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Thursday, October 31, 2019

An account on Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel by first ever western visitor in 1627



In the travelling account written in 1627 by the Jesuit priest Father Estevao Cacella, a first ever westerner to visit Bhutan gives a first-hand account of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, the Founder of Bhutan. 
“This King, known as Dharma Rajah (Zhabdrung), is 33 years old; he is both King and highest lama of this kingdom of Cambirasi (Bhutan), the first kingdom of Bhotanta (Bhutan/Tibet) in these parts - it is very large and well populated; the King prides himself in his gentleness for which he is very much esteemed rather than feared; in fact at this particular time there is a lama in his house, a relative, who committed a serious offence against him, but he treats him well and told us that he would soon set him free for he did not have the heart to give him another punishment even though he knew that once out of detention he would probably offend again. 
The King is also famous for his abstinence, as he never eats rice, meat or fish, sustaining himself only with milk and fruit; 


He is also renowned for the three-year retreat he went on before we arrived here, having lived in a tiny hut he built above a rock on a high mountain, without seeing or being seen by any one; he got his food by sending down two ropes from his little hut linked to two others below which he then pulled up, never talking to anyone during all that time. He told us he occupied himself in praying, and in his spare time carved some pieces - he showed us one which was his best, an image of God in white sandalwood, small but exquisitely made - he is very proud of this piece of art, and he is also a good painter, he showed us some of his paintings”.


“This King is also well known as a man of letters and is revered as such by all the other high lamas - kings send him gifts and he is very much sought out by people around this area, being host to lamas from far away kingdoms. The reason for finding him living in a tent on this mountain is that the people from each village ask him to visit and so he camps at some place where he is near to all of them; they give him many presents of horses, cattle, rice, cloth and other goods which are his principal revenue, and those people that do not invite him to their villages because they are very far away, come themselves to him with their offerings. It was for this reason that he was in that mountain with his lama school, which always accompanies him; the school has more than a hundred lamas who apply themselves to their studies and perform ceremonies”.



These lamas are called guelongs, they are the most important lamas because they do not marry and do not eat more than once before midday, after which they are not allowed to eat rice, meat or fish, and they never drink wine - thus they are different from other lamas who are not so strict; they spend the whole day at the school where they eat and sleep, all going out together twice a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon; they retire in an orderly manner one after the other very composed and with modesty, so well taught and disciplined are they”


When Jesuit priest Father Estevao Cacella asked Zhabdrung whether he accepted the law and wished to become a Christian; but as we had seen in him little interest in this matter, which was the only reason for our being here, there was no point in staying. Zhabdrung acknowledged their religion but told them that he feared he would die immediately if he embraced our law because he believed in the same law as his ancestors and they had never been Christians”.

From these old and true accounts we can describe Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel:


·      Very gentle, polite and commanding religious leader
·      Strict vegetarian
·      Undertakes long solitary retreat
·      Excellent craver and painter
·      Highly revered Lama even by neighboring kings
·      Highly mobile, goes wherever he was invited
·      Personally don’t accept other religion, strictly follows ancestor’s  religion          Buddhism. 
·      Monks were not allowed to eat rice, meat, and fish after midday. 
·      Alcohol consumption was totally banned amongst the monks.
·      Treated his visitors exceptionally well

Article extracted from: “FATHER ESTEVAO CACELLA'S REPORT ON BHUTAN IN 1627” by Luiza Maria Baillie∗∗ 

Coronation Anniversary


coronation is the act of placement or bestowal of a crown upon a monarch's head. It also refers not only to the physical crowning but also to the whole ceremony wherein the act of crowning occurs marking the formal investiture of a monarch with kingly power.

Unlike other countries our Kingdom was always blessed with Great King after Great Kings. Our King is therefore an important symbol of our sovereignty, a guardian of our constitution and a protector of our people. Bhutan over the century saw 5 coronations starting with the First King Sir Ugyen Wangchuck in 17thDecember 1907. Bhutan being under isolation prior to early sixties except 4th King’s coronation at Changlimithang, Thimphu, we are not able to have a clear picture of 1st, 2nd and 3rd King’s coronations. 

Nevertheless with the advancement of medias we the Bhutanese citizen with great satisfaction witnessed the live Coronation of our Fifth King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck on  6 November 2008. It exhibited our rich cultural heritage to the world.  Excellent serious of ceremonies has been executed in a flawless manner. We are very happy that the Monarchy linage has continued, as our kings are our guardians and symbol of national sovereignty.


