Heritage: His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo yesterday inaugurated the Ludrong Memorial Garden, a gift to the people of Bhutan from Her Majesty the Royal Grandmother Kesang Choeden Wangchuck, on her 85th birth anniversary, at Langjophakha, Thimphu.

With the historical inaugural ceremony, which was attended by His Majesty The King, Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen, Their Majesties the Queen Mothers, and members of the Royal Family, Her Majesty’s longstanding wish was fulfilled.  She had long desired to transform the property into a memorial garden as a gift for those who appreciate the natural beauty of the kingdom.

His Majesty The King planted a cypress tree, while His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo and Her Majesty the Royal Grandmother planted a chinar (Platanus orientalis) sapling tree each, to commemorate the auspicious occasion.  These saplings were from the seeds of the rare species, more commonly known as chinar in Turkish and English that was originally brought from Kashmir, India and planted in Bhutan by Rani Mayum Choeying Wangmo Dorji, Her Majesty’s beloved mother.

Originally known as Ludrong or Settlement of Nagas, the Memorial Garden stands between the 15th century Tashichhodzong and the country’s present day Parliament house, with the Wangchu (river) drawing a fine line between these two monumental giants.

Spread over 8.35 acres, this garden was the site where Ashi Wangmo, the daughter of the first king, Gongzim Sonam Tobgye Dorji and Lyonchoen Jigme Palden Dorji were cremated; also the 66th Je Khenpo His Holiness Yonten Tharchen was said to have been cremated here.

Ashi Wangmo established Jangchub Choeling dratshang in Kurtoe and composed melodious dharma songs, of which many are today enshrined in traditional songs of Bhutan.  She also sponsored in sending the late Je Khenpo Geshey Gedun Rinchen to India on a pilgrimage.

Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck, the first King of Bhutan, bestowed the red scarf and title of Haa Drungpa on Gongzim Sonam Tobgye Dorji when he was 13 years old; as well as bestowing the orange scarf and title of Gongzim when he was 18 years.  The second King Jigme Wangchuck deputed Gongzim Sonam Tobgye to negotiate and sign the 1949 Indo-Bhutan Friendship Treaty, which was represented by Rajeshwar Dayal from the Indian side.  The treaty was signed on August 8, 1949 at the Government House in Darjeeling, India.

Lyonchen Jigme Palden Dorji served His Majesty the third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck faithfully as Prime Minister of Bhutan, and served His Majesty in bringing about many progressive improvements that were pivotal in Bhutan’s development.

The garden itself, according to project coordinator Phenden Gyamtsho, began in 2012 and was completed in November last year.  With its ponds and varied species of plants, as well as the spiritual sounds resounding from Tashichhodzong, along with the Himalayan wind fluttering through the prayer flags, coupled with the tranquil sounds of the Wangchu that flows beyond, it provides the perfect opportunity for all visitors to generate a greater sense of love and appreciation of Bhutan’s unique natural and spiritual beauty.

The secretary of the ministry of agriculture, Tenzin Dhendup, said the garden was enriched with 560 varieties of trees, 362 scrub species, 385 bush species, 1,724 flower species and 75 fruit bearing trees.  While mostly dominated by oak and pine trees, as well as the flowers of the azalea species, project coordinator Phenden Gyamtsho said that some of the sisi-shing or local oak species (Quercus grifithii) planted were from the seeds of the sisi-shing planted by the first King Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck at Ugyen Pelri Palace in Paro.

In addition to the plants, the ponds were filled with brown trout, snow trout and carp fish species that were originally brought from Kashmir by Gongzim Sonam Tobgye Dorji.  The renowned Japanese landscape artist Mikko Ishikawa, who recently visited the garden, described it as the heart of Thimphu valley; the garden is surrounded by the five historical sites – the Lingkana or Royal Garden Palace, Tashichhodzong, Parliament house, the historical cantilever bridge and the Supreme Court.  In addition, the pond itself reflected the image of the Tashichhodzong in the distance.

The area is home to at least 15 common bird species, as well as 30 seasonal birds, including the ibis bill and black-tailed crake.

In ancient texts that have described the location of the dzong area as surrounded by the five significant sites as, “On the right side is the Field of Pearls (Motithang); on the left is the place of Virtuous Contemplation (Samtenling); at the base, on the right lies Lhadrong (Settlement of Gods) present day Hejo; on the left lies Tsandrong (Settlement of Demi-Gods) present day High Court, and in front of it lies Ludrong (Settlement of Nagas) present day Langjophakha.”

With two prayer wheels, the garden not only provides recreational benefits, but also enhances the spiritual sanctity for all walks of life, serving as a centre for environmental education for schools and institutions, as well as providing tourists an attractive visiting site.

Her Majesty the Royal Grandmother Kesang Choeden Wangchuck has lovingly supported numerous prayer ceremonies, monasteries, monastic communities, nurturing the spiritual sacredness of the kingdom, as well as protecting and cultivating the beautiful natural environment; both the very essence and life force of the Bhutanese people and the country.

By Rinzin Wangchuk