Monday, December 17, 2018

The significance of our National Day

111 years have passed since Bhutan emerged out of the dark shade of its history and embarked on a new political journey. The enthronement of Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck as the first hereditary monarch of Bhutan on 17th December 1907 sealed off an era of political turmoil and civil wars, and opened a new chapter in the history of modern Bhutan. Since then, we have been enjoying uninterrupted peace and harmony under the leadership of our visionary kings. Today, we have a nation in our hands which we can hand over to our children as proudly as we have inherited it from our forefathers. As the people of Bhutan are celebrating the 111th National Day today throughout the country with the main event being held in Samtse to commemorate that historic moment, it is time for us to revisit our past and pay respect to our beloved kings who have successfully guided our nation through some of the most critical junctures of its history and transformed our lives. Had it not been for their selfless contributions and wise leadership, we could not have reached where we are today.

Although the institution of hereditary monarchy was born in Bhutan only in 1907, the history of our royal family dates back to the 15th century. The birth of great Tertoen Pema Lingpa in 1450 blest Bhutan with a sacred lineage of Dungkar Chhoejey from which Jigme Namgyel, the father of our first king emerged later in the 19th century. This was the greatest legacy of Pema Lingpa who was a great treasure discoverer of the 15th century. During the 16th century, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal unified the country and restored peace with the introduction of dual system of governance headed by a religious and secular leader. However, the news of Zhabdrung’s death that became known to the public in the later half of 18th century once again triggered a vicious cycle of political unrest and power struggle in the country. The regional conflicts and fight for supremacy continued until Jigme Namgyal, a descendant of Pema Lingpa’s family lineage, rose to power in the 19th century. It was he who finally secured the future for Bhutan by restoring peace in the region and preparing his son, Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck to lead the nation through the 20th century. Already impressed by his extraordinary leadership capabilities and power, the people of Bhutan unanimously elected Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck to the golden throne on 17th December 1907 as the first hereditary monarch of Bhutan. Since that day, 17th December is celebrated as our National Day every year to remember the contributions of our great leaders of the past and re-dedicate ourselves to the service of our nation.

At the celebration of 111th National Day in Samtse today, we could see our beautiful past being re-played through the cultural and other art performances staged by people from different communities. For the people of Samtse, it was a very rare opportunity to be part of such an auspicious event, and that too being graced by three generations of kings, His Holiness the Je Khenpo and other important members of the Royal Family. As a native of Samtse, I feel proud that my Dzongkhag has been given the opportunity to host this year’s National Day, an honor that has enabled more than 20,000 ordinary people to see His Majesty the King in person and listen to his address to the nation. The spectacular display of showering flowers from the flying helicopter in the sky, the women’s Nyagay competition and the dances harmonizing different cultures of the Dzongkhag, were some of the features that made this year’s event more special and interesting. Samtse has hosted such an event in 1981, 1991 and 2002, but I am sure this would be the most memorable day for all of us. The greatest gift we can ever offer His Majesty the King on this auspicious occasion is to make a pledge that we shall always serve our nation with full determination, dedication, integrity, love and respect. Happy 111th National Day!

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