Missions had come and gone and the Daurs had all been lost. The people hadn’t known peace for more than two centuries after the passing of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. Threats from abroad had ceased but the nation and the people were gripped by civil unrest due to continued and often explosive power struggles between regional leaders.
Yet the destiny of the new nation beckoned. It had to be here so, at Changlimithang in Thimphu, 134 years ago. The final civil unrest would dramatically shape the future of modern Bhutan. Tired and oppressed citizens longed for peace and an ordered way of life—good governance. The people saw that hope in the person of Trongsa Penlop Ugyen Wangchuck.
Thimphu Dzongpon Alu Dorji and Punakha Dzongpon Phuntsho Dorji had enthroned their candidate as the new Druk Desi even as there was a reigning Desi on the throne. Trongsa Penlop Ugyen Wangchuck was not informed and he saw this as an open act of rebellion. Following many failed attempts at negotiation subsequent battles, Trongsa Penlop led his 2,000-something troops to Changlimithang where Phuntsho Dorji was killed.
With this battle—known as the Battle of Changlimithang—Trongsa Penlop Ugyen Wangchuck emerged as the undisputed leader. He was indeed a very capable and shrewd leader and began consolidating the nation through a network of alliances and by appointing his relatives and supports to strategic administrative positions.
Trongsa Penlop even welcomed Alu Dorji’s return who had fled to Tibet after Paro Penlop Daw Penjor killed Phuntsho Dorji. Peace had come, at long last.
The hard-won peace could soon be lost and the nation so could reel back to the state of chaos and instability if necessary political and administrative arrangements are not refined and consolidated. Monarchy and no other form of government would serve them best. So, upon this day 112 years ago, people’s representatives and the clergy unanimously elected Trongsa Penlop Ugyen Wangchuk with historic gyenja as Bhutan’s first hereditary monarch.
Hereon begins the narrative of modern Bhutan.
Beginning with investment in education, Bhutan’s development since then has been nothing short of stellar. Wisdom and far-sighted vision of the succeeding monarchs have achieved tremendous socioeconomic progress.
The celebration of the 112th National Day (National Day was first celebrated in 1971) at Changlimithang in Thimphu so is special. It’s coming home is propitious, which has galvanised the whole nation to reflect on the nation past, present and future like never before.
Wondered why this year’s National Day celebration in Thimphu is as grand as it is unique?