kagyud Palden Drukpa is governed from the foot of the Dharma King His Majesty consistent with dual monastic and civil systems, and therefore the country's entire borders and centre is consistent with the teachings (Dharma).
  4. The red and yellow fields are adjoined. The dragon spreads equally over them. This signifies that the people are united in oneness of speech and mind in upholding the Kingdom's interest. The dragon symbolizes that in the eyes of Palden Drukpa, there is no discrimination against people of any disposition, and that they are being governed toward peace and prosperity."

Rob Raeside, 18 November 2004

Note: The currently available version of the online book [p2k02] has "The yellow spreads from the summit to the base while the red extends from the base and forms the fluttering end." as the translation of this section. It appears that the abridged version above (and the resulting previously displayed image) are incorrect.'
Jonathan Dixon, 21 November 2009, 9 June 2010

From the book "Polity, Kingship and Democracy" by Sonam Kinga, pg. from 245 to 247:

The shape, design and dimension of the national flag as it is today were made in the late 1950s. Instead of a square flag, it was made rectangular. The dragon became white instead of green. It flew diagonally rather than straight. The King commanded sometime in 1968 and 1969 that the colour of lower half be changed from red to orange. It was also around the same time that the tradition of hoisting national flag in front of government offices began. On 8 June 1972, the National Assembly passed a code of conduct concerning the national flag.
"As the national flag is a symbol of the country’s independence, and in the absence of proper procedures for hoisting it, the Assembly approved for enforcement of the National Flag Rules drafted by Cabinet."

After a brief deliberation, the Parliament of Bhutan approved the standard description and interpretation of the National Flag, National Anthem and the National Emblem in May 2008. The National Flag is described as below.
"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."
Sorin Cosoveanu, 11 February 2016

See also: