For Bhutan, National Day signifies the start of a most important era in the kingdom’s history: an era of unprecedented peace and tranquillity. This came with the birth of the Wangchuck Dynasty.
On December 17, 1907, Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck was elected by the Bhutanese people as the first hereditary King of Bhutan.
Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck was a descendant of two of the most respected and highest lineages that went directly back to the great Terton (master discoverer of sacred treasures) Pema Lingpa. He was born in 1862 to Jigme Namgyel, the Penlop (governor) of Trongsa in central Bhutan and Ashi Pema Choekey. His father came from the Dungkhar Choeje (noble family) of Kurtoe district in eastern Bhutan while his mother belonged to the Bjakar Dung lineage in the district of Bumthang in central Bhutan.
In 1874, when his father became the Deb (temporal ruler) of Bhutan, Ugyen Wangchuck was appointed as the Penlop of Paro in western Bhutan. After his father passed away Ugyen Wangchuck became the Penlop of Trongsa. As Trongsa Penlop, Ugyen Wangchuck, who was known for his extraordinary qualities of leadership and statesmanship, emerged as a towering figure among regional governors.
This was a time when the country was being ravaged by frequent internal strife because of the gradual weakening of the dual system of governance that had administered Bhutan over the preceding two centuries. Recognizing Ugyen Wangchuck’s outstanding qualities as a leader and a statesman, the State Councillors, all the Governors of the regions, the clergy, and the people decided to elect him as King and establish the institution of hereditary Monarchy as the system of government best suited for a small country like Bhutan. Ugyen Wangchuck was enthroned in Punakha, the old capital of Bhutan.
This historic event laid the foundation for modern Bhutan. The institution of the Monarchy brought peace, tranquillity, and stability to Bhutan and the four successive Kings steered Bhutan through dramatic social and political changes, particularly during the second half of this century.
The second King, Jigme Wangchuck, ruled from 1926 to 1952; the third King, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, from 1952 to 1972, and His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck became King from 1972 to 2006, and His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck was officially enthroned in November 2008.
All significant changes in Bhutan have been initiated by the throne: the establishment of the National Assembly in 1953; introduction of land reforms and abolishment of serfdom in 1956; the establishment of the Royal Advisory Council in 1965; the separation of the judiciary from the executive with the establishment of the High Court in 1968; the decentralisation of governance, drafting a Constitution, instituting Constitutional bodies, ushering in Constitutional Democratic Monarchy, reforms in education and the civil service, a dynamic Kidu system, and many changes which have shaped Bhutan’s emergence and development.
Today, the Monarchy in Bhutan is a highly functional and practical institution. The King is accessible to people of all walks of life in all corners of the country. With this regular contact with the people, He is fully aware of the needs and aspirations of the people and is, therefore, able to provide enlightened leadership.
In recognition of the role played by the hereditary Kings of Bhutan, democratically elected Members of Parliament described His Majesty The King as the “Sacred Jewel of the Bhutanese System”.