His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck said:

‘It was on this day in 1907 that Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck ascended the throne of our country and brought peace, stability and unity in a country that was torn with internal strife, war, disunity, famine and diseases. It was he who gave this nation the reason to hope for a better future of happiness and prosperity, and the will to strive together for it. It is for these reasons that we celebrate 17th December as our National Day.’

1862– Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuk was born at the Wangdue Choeling Palace in 1862.

1865– The Treaty concluded at Sinchula on the 11th day of November, 1865

1868– Battles at Zompakha and Jiligang in Punakha and seizure of Simtokha Dzong.

1879– Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck re-conquered Paro Ta Dzong.

He was appointed as Paro Poenlop in 1879.

1884– Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck married his first cousin Rinchen Pemo,

the daughter of late Pema Tenzin and his sister.

1884– Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck was appointed as the Trongsa Poenlop.

1885– The battle at Changlimithang recorded by the 43rd Je Khenpo Tenzin Lhendup wrote: “Through the power of infallible truth, He was victorious in war against his foes. The banner of victory from all quarters was raised; The aeon of warfare and weaponry came to an end.” (Dr Karma Phuntsho)

1888– The Tibetans occupied a small strip of land in Sikkim and asked for

assistance from Bhutan. Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck refused – nutrality.

1890– Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck went to Lhalung in Tibet to 

perform the last rites for his maternal uncle Kuenzang Tenpai Nyima,

1894– The Kurje temple was consecrated in 1894.

1897– A severe earthquake caused severe damages to the major Dzongs. Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck commanded all Dzongpoens to restore these Dzongs to their original splendour.

1899–  Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck went on a pilgrimage to Tibet.

1900– Queen, Azhi Rinchen Pemo passed away leaving their two daughters and three sons, but all the sons had died in infancy.

1900– Kazi Ugyen Dorji was appointed as Gongzim.

1903–  Druk Desi Sangay Dorji was succeeded by Choglye Truelku Yeshe Nguedrup. Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck held the post of the Chamberlain to the Desi.

1903– Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck was invited by Colonel Francis Younghusband to join the British expeditionary force into Tibet. The Central Monk Body and the

Lhengye Tshog  cautioned to the idea of Trongsa Poenlop marching with the British to Lhasa.

1904– The expedition reached Lhasa on 3rd August 1904.  After two battles, in which the Tibetans were defeated. Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck replied, ‘You gave me an account of the fighting at Garu and of your victory, and I am rejoiced.’

1904– A new treaty was finally signed at the Potala Palace on September 7. Younghusband noted that his help was: ‘highly instrumental in effecting a settlement.

A year ago the Bhutanese were strangers, today they are our enthusiastic allies… straight and possessed of a natural authority”. Zhabdrung incarnate Jigme

Chogyal (1862-1904), recounted Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck’s departure for Tibet in his biography: In order to save many lives of India and Tibet, there was no one else to be found More appropriate to negotiate a settlement.’ [Dr Karma Phuntsho)

1904– Younghusband described Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck as ‘a jolly, astute individual and a straight and possessed of a natural authority’

1905–  John Claude White was ‘deeply impressed by his sense of responsibility and genuine desire to improve the condition of his country and countrymen…’

1905–  Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck and John Claude White attended the installation of the ninth Peling Sungtruel, who was his nephew.

1905–  J.C White said, “With a few words appropriate to the occasion, I placed the ribbon of the order round his neck, pinned on the star and handed the warrant to

Sir Ugyen Wangchuck…”

1906– Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck went to Calcutta to meet the Prince of Wales.

1906–  J.C White said, ‘I also spent much of my time with the Tongsa [Poenlop] discussing the affairs of Bhutan and talking over his projects for improvements, roads, 

developments ,etc., all very interesting subjects and I often wonder now how he is carrying out all his schemes…

1907– J.C White said wrote, ‘discuss with them many projects and schemes for the welfare and improvement of the country. These covered a large area- school and

education, population, trade, the construction of roads, the mineral resources of the country and the best method of utilizing them, the desirability of tea

cultivation on the wastelands at the foot of the hills, which are excellent for the purpose and equal to the best tea lands in the Duars.”

1907– John Claude White in his congratulatory speech, said: “…I have today been

present at the election of Sir Ugyen as Hereditary Maharaja of Bhutan,

and congratulate you, Sir Ugyen, most heartily on your accession to the gaddi, and the people of Bhutan on their choice of a ruler… I also have great pleasure in

handing you a kharita, conveying to you the congratulations of His Excellency the Viceroy and the Government of India.’

