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Druk-Gyal-Khab (Druk-Yul)

Last modified: 2010-10-01 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


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

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

See also:

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 OllBut 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

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  showing a yellow/orange ring with an inner white circle.
Dov Gutterman, 12 June 2004