Sunday, April 17, 2016

My thoughts on the comprehensive Commentary on the Crown Prince by Lyonpo ( Dr.) Sonam Kinga the Chairman of National Council.

The Commentary is an absolute revelation. The honourable NC Chairman's in depth knowledge especially in religious connotation is admirable. I enjoyed reading it and learning from it. Hope some information will be retained in my memory as time passes. I would recommend for both Bhutanese and foreigners to read it to gain great insights.

However, I strongly disagree with one historical assumption that the honourable writer has made. To quote ,  " that Bhutan as a nation was eventually created in the 17th century by Zhabdrung Ngawang  Namgyel ". In fact the writer states that Bhutan did not exist as a Country before Zhabdrung came. This assumption needs to be countered because historical facts says otherwise.

1) I do not question the great contributions that Zhabdrung made to the consolidation of Bhutanese culture, tradition and administration. In fact it seems that the tradition of recording in writing rather than orally passing down historical events started during Zhabdrung's time. So better reference of Bhutanese history are available after several years of Zhabdrung's arrival to Bhutan.

2. Zhabdrung certainly did not create Bhutan as a nation or country. I am not a scholar like the writer or some other Bhutanese Khenpos but facts stand out that cannot be diluted by any learned scholars of both modern or even ancient times. 

Throughout history, political refugees took refuge in the sanctity of the next neighbouring country. Example Sindhu Raja came to Bhutan from India. Bhutanese political leaders sought refuge in Tibet and likewise Ngawang Namgyel came to Bhutan seeking refuge because his life was in danger in Tibet. Bhutan may not have been known as Bhutan or Drukyul at that time but it was nevertheless a separate sovereign entity. It was a Country.

In other words, Bhutan was a nation since time imemmorable. It was not created by Zhabdrung in the 17th century. He did not carve out the State of Bhutan from India or Tibet. Bhutan was there as a sovereign nation and that was why Zhabdrung was able to flee Tibet to the safe sanctuary of another sovereign nation. His plight was
just like that of Sindhu Raja who settled in Bumthang Valley many centuries before.  But unlike the refugee Raja from India, Zhabdrung could seek the allegiance of the Kagyu lineage clans of Phajo Druk Guom. There are many stories about this great Kagyu Lama but as characteristics of all Bhutanese history written much later, facts and fallacies are intertwined.

3. The two Portugal Priests who visited Bhutan during Zhabdrung's time also recorded that the writ of the Lama did not cover all parts of the country. In other words Zhabdrung was not in control of whole Bhutan. And that is in line with several following facts of history.

a) The Eastern Dzongkhags of Bhutan was consolidated under Trongsa Penlop rule by Chhoegyel Minjur Tempa when he was Trongsa Penlop. It is a matter of debate whether this happened before or after Zhabdrung died or went into meditation in 1651. The fact is that  it was Minjur Tempa who constructed Trongsa Dzong which was enlarged by others including by Jigme Namgyel.

b) In Bhutanese history, there is a short reference to five Lama Party that opposed Zhabdrung in Western Bhutan. The most prominent is Lama Lhakpa. The ruins of the fortress he built and successfully defended his rule against Zhabdrung can be still seen at Wanakha on the way to Haa. There is presently a school in the same location.

c) Until the mid reign of the Fourth King, Ap Chhundu was not  among the lists of  regional deities that the Central Monastic Body of Bhutan made offerings. Ap Chhundu is the main Deity of Haa the extreme Western Dzongkhag of Bhutan. Ap Chhundu originated from Tibet. In fact like people from Paro Dzongkhag,  Tibetans from Chumbi Valley used to come to Haa Jangkha-kha to pay annual tribute to Ap Chhundu. This stopped after the Sino Bhutan border was closed.

