…recollecting the Chi-Nang-Sang Sum Coronation of His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo

On 15 May 1972, in a short yet poignant ceremony, Prince Jigme Singye Wangchuck was installed as the Trongsa Penlop. Held in the Golden Throne room at the Tashichhodzong, the investiture ceremony marked the formal appointment of the prince as the heir to the Golden Throne. A month later, the elaborate tendrel ceremony took place at the ancient Trongsa Dzong.

Following the ceremony, the Trongsa Penlop accompanied his father on a medical cum safari trip to Nairobi. Unfortunately, our Third King passed away on 21 July 1972. The Trongsa Penlop then took charge and safely brought home the mortal remains of His Late Majesty.

Anticipating this situation, His Late Majesty had not only prepared his son but also made preparations for a smooth transition. Approved by the National Assembly during the 32nd session in 1970, a provision had been made for the appointment of a council of regents. 

Clause 7 of the act stated that in the event the Crown Prince succeeds to the throne on the death of his father before attaining the age of 21, the National Assembly should institute the council.

After the death of His father, and subsequent to this resolution, the Trongsa Penlop directed the National Assembly to form the council. The issue was deliberated and without much debate the august house unanimously decided against establishing the council. The view was that while the Crown Prince was young,  he was wise beyond his years and fully capable and therefore be empowered to rule with full authority.

Drawing inspiration from the historical 1907 genja or agreement, where our forefathers bestowed complete authority upon the First King and his successors, a comparable petition was presented to the Trongsa Penlop.

Signed by 22 individuals representing all the Bhutanese people on 24 July, the representatives called upon the 16-year-old Trongsa Penlop to accept the full powers and responsibilities of the King of Bhutan.

The “Melodious Messenger of the Great Enthronement of His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, has been reproduced the petition. 

 “Your Highness the Trongsa Penlop,

With humble respects, we submit that the country being unable to endure the merits of our Third Hereditary King His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, His Majesty’s reign has abruptly come to an end at the place of His treatment. Therefore, we the Royal Advisory Council, the Council of Ministers and the following signatories, representing the nation, ministers and the general public, starting this day the 24th July, 1972, corresponding to 13th of the 6th month of Water Rat Year of the Sixteenth Rabjung, offer our unreserved undertaking, in Tashichhodzong the Capital of the country, vesting the full secular responsibilities of the country in Your Highness the Trongsa Penlop Jigme Singye Wangchuck.” 

According to royal records, the first investiture was marked by natural and wonderful auspicious signs that were unlike anything ever witnessed before.  The National Assembly resolutions confirm the royal records and detail the Crown Prince’s ascension to the throne in a simple ceremony. It also mentions that after the mourning period of His Late Majesty, an elaborate coronation ceremony will take place at a later date.

Following royal customs and honouring his late father’s wishes, our Fourth King carried out his solemn responsibility. The cremation took place on 28 October 1972, at Kurjey Monastery in Bumthang.

After the royal cremation, His Majesty King Jigme Singye Wangchuck’s first coronation ceremony took place on 27 November 1972.

Inner Coronation

Referred to as the nang or inner coronation, our monarchs traditionally receive the five-coloured scarves from the Machen Lhakhang in the Punakha Dzong. Considered the most sacred space in the country, the temple contains the mortal remains of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (1616-1651). The ceremony is performed by His Holiness the Je Khenpo and the 67th Je Khenpo, Nyizer Trulku Ngawang Thinley Lhendup (1971-1986), conducted the Tashi Monlam and Tashi Dzegyed rituals. 

Dasho Paljor J. Dorji and Dasho Dorji Gyeltshen who were present at the coronation. Both recall the unusual weather with heavy snowfall at the Dochula pass.

Secret Coronation

The secret coronation, known as the sangwa, took place in the Tashichhodzong. The coronation, carefully timed to coincide with the Tiger hour, day, and month in the Male Wood Tiger Year, took place on 10 January 1974.

