December 17 is an important day in the history of Bhutan. It marks the Coronation day of Druk Gyalpo Ugyen Wangchuck who became the first King of Bhutan in 1907. It was on this day, the Hereditary Monarchy was established and the country came under Wangchuck Dynasty.
December 17 today is celebrated throughout the country as an auspicious and special day. On this occasion of great importance, the whole nation comes together in grand celebration of the day. The commemoration of this day serves to remind the citizens of the country about the profound sacrifices of the benevolent forefathers, who worked tirelessly for the well being of the country and its people. The day allows the fellow countrymen to express their gratitude to those noble generations who gifted a strong, sovereign nation to them.
The history dates back to 1616 when Zhabdrung visited the country. Bhutan was unified by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, who reigned for 35 years. The death of Zhabdrung in 1651 was followed by 225 years of instability in the country. The political vacuum created during the early 1900s filled with internal conflicts and civil war, was blessing in disguise for Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck. It was in 1906 when Drungpa Ugyen Dorji submitted a petition to the Lhengye Zhungtshog stating that the Dual System of the Government of the time has failed to bring peace and harmony in the country. It was then the first Druk Gyalpo was crowned. The monarchy brought peace, unity and prosperity in the country that had previously experienced years of internal and external threat.
The nation building process and all the major changes in the country has been initiated from the throne. The reunification of the country, the introduction of the tax reforms, introducing modern education and ending the state of isolation by making international relationship are among the many changes that have shaped Bhutan as a sovereign nation. The day is celebrated only once in a year where Bhutanese people gather together to pay tribute to the monarchs that ruled our country in extraordinary manner and also to offer prayers forever lasting peace and prosperity.
Chief Executive Officer of Thuksey Research and Consultancy, Dr. Singye Namgyel said, “National Day is a great occasion to remember how our nation got unified under the visionary monarchs. It is a day for the citizens to celebrate together and be united.” He advised that the people must forget all the differences and be proud as a Bhutanese.
A student from Sherubtse College, Sonam Tshering expressed his prayers and good wishes to the King, country and its people. He added, “It gives me immense satisfaction and determination in continuing with the same spirit and same thoughts towards the nation and our visionary monarchs,” Apart from the celebration within the country, Bhutanese living outside the country is also observing the significant day.
Sonam Peden studying in Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University, Japan also shared her excitement. She said that she would see Bhutanese people gathering and celebrating the national day not just within the country but also within the Bhutanese communities all over the world. “This year, I will be attending a ‘Bhutan Day’ event at Waseda University in Tokyo for the first time and I am so excited to wear kira, meet with other Bhutanese people, and maybe even eat Bhutanese food together.”
Chimmi Eden Wangmo, a Bhutanese residing in Perth, Australia, said that there is an Association of Bhutanese in Perth (ABPI), which holds important events including the national day and birth anniversaries of the Druk Gyalpos. She added, “Despite tight schedules and busy lives, we will observe the day, joining hands with the other Bhutanese to celebrate the remarkable day.”
Aum Rinchen summed up the significance of the Day. “How far have we come as a nation,” she said. “We used to do back breaking work to making our ends meet. Today most of the youth take these things for granted.” Her brother, Namgay, 78, said that without the monarchs, Bhutan would have been any other country in the region. “We stand out because of the visions of our country,” said the retired lam. “We are proud nations who can boast about our culture, traditions and unique philosophy of development.”
The 17th of December is the day on which the people are reminded to reaffirm their pledges to shoulder the important responsibility to serve the nation with the best of abilities.
By Pema Choden & Kinley Wangchuk