J.C White had aptly described Sir Ugyen Wangchuck as: “I have never met a native I liked and respected more than I do Sir Ugyen. He is upright, honest, open and   straightforward, and I wish it had been possible to remain in India till he had at least commenced some of his schemes of reform.”

1910–  The signing of the final draft took place on January 8, 1910 at Punakha.

1910–  C.A. Bell wrote, ‘He presented me with one of the five gold medals struck in commemoration of his ascending the Bhutan gadi as hereditary Maharaja.’

1911– On the invitation of the British Government, the Druk Gyalpo travelled to Delhi in December 1911 to meet King George V of England. Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck 

replied instantly, “When coming to present myself before your Majesty, no distance seems far.”

1912– Besides the Crown Prince, Jigme Wangchuck, born in 1905, the Royal couple had three other children: Dasho Jurme Dorji born in 1912, Azhi Koencho

Wangmo born in 1915 and, Dasho Naku (Karma Thinlay Lhundrup), born in 1918. The King also had two daughters, Azhi Pedon and Azhi Yangzom, by his first consort.  Druk Gyalpo Ugyen Wangchuck spent the last years of his life in Bumthang mostly in retreat, devoting himself to meditation and prayers.

1913–  Annual Report Williamson, affirmed: “In the matter of education it is the desire of His Highness to establish a school at Ha or elsewhere for the education of the  sons of the leading families of Bhutan, in order that the advancement of his State may as far as possible be effected with the help of the natural leaders of the people.”

1913– Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck sent thirteen boys to Togden Sacha Sri. 

1914– Charles Bell, wrote: ‘His Highness is not only a very able Ruler, but is also universally respected both by his subjects and by his foreign friends’. 

1914– The British report of 1914-15, ‘some forty six Bhutanese students were sent to SUMI (Scottish Universities Mission Institutions) near Kalimpong, in India.

In the same year with the help of Dr. Sunderland of the Church of Scotland Mission in Kalimpong, the first modern school named Wangchuck Lhodzong, was opened in Haa.’ 

1914– The British Government and Bhutan (1914-15), which states: “Forty six Bhutanese boys are being educated by teachers appointed by the Church of Scotland Mission at Kalimpong. They stay with Raja Ugyen during the winter at Kalimpong and during the summer at Ha in Bhutan. The boys are making good progress.” 

1915– The British report of 1914-15 “His Highness the Maharaja has given a sum of Rs.1,00,000 to the Imperial Indian War Relief Fund and has also placed the whole 

resources of his State at the service of the Government.”  

1915– In Annual Report for the year 1915-16, C.A Bell mentioned: “A school has been opened at Bumtang (in Bhutan), the residence of His Highness the Maharaja, where English is taught to Bhutanese boys besides their mother language, which is Tibetan… Another school has been in existence for the last two or three years at Ha in Western Bhutan and here there are 46 boys. These come down to Kalimpong with Raja Ugyen for each cold weather.”

1917– In 1917, Kazi Ugyen Dorji died and his son, Sonam Tobgye Dorji succeeded him to the post of Gongzim…The following year, Paro Poenlop Dawa Penjor also died. He was succeeded by Tshering Penjor, the grandson of Jakar Dzongpoen Chhime Dorji.

1919– The Thram Martham Chem (Register with the red seal), which was prepared in 1919 and the reduction of land taxes and woola (customary tax in the form of labour) obligations. He also made conscious efforts to encourage trade and commerce with British India.

1922– In April 1922, the Queen, Azhi Tsundrue Lhamo passed away in Yungdrung Chöling.

1922– On 22nd July 1922, the insignia of the Grand Cross of the Indian Empire offered to the Druk Gyalpo Ugyen Wangchuck by Major F.M Bailey.

1926– The Druk Gyalpo Ugyen Wangchuck passed away on 21st August 1926, at the age of 64 in Thinley Rabten Palace on the lap of his eldest son. Before his demise, the Druk Gyalpo sent large donations of provisions, cloth and money to the Central Monk Body in Punakha and commanded that his Royal remains  be cremated at Kuje Lhakhang.


His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck: ‘National Day is important to us. On this day in 1907 Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck became the first hereditary King of Bhutan and, from that day onwards, the successive Kings, governments, and people have worked together in harmony to build our nation. Their collective efforts over the years have resulted in the peace and prosperity that we enjoy today.’

Contributed by

Justice Sonam Tobgye