A closer look at Bhutan's national flag

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The current design is the fourth version of Bhutan’s national flag.

Druk Yul — that’s the Bhutanese name for Bhutan, which translates to “Land of the Thunder Dragon”. The locals believe that the thunder they hear in the mountains and valleys is the voice of dragons.

The dragon, who is centre-stage in Bhutan’s myths and legends, is also the principal character on Bhutan’s national flag. It sits in the centre in white, clasping jewels in each claw. The white signifies purity and loyalty, whereas the jewels symbolise national wealth and perfection.

The flag is divided diagonally from the top right corner to the bottom left corner. The left side is yellow whereas the right side is dark orange. 

The yellow colour represents the yellow Kabney, the power of the King as the secular government. Meanwhile, the dark orange points to the Kagyupa and Nyingmapa Buddhist sects, referring to the religious commitment of the country.

History of the Bhutanese flag

The flag didn’t always look like it does now. 

There isn’t much known about the flag prior to 1949. But the general consensus is that it used to have a yellow background with a white dragon. 

Picture credit: Flag Makers

Pre-1949 (mock-up)

Then in 1949, the Indo-Bhutan treaty was signed, and the first official national Bhutanese flag was born. It was divided diagonally too, with yellow on the left and red on the right. The dragon in the centre was green in colour.

Picture credit: Flag Makers

1949 - 1956

In 1956, a new flag was designed for King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. The new flag was based on a photograph of the missing 1949 original flag. The black and white dragon was modified to face the fly end.

Picture credit: Flag Makers

1956 - 1969

The King requested for modifications to be made to the flag in 1969. He wanted the flag to be a rectangle, and for the red portion to become orange instead. He also wanted the dragon’s body to be relaxed. 

And that is how we arrived at the present version of the flag.

Picture credit: Flag Makers

1969 - present day

Bhutan Flag Code of Conduct

Although the latest version of the flag has been around since 1969, it was only on June 8, 1972 that the country introduced the Bhutan flag code of conduct, known as Resolution 28. The rules have eight provisions. They are as follows:

  • Description of the Bhutan national flag

  1. Refer above
  • Types of national flag

  1. The National Assembly dictates that the dimension of the flag should be 3:2. 
  2. The acceptable sizes of this ratio are 21ft x 14ft, 12ft x 8ft, 6ft x 4ft, 3ft x 2ft, and 9in x 6in. 
  • Respect for the national flag

  1. It is not permissible to use the national flag as wrappers, covers, or substitutes for other cloth materials
  2. It is not proper to hoist it lower than other flags
  3. No objects should be placed over the national flag
  4. The national flag shall never be hoisted upside down
  5. While carrying the national flag, it is not permissible to drag it on the ground or drench it with water
  6. While hoisting and lowering the national flag, due respect and attention must be paid consciously.
  • General code for hoisting the national flag

  1. The national flag should always be hoisted in the capital, His Majesty’s palace, office premises of the civil service and armed forces, from sunrise to sunset.
  2. Small flags can be hoisted on vehicles. The national flag of different sizes can be hoisted during auspicious celebrations according to the significance of the functions. However, a large national flag alone can be hoisted in the capital and at places where His Majesty and senior heads of the Kingdom reside.
  3. While due respect must be accorded when the national flag is hoisted or lowered, it must be handled appropriately if a military bugle is sounded.
  4. The national flag with different sizes can be hoisted during sports day and other important events in schools, according to due respect.
  5. It will remain hoisted from the beginning until the conclusion of the National Day celebrations.
  6. The national flag must be hoisted in any place during the National Day.
  7. It will also be hoisted while commemorating civilian and military heroes who had rendered great services to the state.
  8. The national flag shall be hoisted at half-mast during mourning at particular times dedicated by the state.
  • Admissibility of hoisting the national flag

  1. Starting from the capital, every dzongkhag will hoist the national flag.
  2. Where there is no dzongkhag, the national flag will be hoisted in front of the office of the main government officer.
  3. If officials above the rank of ministers do not reside near the capital, they can hoist the national flag in front of their residence.
  4. In relation to the hoisting of the national flag by Bhutanese and foreign embassies, the ambassadors can hoist the flag according to their legal traditions.
  • Custom of hoisting the national flag for different occasions

  1. His Majesty the King, and all officials who have received ministerial scarves can hoist the national flag in front of their residences both within and outside the country.
  2. The representatives of His Majesty the King, and ambassadors of the state who are either travelling abroad on state missions or have special state commands are entitled to hoist the national flag.
  • Entitlements for hoisting the national flag on a car

  1. No matter how many officers travelling in a car are entitled to flags or how many flags different departments have, the national flag of only the senior officer must be hoisted, not of junior officers.
  2. If the officers entitled to flags are of equal rank, the national flag of the country of visiting dignitary must be hoisted.
  3. If there are two officers—one of the host country and the other a junior visiting dignitary—travelling in a car, the national flag of the visiting dignitary shall be hoisted on the car.
  4. Irrespective of the ranks of foreign and national leaders, the national flag of the host country shall be hoisted on the right side.
  5. Except for the permission to hoist the national flag in front of dzongdag and thrimpon offices of a dzongkhag, they are not allowed to hoist on their cars.
  6. His Majesty the King, Her Majesty the Queen, parents of the King, Je Khenpo, four lopen, ministers and deputy ministers are entitled to the national flag.
  7. The Crown Prince or the eldest prince is not entitled to a flag on the car.
  8. Among the royal family, those who undertake responsibilities of the state above ministerial ranks are entitled to a flag on their cars.
  9. While His Majesty resides in the capital, no one is entitled to flag cars from the entrance to the interiors of the capital, except the Je Khenpo, the Queen, and the parents of the King.
  • Different legal provisions for handling the national flag

  1. The national flag must be carefully attended to before hoisting it. Torn or defective flags cannot be hoisted.
  2. Except for ministers and senior officials of the civil and armed forces, and persons of higher ranks, the national flag cannot be used to drape the remains of others.
  3. While taking the national flag or storing it, it must be kept neatly, given its due respect.
  4. Except for burning or storing away neatly, nothing should be done to the defective national flag.
  5. The signs of the national flag cannot be used as a business logo.
  6. Designs similar to the national flag cannot be imprinted on any other object.

In a nutshell, always respect the Bhutanese flag.

Bhutan flag and other merchandise

Check out Bhutan Natural's online store for Bhutan mini flag to spruce up your home.

For other Bhutan momento, you may consider getting a T-shirt with Bhutanese motifs.



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