Recently I read a very eloquent write up on why Bhutanese history should be taught in Dzongkha. And that made me think of the content of our history in school text books as well as in other writings by scholars.
In whatever language history is written or taught, it should be accurate and should have profound details. Only then the nation and we the people whether youths in schools or adults elsewhere will derive vsluable benefits.
It makes no sense to write history short on facts and excess in poetic phrases like ' Shabdrung preparing his ride towards the South''. But naturally Bhutanese history written and taught in Bhutanese language would make learning richer.
We need more indepth details and less flowery praises. Like how or why Shabdrung went into meditation and his death kept a secret for over 50 years.The secrecy around the death of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel could well be the most successful palace coup by a coterie of palace officials in the history of all palace coups in the world. Who gained and who lost through this secrecy? Was Shabdrung forced into retirement/ meditation and thereafter silenced/ died?
Why there was no reincarnation during that long period of 50 years? Why did Shabdrung not believe in his own line of reincarnation? He married to produce an heir and when his only child died, Shabdrung went for adoption and named Tenzin Rabgye as his Gyelsey ( Crown Prince ). He never envisioned roles for his incarnations. So did Shabdrung actually believe that the true Druk Ralung Kagyu Lineage belonged to Passang Wangpo line?
History can be so rich if told in honest setting. Like how King Ugyen Wangchuck managed to consolidate national administration and establish the Wangchuck dynasty? Who were his staunch supporters and adversaries ? Such information will illustrate in depth the personal qualities, leadership abilities and administrative acumen of our first King.
Everything should not be explained in religious terms like prophecy or call of Palden Lhamo. Faith the essence of religion is poor in attendance when it comes to actual test of history and convincing educated minds. History must be worth remembering in substance than just statistics of numericals, dates and role of faith and fate.
What made King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck convert Thimphu as the seat of the Throne? How did King Jigme Singye Wangchuck succeed in re- negotiating the 1949 Bhutan- India Treaty? Was it a sellout as India claimed during Doklam transgression or did it strengthen Bhutanese sovereignty by asserting Bhutan's right to manage her own external affair? Through renegotiation of 1949 Treaty in 2007, the Triple Gem King succeeded in removing the clause of 1949 Treaty that required Bhutan to seek Indian advice in matters of External Affairs? Was the para on annuity payment by India to Bhutan reflected in 1949 Treaty removed as a barter exchange for Bhutan gaining her right to conduct her own foreign affairs? These are vital issues and should not be buried in silence.
Bhutan history book should have full text and particular circumstances governing the time of Singchula Treaty between Bhutan and British India as well as Bhutan- India Treaty of 1949 and the 2007 renegotiated Treaty with India. Also the Border Treaty between Bhutan and China. And the terms and circumstances of the Treaties should be fully discoursed so that Bhutanese generations can comprehend the endeavours of their leaders.
Also we need full text of Nehru's speech given at Paro Ugyen Pelri ground to the people of Bhutan and the full address made by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to the National Assembly of Bhutan because these record India's historical acknowledgement of Bhutan's sovereignty. Like wise the major adresses of our Kings to the Indian people or major press releases should be part of Bhutanese school history books. The nation should be truly informed.
Instead our history books leaves a big void in facts and relevance when crisis happens as it did during Doklam. When India cited 2007 Bhutan- India Treaty as India's right to invade Bhutan on pretext of defending Bhutan from China, our fairy tale type of history books proved to be useless reference points. History of a nation should not wholely comprise of just poetic praises for rulers and statistics of development works as important as these are as part and parcel of nation building process.
History is part of nation nuturing process. It is wrong to shape history in the light we want in hindsight. Just because someone alluded that King Jigme Singye Wangchuck may be a reincarnation of Shabdrung, modern Bhutanese scholars took to claiming that Shabdrung created the Bhutanese nation. The great Lama certainly made major contribution to nation building. But Druk Yul was there even before Guru Rimpoche was invited to Bumthang and that was long, long time of some 800 years before the Ralung Lam sought refuge in Bhutan.
By the way, His Majesty our great Fourth is a Truelpa of Triple Gem qualities in his own right. And facts of history should never be distorted to please or displease any individual, race or region. Such twisted recording would be prejudiced political narrative not authentic history of a nation.
We need to stick to known historical facts. Drul Yul provided refuge to Lam Ngawang Namgyel who fled Tibet to escape the laws of his home country. He was a great Kagyu Lam and he was backed by his powerful Bhutanese Chieftan benefactors and therefore, found easy acceptance among the Bhutanese populace especially the Kagyu clans established by Phaju Drukom and his descendants whose root goes back to Druk Ralung and great Kagyu reviver Tsangpajari. Further, Shabdrung 's rise could also have been fostered by powerful Bhutanese clans who understood only too well the Tibetan ploy of using religious figures to enhance their own authority. That was how Monasteries in Tibet spread their influence and on same model, Tibet was largely administered before 1959. Great Lams and Trulkus were figure heads with coteries of monastic or palace officials exercising real powers.
Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel is undoubtedly a great political and religious Ruler of his time. He deserves all the national venerations. However, the man who really was responsible in bringing the east and the west under one central rule was Chogyel Minjur Tempa. The Chunipai Losar of the Eastern Bhutan could be a legacy that began under Chogyel Minjur Tempa because Shabdrung was dead by that time. And in Bhutanese history books, Chogyel Minjur Tempa's achievements and contributions does not even warrant half a page. Is that a correct and sincere reflection of Druk Yul history?
By nature Bhutanese like many others have blind faith in religious figures. Even during rupee crisis, people had no hesitation to demand rupee from the government to go to India for attending the yearly Kagyu Moelam Chhennmo conducted by renowned Kagyu Rimpoches and HH Dalai Lam's Teachings at Dorji Dhen. Likewise, the greatness of Shabdrung and deep faith in his spiritual and temporal powers are ingrained in Bhutanese society. However, Bhutanese history and people cannot ignore other forces and their contributions . Their roles, too, cannot be discounted in Bhutanese nation building history of past centuries before the Wangchuck dynasty was instituted in 1907. We need to correct Bhutanese written history to reflect honest facts before deciding upon any medium ( english or dzongkha) for transmission of the history of our nation.
Thus substance is more important than the language used to impart history. I do certainly hope that we attain the age and wisdom of teaching our worthwhile history in our own laguage. Palden Drukpa Gyal Lo!