If you visit any Bhutanese home, you will find the royal portrait of His Majesty The King carefully lodged in the home altar or meticulously hung on a wall in the living room. You will also see many Bhutanese proudly wearing badges that have the royal photo close to their heart. If you embark on a casual confab with farmers in villages about their King, you will immediately sense an expression in their voice that encapsulates their unwavering love and deep reverence for their King. Bhutanese from all walks of life love their King so much.
But why is there so much love for the King?
The answer is quite simple – people are simply returning the special love that the King has for them.
It is this special love that has made Bhutan what it is today — a nation that still has its traditional rhythm resonating between its silent, pristine forests and sparkling, green rivers; a nation where ancient monasteries still adorn prayer flags studded hills; a nation where buoyant, friendly people eat chilli flakes like potato chips but will never allow the McDonalds or the KFCs into their country; a nation where anything that concerns the environment is measured twice and cut once; and a nation where happiness is the yardstick for prosperity measurement — an ethereal world by all accounts that seems to have been missed by the flattening forces of globalisation.
So, what makes the love even more special?
First, it is about small things that matter. Second, it is genuine.
When we talk about kingship, it is often associated with regal glamour, opulence, or even despotism. But what does one make of a King who oozes humility, compassion, wisdom, benevolence, and foresight, and wears national service and dedication to the well-being of his people as lifelong goals?
The King rarely travels beyond the humble realms of his beautiful kingdom. He, instead, visits remote villages tucked deep into remote mountains, often on foot. On his way, he cuddles every child and hugs every elderly. On one occasion, the King even consumed an offering made by a woman who was considered a “poison-giver” by the locals, debunking the superstition and freeing her from being a victim of a bizarre belief ever again.
It is un-royal for a king to sleep in a farmer’s kitchen or cook for an entire primary school that has been just hit by a terrible quake and terrified. People would hire taxis or travel long distance, including those who cannot walk, just to catch a glimpse of His Majesty. It is not uncommon to see the King make members of his entourage sing or dance to entertain those who waited to see him for hours.
His Majesty The King is always with his people both in celebration and in grief. When disaster strikes, the King is at the coalface, personally monitoring situation on the ground and ensuring help is delivered to those who need it. He would be seen wading through waves of floodwater to see first-hand the welfare of those affected by it, making their pain his.
Much of His Majesty The King’s effort has been to empower his people, which is why he accords top priority to social welfare. Under the His Majesty The King’s command, innumerable royal initiatives to help the poor and the needy have been rolled out. Such royal initiatives are implemented through Kidu (Royal Welfare Programme) in critical areas of land, medical service, rehabilitation, disaster and so on that fell on a government’s blind spot.
The King sees the young citizens of Bhutan as holding the key to the future of the country. He regularly engages them in a conversation about our fundamental values such as honesty, integrity, rule of law, kindness, equality, compassion, responsibility, justice and professionalism — the very values that have inspired himself to the sacred duty of the Golden Throne.
His Majesty The King works tirelessly to ensure Bhutan’s unique culture and tradition thrive on modernity. He encourages young girls and boys to embrace science and modern education, but reminds them the need to imbibe and internalise their traditional values and ideals as their lodestar. He is mindful of a sound economy but conservation takes priority. He promotes bilateral relations but in a way that our sovereignty is not compromised. To a tiny nation challenged by a lack of resources and an unforgiving geography, striking a happy medium amongst these irreconcilable goals is no small task. Be that as it may, under the wise leadership of the King, we have seen success.
The King considers it his sacred duty to ensure the success of our democracy, the root of which was nourished by his Father, and which is now flourishing under his reign. Since his days during the consultative process about our constitution, His Majesty has been working hard to nurture a strong and fair political system where humanity is not lost in a zero-sum politics.
Every conversation His Majesty has with his people is drawn from his devotion to the service of his people and how that inspires him. Be it the economy, the youth or party politics, the King is well aware each of these affect his people and their future. Every conduct of him on the Golden Throne is a deliberate act of compassion and love to lift his people. It is the exemplary royal character that makes our monarchy one of the rarest institutions the world has ever seen.
Our country has been showered with forty years of joy and eleven years of more prosperity and happiness. Bhutan is well on its way to achieving its national vision. And it has all been possible because of the special love the King has for his people, which is our comfort for today and our strength for tomorrow. It is the defining quality of humanity and the undying compassion in His Majesty that has made such a love possible. That is why we are all so enamoured of our beloved King.
Contributed by Dorji Tshering