A sacred ceremony,  an extraordinary event

Bhutan witnessed a historic moment yesterday.

Three generations of the Wangchuck Dynasty were at the Sacred Machen of Pungthang Dewachenpoi Phodrang – His Majesty The Fourth Druk Gyalpo, His Majesty The King, and His Royal Highness – to pray for the well being of the country and people now and for all time to come, and to receive the name for His Royal Highness The Gyalsey.

His Holiness the Je Khenpo presided over the ceremony.

His Majesty The King introduced His Royal Highness The Gyalsey to Royal Family members, spiritual and government leaders, and representatives of all sections of Bhutanese society.

Outside a special Zhabdrung Rinpoche thongdrel hung from the dzong’s utse and the most sacred relics of Zhabdrung including the Rangjung Kharsa Pani were displayed on one side of the courtyard for public veneration.

As His Majesty The King began addressing the nation soon after the naming ceremony, more than ten thousand people gathered at the Thangzona celebration ground near the dzong, turned silent.

The Thongdrel of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel at Punakha Dzong

The Thongdrel of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel at Punakha Dzong

Many Bhutanese families across the country remained glued to their television sets for a moment awaited since the birth of HRH The Gyalsey on February 5.

“Our son’s name is Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck,” His Majesty The King said and the crowd cheered and applauded. People repeated the name to themselves and to each other.

Soon after, His Majesty The King entered the public ground holding HRH The Gyalsey, Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck and all heads turned in one direction.

Thousands gathered for Zhabdrung Kuchoe and the naming ceremony of HRH The Gyalsey

Thousands gathered for Zhabdrung Kuchoe and the naming ceremony of HRH The Gyalsey

People craned their necks to catch a glimpse of His Majesty and His Royal Highness, who were followed by His Majesty The Fourth Druk Gyalpo, Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen, and other members of the Royal Family.

With folded palms on their foreheads, eyes closed, many uttered prayers and good wishes.

Up in the mountains, Lhaba Tshering and his family in a simple ceremony lit butter lamps to observe Zhabdrung Kuchoe. They made food offerings, then watched the live broadcast on television until the last item.

Lhaba Tshering’s ancestors were the first Bhutanese to offer shelter to the travelling saint when he reached Danglo village, Laya.

In return his family was gifted with a huge water container and a turquoise for their hospitality.

People performed colourful cultural programmes

People performed colourful cultural programmes

“I’m most happy that our Gyalsey is named on the occasion of Zhabdrung Kuchoe and will forever remain proud of what my ancestors did,” Lhaba Tshering said. “As did my parents, we too shall remain loyal and dedicated to our leaders.”

There was also a group of highlanders from Sakteng, Trashigang who came to offer thridhar to HRH The Gyalsey.

“We’ve been fortunate to be blessed with benevolent and compassionate Kings until now, our prayer for HRH The Gyalsey is that he follow their lead and lead us and our children into a future with greater peace and harmony,” Thubten Tashi, a nomad from Borangman, Sakteng said.

This year marks the 400th year of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal’s arrival in the country, and the Fire Monkey year in the Bhutanese calendar is also the birth year of Guru Rinpoche. According to astrologers, such a year comes only once in 60 years.

Among those to arrive early was Khandu Wangmo from Thimphu. She came at 5am braving the drizzle and chill.

“We came to see Their Majesties and join in the celebrations,” the 76-year old said.

The former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Sonam Tobgye said, “The country will be blessed with a Prince endowed with fearlessness and discerning wisdom. He will be all victorious and will have awesome powers as the occasion is sanctified by the blessings of Zhabdrung Rinpoche and Guru Padmasambhava.”

Zhabdrung Rinpoche gave the country its culture, laws and administrative system – a unique identity. He introduced the dual system of administration, and naming His Royal Highness The Gyalsey on this auspicious day is in conformity with history, tradition and culture of the country, elders said.

Spectators , both young and old, donned their best attire.

A class XII student of Punakha Central School, Somita Rai who was one of the many students helping manage the crowd said: “I felt very special to be a part of the celebrations.”

“This is a memorable moment. I want to cherish and share it with my grand children,” a woman from Talo, Punakha said.

Chhams related to Zhabdrung were performed at the ground along with an entertainment programme, as part of Zhabdrung Tsechu. Relics of the Zhabdrung from across the country will be displayed at the Dzong from April 17 to 22.

Relics on display 

Coinciding with the naming ceremony of HRH The Gyalsey at the Pungthang Dewachenpoi Phodrang yesterday, 15 scared relics from the time of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel were displayed for public viewing.

The relics comprise of a pair of silver dungs (horn), a wooden cup and a gomzha (meditation hat) believed to have been brought by Zhabdrung from Tibet. Zhabdrung used the gomzha when he was presiding over important and sacred wangs (transmission of religious discourse) said Tensung Lopen Kezang. The hat is made of fine brown silk with intricate patterns.

These relics are housed at Chari Monastery in Thimphu. Chari is the first retreat centre founded by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel. The relics displayed yesterday were brought from Thimphu, Wangdue, Gasa, and Punakha.

From Jarogang Lhakhang in Wangdue was brought a self-made rice statue of Zhabdrung. Tensung Lopen Kezang said that Zhabdrung made the statue from the leftover rice that a lady called Zombachumo offered to Zhabdrung when he visited her house. The three-inch statue is the main relic of Jarogang Lhakhang.

A set of a vajra and bell that Zhabdrung discovered from a cliff in Jarogang were also among the relics on display.

Relics brought from Gasa included a statue of Zhabdrung, a saddle and shoes worn by Zhabdrung. The saddle of the deity Gomo is one of the main relics of Gasa Dzong. It is believed that Gomo came to Bhutan along with Zhabdrung.

A six-inch clay statue made by Zhabdrung is the main relic of Tashi Lhakhang in Laya. Shoes were given to a resident of Laya where Zhabdrung spent some nights before heading towards Thimphu.

Among the relics was also a statue of Zhabdrung’s mother, Yum Sonam Peldon. The statue is made out of sand called Bjama Atrong, which is believed to have a letter ‘Ah’ in each piece of sand. The statue is one of the relics of Punakha Dzong.

Other relics included fingerprints of Zhabdrung on a stone, beads that he used for recitation, cymbals, tooth relic of Sangay Yoesung and Zhabdrung’s walking stick.

The relics, which are usually sealed, were put on public display yesterday to celebrate the 400th year of Zhabdrung’s arrival in the country.

Tshering Palden and Tenzin Namgyel 


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