Bhutan’s monar­chy is the most im­por­tant in­sti­tu­tion that holds the na­tion to­gether

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Bhutanese Monar­chy span­ning across more than a cen­tury is an in­sti­tu­tion that has not only steered the na­tion through sig­nif­i­cant changes, care­fully nav­i­gat­ing up­heavals, to­wards un­prece­dented peace, de­vel­op­ment and progress. The Monar­chy also con­tin­ues to serve as a dy­namic force that holds the na­tion to­gether, uni­fy­ing its peo­ple of di­verse cul­tural, lin­guis­tic and eth­nic back­grounds.

The Monar­chy, in­sti­tuted in 1907, with the crown­ing of the first hered­i­tary Monarch of Bhutan, Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck, was the un­rav­el­ing of a uni­fy­ing force so great those once war­ring fac­tions and feu­dal lords de­fy­ing their dif­fer­ences would join to­gether to form a sin­gle na­tional body that could over­come for­eign pres­sures and in­ter­fer­ence.

An ex­am­ple of this is the Treaty of Pu­nakha signed in 1910 be­tween the newly con­sol­i­dated King­dom of Bhutan and Bri­tish In­dia, which was a mod­i­fied ver­sion of the Treaty of Sinchula signed in 1865. The for­mer brought all the heads of the coun­try to­gether un­der the first King who led them on to sign the his­toric treaty af­firm­ing Bhutan as one of the few Asian king­doms never con­quered by a re­gional or colo­nial power.

Start­ing from Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck, the Monar­chy has

de­scended to five gen­er­a­tions, yet ev­ery one of the Druk Gyal­pos has in one way or an­other con­sol­i­dated the spe­cial bond and ex­er­cise of unity that keeps the Bhutanese to­gether.

The Tsa Wa Sum or three sa­cred jew­els sym­bol­iz­ing king, coun­try and peo­ple in a way is a sim­ple rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the in­te­gral el­e­ments that form the Bhutanese com­mu­nity or na­tion as a whole.

The king here has al­ways been an over­ar­ch­ing fig­ure who has man­aged to form and strengthen unity among the Bhutanese - be it the com­mon peo­ple, govern­ment in­sti­tu­tions, or po­lit­i­cal par­ties.

Trav­el­ing far and wide on the most dif­fi­cult of trails and ter­rains, even unto the re­motest cor­ners of the coun­try, ex­press­ing con­cern for the poor­est and most marginal­ized cit­i­zens and grant­ing them kidu and as­sis­tance has proved to the na­tion that the Monar­chy is the soul of the na­tion.

This has cu­mu­lated in the con­struc­tion of a na­tional bond com­pris­ing peo­ple who treat each other as their kith and kin.

In olden times, con­flict­ing par­ties would ap­proach the king if they could not come to a res­o­lu­tion de­spite their best ef­forts. This has not changed. As a mat­ter of fact, the king­dom’s transition to a con­sti­tu­tional democ­racy, in­stead of di­lut­ing the monar­chy’s role and pres­ence, has only served to reaf­firm its pur­pose of serv­ing as a uni­fy­ing force.

Per­haps, this is be­cause the Druk Gyal­pos are much loved and ven­er­ated in Bhutan for their ap­proach­a­bil­ity, deeds and con­cern for their peo­ple. Bhutanese liv­ing far and wide, even abroad have al­ways come to­gether as one dur­ing times of the na­tion’s cel­e­bra­tions or when a na­tional tragedy struck or an emer­gency arose sim­ply be­cause the Druk Gyalpo’s uni­fy­ing and com­fort­ing pres­ence builds in them an em­pa­thy for each other and the na­tion as a whole.

The monarch’s voice has al­ways been heard, and had a pro­found im­pact on the peo­ple, es­pe­cially dur­ing times when he spoke pub­licly. Their words and im­ages are etched in Bhutanese homes, hearths and hearts, di­rect­ing their thoughts, prayers and ac­tions.

For the Bhutanese, the monarch is much more than a pin-up celebrity. He is a larger-than-life fig­ure who is also a flesh and blood re­al­ity, con­stantly oc­cu­py­ing the na­tional sen­ti­ments.

The Land of the Thunder Dragon has emerged stronger over the cen­tury with the reign of each monarch so has na­tional unity that is a fun­da­men­tal tenet in any suc­cess­ful yet di­verse democ­racy. There are those who say Bhutan’s benev­o­lent Monar­chy is the most won­drous in­sti­tu­tion in a world torn apart by con­flict, strife and bloody rev­o­lu­tions. True to this, the Bhutanese Monar­chy has in­deed proved a lin­eage of benev­o­lent and vi­sion­ary lead­ers who love their peo­ple.

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