Exhibitions on Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel inaugurated
2016 marks the 400 years of the legacy of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel. To commemorate and pay tribute to the Zhabdrung, Her Majesty Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck inaugurated two exhibitions at the Royal Textile Academy on 21st of September 2016.
The first exhibition titled “Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel: The Founding Father” displays sacred relics belonging to the Zhabdrung and some of his reincarnations. Sacred relics from Gasa, Jarogang, Simtokha and Hongtsho Tashigang have been brought together for the first time for this exhibition.
The second exhibition is “Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel: A Biography Through Kuthangs. The nineteen Kuthangs on display is a pictorial biography that epitomizes the amalgamation of traditional artistic skills, reverence and gratitude.
Her Majesty highlighted during the inauguration of the exhibition that Zhabdrung is the founder of our nation, our “Drinchen Gi Pham” and that “it would be difficult to imagine Bhutan today without the strong foundation of unity, identity and nationhood laid down by the Zhabdrung.”
According to the press release from the Royal Textile Academy the exhibition was possible through the input of many stakeholders including Central Monastic Body, the Royal Government, Department of Culture and many other who worked behind the scene. The academy further thanked the owners and custodians of these relics for loaning these artifacts for the exhibition and providing a rare opportunity for the general Bhutanese population to pay their respects and reverence to our founding father.
The exhibition “Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel: The Founding Father” will be open for six months while the second exhibition, “Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel: A Biography Through Kuthangs” will be open till the end of October 2016.
Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel (1594-1651) is considered one of the incarnations of Avalokitesvara, the Buddha of compassion. As the reincarnation of Kuenkhen or Omniscient Pema Karpo, Zhabdrung was considered the head of the Drukpa school of Mahayana Buddhism.
He is singularly accredited for Bhutan’s territorial and political unification under the banner of Drukpa lineage. He established the dual system of governance which separated temporal of Bhutan as a nation state was enhanced through the construction of Dzongs or fortresses, instituting of monastic communities, introduction of unique cultural and religious practices which are prevalent to this day.
Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel was born in 1594 in Gardong, the monastic estate of Druk Jangchubling in central Tibet. His father Mipham Tempai Nyima was the member of the noble Gya family and mother Sonam Palgyi Bhutri was the patron of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism. Zhabdrung’s divine conception was bode with auspicious signs and he was named Ngawang Jigme Dragpa Chogle Namper Gyalwai Palzang at birth by his paternal grandfather Mipham Chogyal.
Zhabdrung started his education under the tutelage of the eminent Drukpa scholar and master of Astrology Lhawang Lodoe. Zhabdrung took his Buddhist vows as an ardained monk at the age f 8 years. A remarkable student Zhabdrung com-
pleted most of his education and monastic training by the time he was 13 years of age.
The recognition of the incarnation of Kuenchen Pema Karpo was highly contested and he faced strong opposition by Pagsam Wangpon of the powerful Chongye family. With support from the Tshangpa ruler, Pagsam Wangpo was formally enthroned as the official reincarnate.
Following a dream in which a raven lead him southward, Zhabdrung was compelled to flee Ti- bet to fulfill the prophecy of Guru Padmasambhava in ‘Lhomen’- the historic name for Bhutan.
Zhabdrung arrived in Bhutan in 1616. He travelled through Gasa and Goen blessing local patrons and devotees. He gradually reached Thimphu through Lingzhi.
Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel is accredited for the establishment of Bhutan as an independent sovereign nation by unifying Bhutan under one leadership and introduced political re- forms and a new system of ‘Choe-Sid-Nyiden’ was initiated by which power and authority was shared between the spiritual and secular heads.
After successive victories over the invading Tibetan forces, Zhabdrung began consolidation and expanding his power within Bhutan. In 1620, the construction of Cheri monastery was initiated to house the remains of Yab Tenpai Nyima and establish the first monastic school in the country.
Consequently, many dzongs or fortresses were built to consolidate power, establish control and authority over the various districts in Bhutan. Simtokha Dzong was built in 1629 to render control over Paro to the west and Trongsa to the East. In 1637, Punakha Dzong was built in Tibet and was regarded as the substitute to Ralung monastery in Tibet and was named Dewachenpoi Phodrang or the ‘Palace of Great Bliss’
Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel entered into a strict retreat in 1651 in Punakha and eventually passed away during the retreat. It is believed that he passed away on 30 April 1651 corresponding to the 10th day of the 3rd month of the Bhutanese calendar year. Zhabdrung Kuchoe or the death anniversary of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel is observed on this day every year.
The exhibition was initiated under the personal guidance of Her Majesty, Textile Museum and Royal Textile Academy with support from the Central Monastic Body and Home Ministry.