Of the many beautiful events that take place in our country on occasions big and small, the one that galvanises our people and binds us together as a family in a truly powerful and palpable way is the celebration of our National Day. The seventeenth day of December marks a significant milestone in the evolution of Bhutan as a nation in the stream of calendar time. Equally or indeed more importantly, this day heralds a pivotal moment in the psychological and emotional experience of Bhutan and the Bhutanese people.
Nation-building being an on-going process through succeeding generations, it calls upon every citizen to return to those historic landmarks as often as possible through body, speech and mind. On National Day, we take stock of the miles that we have covered and gauge the distance we still have to go.
We take in everything – our geography, our history, our culture, our society, our institutions and our devotions, flora and fauna, air and water, deities and spirits, our beliefs and values, indeed, all that makes us who are and reaffirm our faith in them.
We could actually be doing this on a daily basis but since many other compulsions of our everyday lives come in the way, we use concentrated points like the National Day to engage in the vital task of nation-building to reinforce our precious relationships between us the citizens and state, king and people, among citizens as indeed between and amongst every being and object, living and non-living, and everything in between, in all realms within the nation.
The National Day is more than an event. It is a commitment, an affirmation, an act of faith.
On National Day, we come together, all of us, men, women and children, young and old, in our thoughts and prayers, in our hopes and dreams, in our devotion and dedication. We become one in all places, in all time-zones, in our consciousness. And, that is making the nation.
This hymn to harmony, call to unity, prayer to solidarity inspires and uplifts, edifies and elevates, all at once, to an experience that transforms and transports the beholders and participants to the core being and person of the nation. And, that is the purpose of the National Day. This becoming one of all, and all of one!
The treasured centre-piece of the celebrations is the Royal Address to the Nation by His Majesty The King. Suspense builds up, anticipation rises, events across the country pause as eyes and ears are turned and tuned to the podium from where the Druk Gyalpo speaks to His people at home and abroad. The message is profound. The medium is majestic. Here is the King calling His people home to the soul of the nation and beckoning them to a future that promises hope and happiness.
The divine image of the father-figure taking all His children under His wings and reaching out to one and all as the radiant sun and touching the core of their being is at once immediate, at once transcendental. Here is our King. The unifying ideal of the Bhutanese society, the symbol of our destiny in which all our people meet, the Druk Gyalpo is the embodiment of our national cohesion and the very image of our security and hope.
Our National Day is a celebration of this undying relationship at the most sublime level.
And, what better spot than blessed Samtse for the blossoming of this unifying spirit! It is no coincidence that the earlier name Samchior Samchi, meaning one mind or same thought, has a powerful message for all of us.
And, indeed, Samtse rose to the occasion in more ways than one. The pervading sense of the nation coming together was exemplified from the most obvious objective level to the innermost subjective core as His Majesty addressed the nation and highlighted some of the vital issues for citizens to reflect on.
This beautiful spot of our dear Druk Yul was at her bridal best for the eyes to feast on and the heart to expand and the mind to lift. The celebration venue and the general environs had the air of Zhingkhamas His Majesty described it asking the people to keep it as clean even after the event.
A special highlight of the occasion was His Majesty The King’s award of Ngadaag Pel Gi Khorlo to the 70thChyabje Rinpoche Tulku Jigme Choeda in acknowledgement of many the decades of extraordinary spiritual guidance and leadership provided by His Holiness for the well-being of the Tsawa Sum. Examples of outstanding performance and high integrity demonstrated by the Election Commission of Bhutan and reporters of the Bhutan Broadcasting Service also received due recognition.
The unprecedented multitude of people, the colourful display of the Dzongkhag’s rich mosaic of culture and costumes, a variety of entertainment items, attractive prizes for the lucky ones, food and fun, marked the progress of the day following the solemn start accompanied by a most benign Autumn weather that punctuated a hot day immediately before and unceasing rain just after the event.
The much-anticipated opportunity to obtain a glimpse of His Majesty The Druk Gyalpo, His Majesty Druk Gyal Zhipa, His Holiness the Je Khenpo, Her Majesty The Queen, His Royal Highness the Gyalsey, and other members of the royal family, together in the same venue, was reason for joy and fulfilment especially for those who partook of the special event for the first time.
Over the years, this abundantly endowed district has been through a catharsis of sorts. Samtse was at the forefront of progress in the initial years of our planned economic development, leading the way in education, sports, agriculture, forestry, horticulture, livestock, health, commerce and trade, dynamic service delivery pathways, to name a few of the vibrant areas then. Some of the first national institutions were set up in Samtse, including the Teacher Training Institute inaugurated in 1968 by His Majesty the late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck.
Progress came to a halt owing to the serious security situation that faced the country in the early 1990s.
Samtse has a lot of catching up to do now that peace and security have returned to the country through the tireless efforts and sacrifices made by our extraordinary monarchs. The uplifting spirit of our National Day celebrations ought to provide the much-needed impetus to forge ahead for the once progressive dzongkhag that prided itself on being the gateway to the outside world before the advent of the Phuentsholing-Thimphu Highway.
As the second highest contributor of revenue to the national exchequer as well as second most populated dzongkhag in the country, Samtse has tremendous opportunities to make judicious use of its rich and varied resources and be a model of sustainable development in the country. The way forward is exciting. The choice is ours to make.
It is crucial, at the same time, to be mindful of the need to preserve and promote our country’s unique heritage, our strategic alternative development path, our larger national interests, and to mainstream our individual goals within the long-term national vision, under the enlightened leadership of our beloved King.
As we look ahead, it is instructive to look back as well. I recall with a lump in my throat a most extraordinary scene at the National Day celebrations at Samtse in 1981. As His Majesty Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck served tea to rows of expectant people seated on the ground, my parents and their fellow-villagers held their breath and leaned forward to collect the sacred soil from the earth on which our beloved King set foot. Here, the very image of Lord Vishnu had walked and they would take the blessed soil and place it at the altar at home.
My parents are no more today but their devotion has remained in my being as their abiding gift. As we come together again to celebrate our historic National Day, it is my prayer and my hope that the self-same spirit of devotion live and flourish in every Bhutanese heart for all times to come, through successive generations of our precious Wangchuck Kings.
May the guardian deities of our sacred land shower their choicest blessings on His Majesty our beloved King, on our revered Druk Gyal Zhipa, our pious Gyaltsun, our precious Gyalsey, on the members of the royal family, on our Bhutanese people at home and abroad, and on our dear country, forever…
Prayers for ever…
Contributed by Thakur S Powdyel,