In December 2005, His Majesty the 4th King Jigme Singye Wangchuck announced his intention to abdicate in his son's favour in 2008, and that he would begin handing over responsibility to him immediately. 
On 9 December 2006, His Majesty the 4th King issued a Royal Edict announcing his abdication, and transferred the throne to Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck who was officially crowned ‪on 6 November 2008, in Punakha. 


Religious ceremonies and public celebrations were also held at Tashichhodzong and Changlimithang in Thimphu. 
The coronation ceremony comprised an ancient and colourful ritual, attended by thousands of foreign dignitaries, including the then President of India, Pratibha Patil.
In his coronation address, His Majesty said:

“It is with immense gratitude and humility that at this young age, I assume the sacred duty to serve a special people and country. 
Throughout my reign I will never rule you as a King. I will protect you as a parent, care for you as a brother and serve you as a son. I shall give you everything and keep nothing; I shall live such a life as a good human being that you may find it worthy to serve as an example for your children; I have no personal goals other than to fulfil your hopes and aspirations. I shall always serve you, day and night, in the spirit of kindness, justice and equality. 
As the king of a Buddhist nation, my duty is not only to ensure your happiness today but to also create the fertile ground from which you may gain the fruits of spiritual pursuit and attain good Karma. 
This is how I shall serve you as King ... I end with a prayer for Bhutan - that the sun of peace and happiness may forever shine on our people. I also pray that while I am but King of a small Himalayan nation, I may in my time be able to do much to promote the greater wellbeing and happiness of all people in this world – of all sentient beings.” 

Indeed, over a decade period of His Majesty's rule, we have witnessed a true moulding of the above promises. 
Bhutan is truly blessed to have His Majesty a compassionate, a dynamic, a highly educated and down to earth King to govern our country. Every act of His Majesty was appreciated not only in Bhutan but all over the world.


Every year 1st November is the reflection of this great day and to rededicate our self to the service of Tsa-wa-Sum (King, Country and People).

Brief History

Bhutan was founded by our great Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel who unified Bhutan into one religious state in 1616. After his passing, Bhutan was governed by the Zhabdrung’s recommended “dual system of government” where government control was split between a civil administrative leader (Druk Desi) and a religious leader (Je Kehnpo). 


The dual system of government however ended with Jigme Namgyel’s descendant Ugyen Wangchuck. Jigme Namgyel’s family had direct lineage to the Terton Pema Lingpa and relations with two rebirths of the Zhabdrung Rinpoche. He was chosen to be the Penlop (Governor) of Trongsa and amongst all rulers, he was the most powerful, however he passed away unexpectedly before he had the chance to unify Bhutan through a monarchy system. 

First King  Sir Ugyen Wangchuck (Reign: 1907 to 1926)


His Majesty Gongsa Ugyen Wangchuck, born in 1862, succeeded his father, Jigme Namgyel as the Penlop (Governor) of Trongsa. He held his power base in Central Bhutan and unified Bhutan by defeating political enemies through a period of civil wars and rebellions in the early 1880’s. 

·      He developed close relations with the British by assisting with negotiations between Britain and Tibet. 
·      He was elected to be the hereditary monarch of Bhutan in the year 1907, giving rise to Bhutan’s first King, and ending the dual system government.
·      He was crowned on December 17, 1907 with the title Druk Gyalpo (Dragon King). 
·      He passed away in 1926 and was succeeded by his eldest son His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck.

Second King Jigme Wangchuck (Reign: 1926 to 1952)


His Majesty Jigme Wangchuck, the second ruler of Bhutan, born in 1905, ascended the throne in 1926 upon the passing of his father. He was raised from a child as the successor to the throne and received a strict education in English and Hindi and was schooled in Buddhist principles.  

·      He implemented administrative reforms within the country. 
·      He put in place a simple hierarchical system where he had absolute power over all matters religious and secular. 
·      He appointed a head abbot (Je Khenpo) to setup a central religious administrative body. 
·      Focused on centralized power to ensure political stability in the country. 
·      He passed away in 1952 and his son His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck succeeded him.

Third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck (Reign : 1952 to 1972) 


His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, born in 1929 ascended the throne at the age of 23. He is known as the Father of modern Bhutan, and like his father, he was educated in English, Hindi and Buddhist principles. He also spent six months in England during his youth.  

