Return of Zhabdrung’s statue

The yearlong commemoration of 400 years of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel’s arrival in the country is winding up with a historically significant aura.

The six-foot statue of Zhabdrung belonging to the Asiatic Society building in Kolkata is back in the country after the Government of India agreed to loan it out for a year.

The statue was received in a ceremonial procession at the Paro airport and brought to Simtokha Dzong, which is the first dzong built by Zhabdrung.

To Bhutan and its people, Zhabdrung is more than the unifier of the nation. He is revered and worshiped for his spiritual supremacies. The statue of Zhabdrung, as old as 250 years, is a genuine relic that the nation would desire to have in its most sacred temples and dzongs.

Captain Hadyat Ally got hold of the statue after the British army captured Buxa on December 7, 1864 and gifted it to the Asiatic Society. The statue had witnessed and withstood the Duar War that Bhutan fought with the British.

Therefore, we must place our highest admiration and respect to the statue of Zhabdrung whilst praying for a peaceful and sovereign Bhutan.

But what we must probe into is the Asiatic Society Act, which mentions that once a relic has been gifted, it cannot be given away without permission of the donor. In this case, the donor, captain Hadyat Ally of British army is no more. We must respect the laws of our neighbour as an act of reciprocity, at least.

But we appreciate the Government of India’s commitment in finding a means to bring back the statue in the light of the great importance that the Bhutanese people attach to it. It shows India’s inclination on cultural and religious ties the two nations have embraced long before diplomatic ties were established. It dates back to the time of Lord Buddha and Guru Padmasambhava.

Bhutanese will always look towards India as the birthplace of the Buddha dharma and continue to visit the sacred holy sites in India, thereby strengthening the cultural ties.

This gesture of India should be the epitome of cooperation in other areas such as the hydropower, trade and politics. Bhutan too shall maintain the same level of cooperation because we are more than just friends.

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