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Bhutan is an ancient country. Over the centuries, the country has assumed many names. In ancient times predating any written, it was believed to have been known as Ridrak, meaning the country of hills and cliffs. The Bhutanese people were then known as Ridrakpa.

Later, as the country gradually became associated with Tibet, it was known by many different names in relation to its location in the south of Tibet. The country was known as Lho Jong (Southern Land), Lhomon Khazhi, (The Southern Mon Country of Four Approaches), Lhojong Menjong (The Southern Land of Medicinal Plants), or Lho Mon Tsenden Jong (The Southern Mon Country Where Sandalwood Grows).

The term mon used to refer to Bhutan then is believed to have been derived from the Tibetan term mun, which means darkness. Before the advent of Buddhism came to Bhutan, Bhutan was believed to be a land of darkness without the light of Buddhist wisdom.  
The country came to be known as Drukyul or the Land of the Drukpas in the 17th century after the Drukpa Kagyud tradition of Buddhism, headed by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, gained prominence in the country.

Today, no ancient names are used. Drukyul is officially used within Bhutan, but the country is internationally known as Bhutan. “Bhutan” is the country most modern name probably developed in the 17th century as the country came to be known by westerners. There are numerous theories on how the name “Bhutan” was derived. One such theory says that the name was derived from the Sanskrit term Bhotānta, meaning the end of Bhota or Tibet. Another theory says that the name “Bhutan” comes from the Sanskrit term Bhū-uttan, meaning highland.

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