A photograph of the First King’s cousin, Dzongpon Kunzang Thinley wearing the Raven Crown has been confusing many Bhutanese including researchers.
The photograph of the Dzongpon, donning the Raven Crown, is often mistaken for the First King, Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck. The latest mistake was spotted in a Kuensel publication on December 17, where the photograph was captioned as the First King.
In 2008, during a special exhibition on Royal Imagery at the Paro museum, the same photograph was exhibited as that of Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck’s. Later in 2011, Bhutanese author, Tshering Tashi through an article clarified that the photograph was that of Dzongpon Kunzang Thinley (1860-1919).
In the article, Tshering Tashi clarified that the Dzongpon or ‘Lord of the Castle,’ was the son of Trongsa Penlop Dungkar Gyeltshen and cousin of the king. According to him, the crown worn by the Dzongpon is not the one worn by the First King of Bhutan. The author interviewed late Dasho Shingkhar Lam who then said that the crown with the Jachung motif was made only during the second king’s time.
The photograph of the Dzongpon was discovered by a local photographer, Ap Dorji, in Thimphu in the house of Sangay Wangdi, a relative of Gelong Nyerchen Drep Tshering Dorji (1896-1983), wrote Tshering Tashi. “After the death of Ashi Lemo’s mother, who is only known as the rich lady from Khoma, Dzongpon Kunzang Thinley married Gelong Nyerchen Drep’s older sister, Ashi Sangay. The Gelong later succeeded him as Dzongsab of Thimphu and inherited the property,” he wrote.
Ap Dorji told the author that the photo was from an old newspaper, which he scanned and reproduced for the photo exhibition hosted by the National Museum in 2008. “Gelong Nyerchen Drep’s grandson Ugyen Wangdi remembers seeing the photo hanging over his grandfather’s bed. He said his grandfather held the Dzongpon in high esteem, and attested the photo of the man wearing the Raven Crown as the Thimphu Dzongpon Kunzang Thinley,” wrote Tshering Tashi.