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From 1967 to date, a glittering array of awards have been conferred on meritorious individuals from all walks of life 

COVER STROY: December 17, 2013, Changlingmethang national stadium, Thimphu.  It was a bright winter morning and the stadium was teeming with people, young and old, who had come to witness the 106th National Day.

The Bhutanese roll of honours

From 1967 to date, a glittering array of awards have been conferred on meritorious individuals from all walks of life 

COVER STROY: December 17, 2013, Changlingmethang national stadium, Thimphu.  It was a bright winter morning and the stadium was teeming with people, young and old, who had come to witness the 106th National Day.

Kaka Tshering, 58, a forestry official from Paro division, sat listening to His Majesty’s address to the nation, calm and thoughtful, sage-like. And then the shock arrived.

His Majesty called out Kaka’s name for the National Order of Merit (gold).  The king’s chamberlain escorted Kaka to the podium.  He could hear his bones rattling with fear and nervousness.  The same week, Kaka Tshering also received the civil service award (gold).

“I was surprised, and nervous.  I hadn’t expected anything like that, even in my dream,” said Kaka Tshering. “His Majesty recognised my service to the nation for 31 years. I’m very grateful. It encourages me to work hard.”

His Majesty awards honour and decoration to individuals, who have made significant contributions to national life.  Recipients range from farmers to singers, and musicians to educationists, civil servants to industrialists, and armed forces personnel.

Tenzin Dorji, head of the Youth Welfare Education Office (YWEO) with His Majesty’s Secretariat, who also worked as the chief research officer for the Royal Privy Council, said that His Majesty the Druk Gyalpo as the sovereign is the ‘font of honour’ in the country.

Honours are split into classes or orders, and graded to distinguish different degrees of achievements or service.

“Honours are awarded to recognise merit, in terms of achievement and service, long and valuable service,” said Tenzin Dorji. “Honours are awarded to recognise specific deeds.”

Although there are no criteria to determine these levels, the honours and decorations are awarded at the discretion of His Majesty the Druk Gyalpo as a royal prerogative. 

However, in 2008, by the command of His Majesty, decorations and honours were instituted.  The decorations and honours in their order of precedence, of which the highest is the Order of Druk Gyalpo (Nga Dap Pel Gi Khorlo).

Order of Druk Gyalpo is a decoration or honour for lifetime achievement.  It is the pinnacle of the honour system in the country, and takes precedence over all other honours and decorations.  The order consists of two classes – the class I comprises of a breast star and sash badge.  The class II is awarded with badge and sash.

Dr Frederik Paulsen, chairman of Ferrings Pharmaceuticals, received the Order of Druk Gyalpo (class II) on November 7, 2008.  Her Majesty the Royal Grandmother Ashi Kesang Choeden Wangchuck and His Holiness Je Thrizur Tenzin Dendup received the Order of Druk Gyalpo (class I) on November 15, 2011.  So far, no other than the three has been awarded with the Order of Druk Gyalpo.

Order of Druk Yugyel is the honour next in precedence.  The Order of Druk Yugyel was redesigned and instituted as the second highest honour or decoration in January 2008 by His Majesty the Druk Gyalpo.  Initially, the order consisted of a single badge that can be worn with a sash or collar ribbon. A breast star was later added to the decoration.

The order was bestowed to Goongloen Lam Dorji, the former chief operation officer of Royal Bhutan Army in 1991.  Goongloen Lam Dorji is the only recipient of the order.

Records with Kuensel and Royal Privy Council tell us that Swizz donor Fritz Von Schulthess was the first recipient of Druk Wangyel honour on February 9, 1967.  On September 29, 1985, Indira Gandhi, the then prime minister of India, was awarded the second recipient of the honour posthumously.

Before 2008, when the honours were not in their present order of precedence, it was awarded as one of the highest civilian honours.

After the honours was redesigned on December 17, 2009, former Lyonchoen Jigmi Y Thinley, and former chief justice, Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye, were the first recipients of the Order of Druk Wangyel.

The Order of Druk Thuksey has also been redesigned and instituted as the fourth highest honour.  The honour consists of a single class, comprising a neck badge.

The honour was first awarded in 1968 to the chief engineer of Danktak, Brigadier OP Datta, and the secretary of development, Dr T Tobgyal.  On July 15, 1969, the honour was awarded to Maktsi Lam Dorji, who was the chief operation officer of RBA.  In the same year, the honour was awarded to Lyonpo Dawa Tshering, Lyonpo Tamshing Jagar, Lyonpo Chogyal, Dasho Pap Yoeser, Lyonpo Sangay Penjo and Dasho Shingkhar Lam.  Four years later, in 1973, Reverend SJ Mackay, counsellor AN Ram and Lopen Dago received the honour from His Majesty the Fourth King.  Major Dr Mishra of Indo-Bhutan Hospital was awarded the honour in 1979.  Renowned Bhutanese singer, dancer and musician, Ap Dopey, was awarded the Order of Druk Thuksey on June 2, 1999, along with 16 other individuals.

On December 17, 2007, Dasho Karma Gayleg was awarded the Order of Druk Thuksey. On December 17, 2008, chief election commissioner, Dasho Kunzang Wangdi, chairperson of ACC, Aum Neten Zangmo, secretary of International Borders Dasho Pema Wangchuk, and secretary to Fourth Druk Gyalpo, Dasho Pema Wangchen, received the Order of Druk Thuksey.

Jinzo (clay sculpture) Lopen Karma was awarded the Order of Druk Thuksey on December 17, 2009.  Three more individuals were awarded the order following the year and another ten on December 17, 2012.  On December 17, 2013, two more individuals received the order.

The Order of Druk Khorlo, the next in the line of order of precedence, is the fifth highest honour.  Upon Royal command, it was redesigned in 2009 and consists of a neck badge with a matching miniature.

The order was first awarded to Zimpon Sangay Tenzin and Maktsi Tshering Ngedup in 1967.  After the order was redesigned, the founder and chairman of Jai Prakash company ltd, Jai Prakash Gaur Ji, was the first recipient of the order in January 2010.

In the same year, on December 17, the director of Centre for Bhutan Studies, Dasho Karma Ura, was awarded the order.  On December 17, 2014, the managing director of Druk Green Power corporation, Dasho Chhewang Rinzin, received the order  from His Majesty the Druk Gyalpo.

The National Order of Merit (NOM), the last in the order of precedence, was awarded to 405 individuals between 2009 and 2014.  The NOM was instituted in 2008.

Tenzin Dorji said that, unlike the preceding honours, NOM is instituted to recognise and reward individuals from all walks of life, who have excelled or made substantial contributions in their profession.

‘They’re the ones, who have made an impact in society and have benefitted the society at large,” he said. “Each organisation nominates and selects such individuals, who are worthy of the honour.”

The new honours and decorations that were redesigned in June 2008 are made in the United Kingdom and Singapore.

To commemorate the coronation of His Majesty the Druk Gyalpo, coronation medals (gold, silver and bronze) were made.

“These are commemorative medals that are different from other honours and decorations,” said Tenzin Dorji.

The officers of the Royal Body Guard, Royal Bhutan Army and Royal Bhutan Police are also awarded with honours and decorations. They are awarded with the Drakpoi Wangyel, the Drakpoi Thuksey and the Drakpoi Khorlo among other honours and decorations.

By Thinley Zangmo

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