The Central Monastic Body is the legacy of Zhabdrung. And in Zhabdrung's time, he had no reason to make offering to Ap Chhundu since Haa was not under his rule. Thus Ap Chhundu was not in the list of regional deities that the Dratsang made offerings to. However, Haa Valley was always very much part of the Bhutanese nation. In fact it was Bhutan's main Trade Route to both Tibet and India.

d ) Bhutanese historians make much  of Tibetan invasions of Bhutan and  Zhabdrung's defense of Bhutan. Maybe it could be put in another perspective. Tibet invaded  Bhutan several times to capture Lama Ngawang Namgyel but his Bhutanese followers repealed all such attempts. Maybe then few historians would stop denying the existence of Bhutan as a sovereign nation even before Guru Rimpoche himself came to Bhutan. The highly venerated Lama Ngawang Namgyel came much, much later. True there were internal strife and major dissensions between regional leaders and Buddhist religious sects but as a sovereign entity, Bhutan always existed.

In my view Bhutan as a Country and nation existed for ages unknown. But maybe the dormant soul and spirit of the Bhutanese was kindled by visiting great Buddhist Teachers like Guru Rimpoche, Phajo Druk Goum, Thong Thang Gyalpo,  Drukpa Kuenlay and Ngawang Namgyel and also many other Bhutanese origin Lamas and Administrators. But none of them can claim that Bhutan exist because of them.


  1. It is very true and fact write up la.

  2. I too had a same feeling and thought on it as you raised here. Although, i totally agree that i may not be able to compare on vastness and depthness of knowledge our dr.sonam but when it comes to the point and that he mentioned has questioned me a lot. Thank you Wangcha Sangey, evry articlesl of your's is my reading pages la.keeping going la.

  3. I believe Wonakha Dra Dzong belonged to Lam nyningpa rather than Lam Lhapa. He surrendered to Zhabdrung after his artist drew a picture of him riding on the horse and Zhabdrung sitting under the tree. He interpreted the drawing as symbolising (lungten) that Zhabdrung would rule the places whereas he would not, as he was drawn riding a horse. So, he fled southwards.

    1. Correct sir,
      When influential people like you all write on medias i think the content and authenticity has to be precised as well

    2. Dear Mr. Lham Dorji. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. You state that the Wanakha Dzong is called Dra Dzong ( I wonder whether. Dra means cliff or enemy ) and it belonged to a Lama Nyninpa. I hope we are referring to the same ruins on the immediate left side of the highway on way to Haa. I do not know the actual name of the Dzong of Lama Lhakpa. He was a Bon Lama and he did not seem to have been defeated by Zhabdrung. As I wrote earlier, I am not a scholar but I examine facts that prevail. War between religious sects is for control of believers or followers. If Zhabdrung had won then Bon practice in Haa would have been disallowed. But this had not happened. Until about 3 years back yak sacrifice was a big Bon festival in Haa. On the Haa Lombo Night, Haaps still perform Bon rituals. During Paro Tsechu month, a Bon master from Haa officiates over a Bon ritual on the roof of Paro Dzong. These are not Kagyu practice.
      A defeated Bon Sect cannot have such historical prominence. By the way, I am much intrigued by the tale of interpreting the riding on the horse as flight or defeat. I wonder why Bhutan has horses leading Chipdrel on historic event such as the coronation. Also People's Democratic Party may differ from the historian who recorded the tale.

  4. Dear Sangay of Haa Wangcha,

    Good points made - I agree with you completely.

    Bhutan existed centuries before the arrival of Zhabdung. Zhabdung did not create Bhutan. However, I agree that he was responsible in consolidating Bhutan into a single state.

    I am of the belief that Tibet had no warlike intensions against Bhutan. Tibet started their invasions of Bhutan after the arrival of Zhabdung. In a sense, history will testify that Zhabdung was actually the cause of many of Bhutan’s wars with Tibet.

    When you begin to get a grasp of history, it becomes clear that Bhutan’s wars with Tibet were not fought to defend the people and the territory of Bhutan – but to protect the Zhabdung. The Tibetans invaded Bhutan ostensibly to repossess the Rangjung Kharsapani which Zhabdung had brought with him when he fled to Bhutan to escape persecution by his religious rivals.

    I think it is futile to distort history and we must not try to do it. We are who we are and our past cannot be altered because someone wants to do it.