About 2,500 years ago a Prince walked away from his Palace, his material comforts, his Throne. He did it to help his people, through education and through spirituality. He eventually showed them, and the world, the path to enlightenment.
Less than two years ago, another King walked away from his Throne. He also did it to help his people, having paved the way for his son to take over the responsibility to guide his kingdom into the future.
On November 1 2008, we will watch the empowerment of this King, the fifth Druk Gyalpo. Significantly, the ceremony will be held in the Palace from where Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel fought off invaders, unified the kingdom, and ruled Bhutan as a nation.
The Coronation of the fifth Druk Gyalpo is an extraordinary occasion, coming at a critical period in Bhutan’s history. It is an important milestone on the long road in the evolution of the Bhutanese system, from a theocracy to a Monarchy to a unique democracy.
The Zhabdrung was a Monastic King. He was both King and Lama. By the end of his reign, the Zhabdrung had bifurcated the system of governance, with separate leaders for the clergy and secular community. The wisdom of that system is appreciated today, particularly by scholars, who analyze that societies that were completely dominated by the clergy often lacked the capacity to defend their countries.
Scholars have also analyzed that Bhutan survived, and thrived, largely because of the political vision of the leaders. Bhutan’s evolution continues to be an example of enlightened statecraft. That is reassuring for the Bhutanese people as we end one era of history and begin another.
The Coronation ceremony is significant for the Bhutanese people because, among other reasons, it represents the journey of the past, through the present, into the future. It symbolizes the preservation of the Bhutanese identity through change.
While the ceremony itself is rich in symbolism, our Monarchy is not symbolic. As a symbol of unity of the Bhutanese people, the Druk Gyalpo is mandated with the responsibility of the supreme protector, the fountain of honor, fountain of justice, protector of religions, head of state and as the commander in chief of the army.
The Druk Gyalpo takes on the responsibility to make Bhutanese democracy a vibrant one, to uphold the Constitution, and to ensure that Bhutan is safeguarded for future generations.