Thukten Zangpo 

Thousands of Bhutanese, both within Bhutan and across the globe, watched with rapt attention as His Majesty The King ascended the platform for the National Day address yesterday. The collective anticipation of the entire nation was palpable, with all eyes fixed on the momentous announcement regarding the groundbreaking project in Gelephu. 

Even before 10pm on the eve of the 116th National Day, thousands of Bhutanese gathered around Changlimithang, drawn by the magnetic pull of unity.  

National Day commemorates the coronation of His Majesty the First King, Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck in 1907, and the subsequent unification of the country under the Wangchuck dynasty. 

Defying the winter chill, Bhutanese families were on the streets, adorned with their finest kiras and ghos, to show solidarity. 

The stadium reached capacity by 3am, with over 1,000 Bhutanese opting to watch the live telecast at Thimphu’s clock tower. 

Anticipation crackled in the air as Bhutanese eagerly awaited His Majesty’s momentous announcement—the establishment of Gelephu Special Administration Region, envisioned as an economic hub for South Asia. 

Halfway through the address, the valley reverberated with the loud cries of men and women offering their support to the Gelephu project as His Majesty enquired if they were ready. 

The topic of the Royal address continued to be the centre of discussion for the rest of the day as citizens poured out their support for the project on social media.

A 27-year-old shopkeeper in Thimphu, Devika Pradhan, attending her first National Day, expressed excitement about the Gelephu project. “It is going to be historic and I am excited.” 

A civil servant said that the Gelephu project appears to be promising. He said that Special Administration Region ventures may need favourable and dynamic economics policies, and forward-looking migration policies.

Among the 20,000 spectators, 77-year-old Subhadra Limboo, who travelled from Chhukha at 2.30am, won an electric scooter in the lucky draw.  

“I came to see His Majesty The King and the Royal Family and receive Their blessings, and hear His speech,” she said.

“I was emotional when the King mentioned that the big project in Gelephu is for people living abroad,” Dorji Gyeltshen from Babesa said. “Many Bhutanese abroad are missing home and wanting to come back but are prevented by limited opportunities in the country.”

For those living abroad, the day held deeper emotions and a powerful reminder of what they left behind. “When His Majesty addressed those who are living abroad, I cried and missed my daughter back home,” a single mother Tenzin said. “I wish I can return to my country and be part of my child’s childhood.” 

Another Bhutanese living in Perth, Australia said, “You only know the value of home when you step out of Bhutan.” 

His Majesty’s special guests for the Gelephu Special Administration Region were also present at the celebrations. 

Drone footage showed the unparalleled scale and grandeur of the celebrations, capturing the vibrant tapestry of cultural performances, traditional music and dance, and the rhythmic stomping of masked dancers.

His Majesty The King honoured six Druk Thuksey (Heart Son of Bhutan) and six National Order of Merit medals to individuals and institutions.