WANGCHUCK DYNASTY THE NATION'S SOUL
Bhutan’s monarchy is the most important institution that holds the nation together
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.