People around the country are adding a new item to their chhoesham (altar), the spiritual heart of a Bhutanese home. This is the folder that carries the portrait of His Majesty and a commemorative Coronation coin. As Lepta, 85, from Bji Pam, said, placing the portrait on his head: “This sung-ki is a gift from my King, the gift of a lifetime.”
On December 10 and 11, thousands of people gathered in Trongsa to offer Thridar to His Majesty the King on his first visit to the dzongkhag after the Coronation. They came from every corner of Trongsa and from dzongkhags of central Bhutan to celebrate His Majesty and the royal presence with songs and dances.
On the morning of December 10, His Majesty inaugurated the “Tower of Trongsa”, the Ta Dzong, which has been converted into a high-end museum dedicated to the Wangchuck dynasty. With 2 lhakhangs and 11 multi-layered galleries, displaying ceremonial and personal belongings of Bhutan’s monarchs and royal family, as well as priceless treasures from Bhutan’s past, the museum is a new monument to Bhutanese history.
84 year old Lemchu had offered butter lamps with her parents when she was a child. Over the years she attended many ceremonies including ngungneys (fasting prayer sessions) and watched the dzong deteriorate into ruins. On December 10, she visited the transformed Ta Dzong. “The sight of the magnificent museum and restored lhakhangs are a solace in my old age,” she said, with tears in her eyes.
According to the prime minister, Lyonchhoen Jigmi Y Thinley, the museum will have important economic significance for Trongsa dzongkhag. Trongsa was a valley with very few assets, so the museum, together with the footbridge and walking trail from the dzong, all funded by the Austrian government, would add great value to tourism in the dzongkhag.
“It symbolizes the policy of the government to not only create new wealth but to recognize and consolidate our cultural wealth,” he said.
A number of foreign tourists joined the people of Trongsa in the celebrations. A mixed group of people from Hong Kong and Canada said that they had never seen such culture and such clean air and that they had never felt so safe anywhere. “Please keep it up,” one said. “The world needs you.”
Local leaders and farmers, as well as entrepreneurs in the tourism business, are excited by the new developments. “If tourism can truly touch the people, instead of a few travel operators in Thimphu, we can truly say that it is a healthy industry,” said a farmer, who lives near the trail.
As people gathered around the dzong in the warmth of an afternoon sun, Trongsa’s renowned singers and dancers did the dzongkhag proud, particularly with the famous classical zhaams from Nubi gewog and Tangsibi. These extremely sophisticated renditions echoed across the valley; it was like listening to the sound of history.
The focus of the crowd was His Majesty the King, who touched and spoke to nearly everyone, who had travelled great distances over long hours to meet him. His Majesty asked the people to pray for the health and long life of His Majesty the fourth Druk Gyalpo and for peace and prosperity in the country.
His Majesty was accompanied by Their Royal Highnesses Ashi Sonam Dechan Wangchuck and Ashi Kezang Choden Wangchuck.
“One day I’ll grow up and serve my King,” said a Class VII student from Langthel. “I can’t believe he recognised me,” said a classmate from Yangchenphug school 15 years ago. “I want to meet him again,” said a seven-year-old girl from Trongsa town. “He knows about us,” said an anim from Kuenga Rabten.
Pathemo, 42, from Wangling, received a royal portrait and placed it on her head and then on the heads of her children. Thinley, 83, from Gagar offered the Thridar to His Majesty and his gnarled face crinkled into a grin. Kuenga, 72, of Nabji Korphu, had waited a week for His Majesty to touch his khadar, which he took home for the chhoesham. Dago of Bumthang, now 50, has no family. “He is my family,” he said.
The emotions of the people were perhaps best expressed by five women, long time friends in their 60s and 70s, all from different villages, who stayed back an extra day because His Majesty was playing archery. None of them could recognize anyone or see anything on the archery range but were happy just watching.