If a spot of this good earth were home at once to the divine, the natural, and the human, it has to be the sandalwood country, the land of life-herbs, abode of the peaceful dragon, suckled by the vital breath of the high Himalayas. The blessings of the trinity willed into being a dear space we fondly call Bhutan, our home. Here is the creative interplay of the sacred majesty of king, the good fortune of a people, and the fecund virtues of the land.
There comes a time in the life of a nation when we look inward as we look outward in a spirit of thanksgiving and rejoicing. One such moment is today, as always, the auspicious seventeenth day of December in the eternal stream of time. As we celebrate our 112th historic National Day of Bhutan, we meet, in body, speech, and mind, at the history-laden grand stadium of Changlimithang, we embrace, at once, the past, the present, and the future, in the all-galvanising euphoria of the event. This spot stands witness to countless epochal moments in the evolution of our beloved country,
Many spectacular performances and breathtaking presentations invariably mark the progress of our National Day. This year, the national stadium welcomes the return of the big event after a sojourn of other dzongkahgs over the past few years. And, the celebrations at the national capital naturally have something special.
In the compelling scheme of the occasion, anticipation crescendos to a peak as His Majesty the Druk Gyalpo ascends the royal stand and the national flag is unfurled, accompanied by the singing of the national anthem. The pivotal moment as indeed the centerpiece of the celebrations that Bhutanese citizens at home and abroad prayerfully await is His Majesty’s royal address to the nation.
Druk Yul comes home together as the past, the present, and the future interweave to form our epic national saga dating back to times immemorial and looking forward to times inviting, if unfathomable. The scale, the splendour, and the significance of the day are matchless even as the ecstasy and euphoria attendant on the event override the preoccupations of everyday life. The governing spirit of goodwill and the pervasive power of positive energy hold sway as Bhutanese citizens feel one and act one as members of the big family that we all belong to.
The best of Druk Yul finds utterance in the royal address of the Druk Gyalpo as His Majesty reminds the multitude of the hallowed past and momentous milestones of the country, as our pragmatic King highlights the significant challenges of the present, as our beloved People’s King beckons His people to look to the future in faith and with hope.
The mood of the moment heightens to pure joy as three generations of the Wangchuck Dynasty meet in the royal presence of Bhutan’s King of Destiny, Druk Gyel Zhipa Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the People’s King, His Majesty Druk Gyelpo Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, and the future King Gyelsey Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck, with Druk Gyeltsuen Her Majesty Jetsun Pema Wangchuck and the other members of the royal family.
This is Bhutan at her best as sovereign and subjects, as royalties and rank and file mingle in a common celebration of the nation and nationhood.
Bhutan is at her heart-felt best as the Peaceful Dragon takes to the skies, as we shout out “Gyalo…!” to the commander’s “Palden… Drukpa…!” to achieve a symphony of “Palden Dukpa Gyelo”!, as the children sing their songs of praise and prayers, as the dancers and marchers offer moving tributes of gratitude and good wishes… till we form the grand circles of Tashi Lebey for the final dance of rejoicing and thanks-giving as we pray for the good times to come again.
I have had the singular privilege of partaking of several National Day celebrations across the country over the years. I do not know how many more I will be able to see and celebrate. But one sentiment has been constant. It is always with a deep sense of gratitude and joy that I have observed these momentous occasions. I have seen them as the most powerful avenues to the vital task of nation-building.
The specifities of our personal circumstances merge in the collective fortune of the nation as young and old, courtier and commoner, office-goer and farmer, rich and poor share common space and sentiment and achieve a higher sense of belonging and oneness.
Our National Day is a celebration of Druk Yul the Beautiful. It is honouring the soul of the nation, its objective life as well as its subjective being, its sovereign self and its vital life-force and integral identity. The National Day beckons and celebrates the essential, authentic, and beautiful core of Druk Yul.
Bhutan the beautiful is our common home, our shared identity, our precious Druk Yul. We build it moment by moment, breath by breath, dream by dream – in our minds, in our hearts and in our actions.
Even as such important events help us to remember and reinforce our understanding of the historical milestones and the creation of the objective life of our nation-state, the psychological and emotional construction of the nation is awakened and enlarged by the power of these all-galvanising moments. I have witnessed the shared effulgence of the most inspirational sentiments on these occasions.
For one, there is extraordinary clarity and sublime profundity in the royal address of His Majesty the King. The address is a spontaneous and powerful articulation of the vital elements that define the life-force and identity of the nation, a reaffirmation of the vital interests of the country, and the imperative to forge an intelligent and strategic pathway to the future. The message is all-embracing, the tone is compelling, and the delivery is majestic.
At a time when short-sighted, populist impulses often stand in the way of long-term vision and threaten to undermine the hard-earned successes achieved hitherto, the all-embracing call of the royal address comes as a balm that heals the nation and nurses the hurts and gives hope and confidence to look forward.
This is nation-building in the true sense of the term. One message for all from the conscience-keeper of Druk Yul, the guardian of all citizens and sentient beings of this land of many blessings, our ultimate refuge reaches all and blesses all. This is Bhutan at her best.
Some of the most historic proclamations to the nation have been made by our enlightened Wangchuck Kings from the national grandstand at Changlimithang. Our far-sighted monarchs have left no stone unturned to provide wise counsel and clear direction to the people and the government on every possible occasion. It is for us the citizens to take heed and live out our best on behalf of our country’s sovereignty, peace, security and well-being for all times to come.
This ancient land of saints and seers, of prophecies and incarnations, yet at ease with the modern and the innovative, a priceless legacy of our far-sighted monarchs is too precious to squander by wayward habits and lack of vision.
As we reflect on the importance of the National Day and on all the blessings that we have received, it is also necessary to be sensitive to some of the challenges and failings that we need to face head on and rectify. We need to be mindful, for instance, of the risks that come with a mistaken notion of democracy as freedom to do what one pleases without accountability. It is wise too to focus on institution-building and improving governance, strengthen social security and communal harmony, and build trust and cultivate integrity at all levels.
As a country, we need to follow our own North Star and build our own inner resources. We do not have to compete with anybody. The best of Bhutan is built on the foundations of Tha Damtsi, on integrity, on wisdom and industry.
Bhutan the beautiful is invested with its own native innocence and authenticity, its own genius and creativity, its courage and confidence even in the face of adversity as our wise monarchs have always shown. We can still rediscover the wisdom of the policy of self-sufficiency and self-reliance as the building-blocks of national self-respect and honour.
Home to some of the rarest animal, plant, bird and reptile species in the world, proud inheritors of the blessings of the peerless Buddha, the cradle of the vision of Gross National Happiness, Bhutan the beautiful is the gift of Mother Nature as we have received her by right and responsibility, the legacy of our enlightened Kings, and the good fortune of our people.
History will record what we make of these sacred treasures, this blessing called Druk Yul.
The call of the royal address is crystal clear.
On the joyous occasion of our 112th National Day, I offer my prayers for the blessings of our guardian deities for peace, prosperity and happiness for Tsawa Sum this day and always…
Thakur S Powdyel