His Royal Highness the Gyalsey is Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck, a name that bears the weight of history, echoes the promise of the future, and frames his own destiny. The Royal name resonates with the personalities, events, and prophesies that, over the centuries, nurtured a mythological land into a modern nation state.
The timing of the naming ceremony is the blessed Zhabdrung Kuchoe, the 17th Rabjung (astrological cycle of 60 years), the 10th day of the third Bhutanese month (April 16, 2016), 400 years after Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal came to Bhutan. The place is the Machhen Lhakhang in the historic Punthang Dewachenpoi Phodrang originally constructed by the Zhabdrung himself when he created the polity of Bhutan and established a system of governance that continues to evolve to this day.
Reminiscent of special moments in Bhutan’s history, the sacred ceremony was attended by His Majesty The King and Her Majesty The Queen, His Majesty The Fourth Druk Gyalpo, His Holiness the Je Khenpo, the entire Royal Family, political and government leaders, and the people. It was another extraordinary event that will be remembered as a landmark in the narrative of Bhutan’s unique history.
In the eighth century Guru Rinpoche prophecised that “above what resembles the trunk of an elephant mountain, a being bearing the name ‘Namgyel’ will appear.” In the 17th century, the dynamic Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel came from Tibet and integrated Bhutan’s scattered communities into a unified populace and established the Bhutanese polity. In the process he crafted the Bhutanese identity.
The Zhabdrung structured the dual system of government, with the state clergy and temporal rulers sharing power until the beginning of the 20th century. This form of national governance was based on the tenets of Buddhism that provided administrative, moral, social, and legal guidance. Successive Je Khenpos and Desis enriched the Dzong with images of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, lineage Gurus, wrathful and peaceful deities.
It was also in the Punthang Dewachenpoi Phodrang that the Dratshang, Ponlops, Dzongpons, and representatives of the people, put their seals on the historic Genja and unanimously elected Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck as Bhutan’s first hereditary Monarch. Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck was enthroned on December 17, 1907, and brought an end to decades of regional feuds and internal strife.
The Monarchy represented a shift into secular rule and refined statecraft. The relationship between the sovereign, who bestowed benevolence, and the people, who submitted their devotion to the Monarch, became the strength of Bhutan’s political evolution. The succession of hereditary Monarchs launched an era of political stability and steered the country into an era of rapid economic growth.
The 40 lhakhangs inside the Punthang Dewachenpoi Phodrang, house many rare and precious relics including the self-created Chenrezig Kharsapani, as well as the precious remains of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, Terton Pema Lingpa, and Dungse Jampal Dorje.
Over the centuries all the Je Khenpos and Desis were formally installed in Punakha with the auspicious ceremonies held in the Dzong. The Dharma Kings of the Wangchuck dynasty were all enthroned here, in the presence of the Zhabdrung’s Kudrung. The most important Vajrayana ceremonies and rituals have been performed without interruption for 360 years.
A name that rings of prophecy, Gyalsey Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck brings Bhutanese history alive. Tied to the past and woven into the future, His Royal Highness defines the identity for yet another generation of Bhutanese people and opens another chapter of the Bhutanese civilization.
Jigme means fearless, the concept drawn from the realisation of the ultimate truth. When the mind is not obscured and it is crystal clear this means that one has realised the ultimate truth and is therefore not scared of illusion. Fearlessness doesn’t only come from realisation, it also comes from compassion. When there is compassion that is not limited by time, space and number, it is also a source of fearlessness.
Namgyal carries the sense of complete, total victory. It is the blissful experience and realisation that will pacify all unfavourable and harmful circumstances. One’s lifespan, merit, wisdom, qualities are increased. One will have control over others and destroy enemies and evil spirits. From the Buddhist point of view this is victory over the four maras, in other words, all obstacles. Obstacles in the Buddhist sense are understood as obstacles for oneself and for the activities that benefit others.
Wangchuck can literally mean “Lord.” In the Buddhist sense, this means that one possesses not only worldly qualities, but beyond the worldly as well. In the worldly sense, it means having majestic qualities, born with authority. From a historic point of view, the dynastic name, Wangchuck, is believed to have been given by Jigme Namgyel’s Guru, Jangchub Tsundrue.
It is of profound significance that the five gilded pinnacles of the Dewachenpoi Phodrang continue to glisten in the sunlight, more brilliant than ever. Straddling the confluence of the snow-fed Phochhu and Mochhu rivers, this magnificent monument has been repeatedly challenged by man and nature. It was damaged by fires in 1780, 1789, 1802, 1831, 1849, and in 1986. There was a massive earthquake in 1897 and a devastating flash flood in 1994 when the Dzongchhung, which houses the images of the Jhou (Lord Buddha) and Dupthob Nagi Rinchhen (Vanaratna), miraculously survived.
One of the most memorable landmarks in Bhutanese history, the Dzong was once restored to its former glory after the flood by the fourth Druk Gyalpo, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck. It was a herculean architectural and construction feat that paid homage to the tradition of Bhutanese architecture and craftsmanship at their best. Today, the Dzong stands as a symbol of unity, peace, stability, and prosperity, and the assurance that the dharma will continue to flourish.
In November last year, His Majesty The King said that our “Prince will be a Son to the people of Bhutan”. His birth, in the year of Guru Rinpoche’s own birth and the 400th anniversary of the Zhabdrung’s rule, incarnates the spirit of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel and the aura of the Wangchuck dynasty. Not only does he bring the Tendryil of the Guru and the Zhabdrung, but he carries the name of Bhutan’s larger than life hero, Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck, the father of the first King, whose legendary skills, courage and strength became the foundation of the Monarchy.
Bhutan’s Monarchs shaped Bhutan’s destiny, with each King playing a special role in crafting Bhutanese history. As legend, myth, and fact continue to converge, the past assures us that generation after generation of Bhutanese people will draw our strength from the continuity of the vital institution of our Monarchy.
Dasho Kinley Dorji