Exhibition: A visit to the Royal Textile Academy (RTA) will give visitors a rare glimpse of sacred relics that once belonged to Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel and some of his reincarnations.

Her Majesty the Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck, the Royal Patron, graced the opening ceremony of the exhibition titled “Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel – The Founder of Bhutan,” at RTA yesterday.

Her Majesty said that Drinchen Gi Pham – Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel  – is highly revered in Bhutan and is regarded as the founder of the country.

Her Majesty said that 1616 is a most important year in Bhutan’s history as it was in that year Zhabdrung embarked on his historic journey from Tibet to Bhutan.

Bhutan commemorates the 400th year of Zhabdrung’s arrival in Bhutan this year.


“It gives me immense joy to join the people in paying homage to this great leader and celebrate his life and legacy through the exhibition,” Her Majesty said. “I personally feel truly connected to this exhibition being privileged and honoured to have had many reincarnations of Zhabdrung in my family.”

The exhibition would not have been possible without the support of Their Majesties The Kings under whose visionary guidance this very important historical exhibition was initiated, Her Majesty added.

The exhibition includes a pair of shoes that Zhabdrung gifted to his hostess Aum Shelkar in Goen Khatoe in Damji, Gasa, along with an image of Zhabdrung, his walking staff, and prayer beads as a token of his appreciation from the 17th century.

According to Aum Shelkar, the walking staff and rosary were later offered to Zhabdrung Jigme Drakpa, the first mind incarnation of Zhabdrung.


Originally a mid-calf boot, the owner said that the pair has been reduced to the present size because worshippers who came to seek blessings from the object would take tiny fragments to be used as relics in statues and stupas.

The present owners of the relic are the descendants of Aum Shelkar.

The exhibition showcases the history of Zhabdrung and his lineage through sacred relics, kuthangs, textiles and photographs that includes Zhabdrung’s statues, prayer beads, religious scriptures, thunderbolt and bell, and a horse tooth believed to be from Zhabdrung’s horse, among others.


The relics are brought on loan from private individuals from Gasa, Jarogang Lhakhang in Wangdue, Simtokha Dzong and Tashigang Goenpa in Hongtsho, Thimphu for the exhibition.

Her Majesty said that Zhabdrung and his legacy are deeply revered by Their Majesties The Kings and is enshrined in the hearts and minds of every Bhutanese citizen.


“I am optimistic that the exhibition, which bears immense spiritual significance, will bestow blessings and provide a window into the life and legacy of a very important figure in Bhutan’s history,” Her Majesty added.

The exhibition will be open to the public for six months while the second exhibition titled “Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel – A Biography through Kuthangs,” which showcases a pictorial biography, that shows the amalgamation of traditional artistic skills, reverence and gratitude will be open till the end of October this year.

Dechen Tshomo


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