·      He ended Bhutan’s isolation to the world. 
·      In 1956, he took the big step of ending feudalism; redistributed land to the landless while monasteries gave up land in exchange for financial support from the government. 
·      In 1961, he drafted the country’s first economic development plan, of which Bhutan is still following till to date. 
·      He recognized the need to establish international relations for the world to recognize Bhutan as a country and to protect his country’s sovereignty he engaged foreign nations in the development of Bhutan. European nations was involved in the country’s developmental projects. 
·      In 1862, he joined the Colombo Plan where Bhutan received technical assistance for infrastructure development and educational scholarships. 
·      In 1971, under His Majesty King Jime Dorji Wangchuck’s reign, Bhutan became a member of the United Nations, which was very import for small country Bhutan. 
·      He setup a modern judicial system, and the country’s first Council of Ministers. 
·      He established a National Assembly (tshogdu) who had the power to remove the King or his successors with a two third majority, allowing Bhutan to take the first step towards democracy. 
·      He passed away in 1972 while receiving medical treatment in Nairobi, Kenya. His son His Majesty Jigme Sinye Wangchuck succeeded him. 

Fourth King Jigme Sinye Wangchuck (Reign : 1972 to 2006)


His Majesty Jigme Sinye Wangchuck, the fourth ruler of Bhutan, born in 1955 ascended the throne when he was just 17 years old, making him the youngest monarch in the world. His Majesty had received a modern education when he was a child, studying in India and the United Kingdom. He grew up close to his father, accompanying him to tour to remote parts of Bhutan, and gaining first hand knowledge of his land and his people. He was influenced by his father, and continued with the phase of modernization and socio-economic reforms that his father had set in motion. 

·      He continued to establish international relations, joining many regional cooperative bodies and making itself heard in the United Nations, cementing the nation’s independent and sovereign status. 
·      He established industries in raw materials, agriculture and hydropower. 
·      He built extensive roads connecting the country even in the remote areas
·      He built many schools believing in the importance of education
·      He started country’s first airline, Drukair. 
·      He slowly started the process of decentralizing his power, and in 1998, the role of Prime Minister was created. 
·      In 2006, he announced the time had come for a democratic government. He researched the constitutions of more than 50 nations, seeking comments from the public and consulted with the 20 Dzongkhags. 
·      He enacted the constitution in 2008 and elections were held in the same year, giving birth to a new system of governance. 
·      He led an army in 2003 and successfully flushed out insurgents from India who had established several powerful bases in the Bhutanese forests. The operation was a success, and surprised the international world as the militants were flushed out in three days.
·      He was also the creator of the now internationally known philosophy “Gross National Happiness”. This philosophy emphasized on how development of the nation should be carried out taking into consideration the happiness of the people. 
·      He created history when he became the first King in Bhutan to abdicate his throne to his son, His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck in 2006.

Fifth King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck (Reign : 2006 to present)


His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, the fifth ruler of Bhutan, born in 1980 was coronated in a ceremony on November 1, 2008, the year that marks the 100 years of monarchy in Bhutan. 

His Majesty received a foreign education, studying in the United States before graduating from Magdalen College, University of Oxford.

·      He oversaw the implementation of the Constitution of Bhutan, bringing to his people the democracy his father has wished for. 
·      He started landmark project the National Cadastral Resurvey in March 2009, which focuses on improving the lives of people living in remote parts of Bhutan. 
·      In 2011, he launched the Kidu Foundation. The role of the Kidu Foundation is to work with government efforts to address critical issues in areas of education, the rule of law, democracy and media, sustainable economic development, and preservation of the country’s environmental and cultural heritage.
·      In 2011, he married Ashi Jetsun Pema and the royal wedding was Bhutan’s largest media event in history. During the ceremony, the King also received the Crown of Druk Gyaltsuen (Queen) and bestowed it on Ashi Jetsun Pema, thus proclaiming her formally as the Queen of the Kingdom of Bhutan. 
·      He travel internationally and raised the profile of Bhutan as a sovereign country. 
·      The fifth Druk Gyalpo has gained the respect of his people, and proved that he will continue to promulgate the democracy his father had championed for during his reign. 


On this auspicious day I wish his Majesty a very Happy Coronation Day.