According to “The Melodious Messenger of the Great Enthronement,” the coronation paralleled the eight century Guru Padmasambhava conferring the Ngawang Rinchen Barwai Wangkur (Blazing Jewel of Sovereignty) on King Trisong Deutsen of Tibet in Samye.

After offering Tashi Dzegyed, the great Tibetan Buddhist master, His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (1910-1991), composed a poignant poem for the sacred occasion.

His Holiness the 69th Je Khenpo Gedun Rinchen (1990-1996) has also documented this event. In the biography of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the Je recounts that during the auspicious Tiger moment, “Her Majesty the Queen Mother Kesang Choeden Wangchuck, out of great affection and faith for both the King and his subjects, invited His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche to bestow the Ngawang Rinchen Barwai Wangkur empowerment blessings upon His Majesty.  H.H mentions that after Her Majesty’s prayers, the secret mandala that illuminates the path of secular activities and their auspiciousness was unveiled.

Outer Coronation 

The third or outer coronation took place on 2 June 1974. His Holiness the Je Khenpo Nyizer Trulku presided over the religious ceremony. Two great Buddhist masters, the 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje (1924-1981) and Khyentse Rinpoche joined the ceremony and offered their blessings to the 18-year-old King.  

In the, “History of Bhutan,” Lopen Pema Tsewang records additional details about the outer coronation. The historian states that on 2 June 1974, His Majesty King Jigme Singye Wangchuck was auspiciously crowned in the presence of people from all over the world, as the Fourth Hereditary monarch by the various classes of Gods and people in the great palace of Tashichhodzong, and this is a greatly auspicious day.

However, the auspicious day coincided with the monsoon season. Sure enough, on the eve of the coronation, it rained throughout the night causing considerable anxiety for the organizers. Miraculously but as predicted by the astrologers, the weather cleared up at dawn and remained pleasant throughout the three-day event.

In 1971, Bhutan became a member of the United Nations. As a member of the international comity of nations, the occasion was used to make a debut on the international stage. So, the representatives of the five permanent member countries of the Security Council based in Delhi were invited. Additionally, 19 heads of missions and representatives from international organizations, accompanied by their spouses, attended the coronation.  The guest list also included 40 royal guests and 39 members of the international press corps, totalling over 130 individuals.

The Presidents of India and Bangladesh were the guests of honour.  The Chogyal of Sikkim and the Prince of Nepal were among the other distinguished attendees.  

The first half of 1974 was used to spruce up Thimphu. The first hotels in the country were built in record time. The national functions were picturesque and colourful. The entire nation came together to celebrate the happy occasion. It was filled with grandeur and spectacle that our parents and grandparents experienced for the first time in their lives and still fondly recall vividly. 

The streets in Thimphu were adorned with ceremonial gates and colourful flags. The Changlimithang ground was transformed into the venue for the public celebration on the second day. 

Following the impressive coronation parade led by the armed forces, our Fourth King addressed the audience. In his brief yet powerful speech, the King pledged to serve the nation and its people. 

Some of the reports of the guests who were witness to the outer coronation have now surfaced. For example, in a report dated 17 June 1974, the British High Commissioner to India described the coronation as a joyous and welcoming event. In his report, he showered praises on the Bhutanese for the remarkable achievement in organizing the successful ceremony. 

Others, characterized the coronation as a lavish and extravagant display reminiscent of a fairy tale, with guests impressed by the quality of food and accommodations provided at specially constructed hotels. The 1974 coronation was widely recognized for its attention to meticulous details and exceptional organization. 

His Majesty the Fourth King’s, “Chi-Nang-Sang Sum,” Coronation, embodying engagement of the outer, inner, and secret spiritual forces, is rooted in our rich Buddhist culture. The ceremonies hold immense importance for both the monarch and his subjects (people). These ceremonies consolidate our enduring tradition of wise leadership ensuring the continued peace and prosperity of our country.  

Contributed by

Tshering Tashi