This banner features ripe pine corns above Tandin Ney in Thimphu. Picture taken on April 15.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Drukyul’s destiny

(This essay was first published in Tarayana Foundation's book of tribute Drukgyel's Destiny in 2004)

Drukyul's Destiny has been inextricably linked with deeds of noble note. Shaped by a people's faith and pride in their kingdom, forged by repeated wars, chiseled out of dire circumstances, engineered by the visionary monarchs, Drukyul's Destiny is an invaluable legacy of the past, priceless possession of the present, and peerless gift to the future.

For Bhutan, the tryst with Destiny began at the dawn of history, as early as the 8th century A.D. when Guru Padmasambhava brought the light of dharma to our land. Then, in the 13th century A.D., Phajo Drugom Zhigpo and an influx of great religious figures came and blessed the land and sowed the seed of a Pelden Drukpa.

But, the tryst with Drukyul's Destiny began almost three centuries and eighty‐eight years ago when Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgay, the founder of this tiny land of ours, snatched it from the jaws of wars and disintegration. Since then, Drukyul's Destiny began to take shape.

Drukyul's Destiny. For it, wars were fought, lives sacrificed, hardships endured. For Drukyul, the sail on the solemn ocean of Destiny was not one of ease. A myriad of external threats had to be overcome. Numerous wars with Tibet in the north and British India in the south. Frequent internal strife had to be negotiated. From Paro to Mongar, Dagana to Gasa, a note of discord sounded and drowned the symphony of fraternity. But, in the nick of time, Destiny sent his own son and Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck came. And he carved and shaped the destiny of this our land.

The voyage done, he bequeathed us a secure Drukyul. Since then, successive farsighted kings have steered forward this Shangri‐La. They took due charge of Drukyul's Destiny and bettered it consistently and assiduously. They took Drukyul's Destiny from the old to the new. Untold peace prevailed. Prosperity dawned in its wake. Wars receded into a distant memory.

But, alas, this land of ours, this favourite child of Destiny, this cultural oasis, this last bastion of precious dharma, this social utopia, this "teeming womb of royal kings", suddenly found herself forsaken by her mother when all of a sudden she awoke to the false subtleties of the world. One militant group, then two, and then three. Infiltrating into Drukyul, they infested the sacred jungles and compromised, even threatened, our hard‐earned and long‐standing peace and sovereignty. A tiny nation that has known nothing but peace and stability was genuinely concerned and disturbed. Even as the fear of militant's threat to the nation's peace and sovereignty loomed large in the mind of every Bhutanese, the militants continued to expand their "domain" on the Bhutanese soil.

Deeply concerned, His Majesty the king and the royal government painstakingly explored every peaceful means possible to coax the militants into leaving the country. But the earnest plea of the king and the benign government fell on deaf ears and ultimately paled into total failure in the face of the defiant and rebellious militants. 
Then, what next? After all, the kingdom could not and would not stake her independence for non‐ violence. War? Indeed. It was on the horizon. People were all set astir by the ripples of an imminent war. They were, though, anything but cowed. After all, the Bhutanese have their unyielding forbears to look up to for bravery and loyalty, and an inspiring figure in our beloved king to look up to for divine guidance. The Bhutanese may lack experience in warfare, but they abound in indomitable will. There was no room for fear, and there was none.

His Majesty, our beloved king, made an earnest call and everyone heard him.

He offered "blood toil, tears, and sweat". And everyone accepted them.

15th December, 2003. This day went down in the modern Bhutanese history as the most momentous day. On this day, a godlike monarch moved from the Golden Throne to the front‐line. For the sake of the country he staked his own royal life. Our army, though small, drew its strength from the royal commander. Into the heart of the treacherous forests, they marched. For the next few fateful days, Drukyul's Destiny was to be reshaped in the forge of the forests, on the anvil of bravery, sacrifice, and commitment. Our king led them and inspired them, our soldiers. And they fought.

For us the Bhutanese people, war is only a concept. We have seen it only in the fantastic fairy tales and legends where gallant princes bravely safeguard the territorial integrity of their land. But when it really happens, we cannot help but believe that it is indeed a real entity. We also cannot help but think that it is not just in fairy tales that a king fights wars. We have amongst us too a god sent prince believed to exist only in the enchanted fairylands. No wonder, a fairyland indeed has been our tiny kingdom where everything impossible happens.

The border between reality and fantasy virtually vanished when our "gallant prince" returned triumphant from the war in just a few days. We the "fairyland‐ers" could not help but say, "He has indeed wrought magic". It was a moment of realization for us.

To reshape Drukyul's Destiny, martyrs of the kingdom had to stake their lives. This noble deed of theirs shall never go in vain. It shall leave a distinct mark on the sands of time for posterity to see what path we have trodden in the chastening journey with Destiny. As generations of Bhutanese tread the self same path with Drukyul's Destiny into the unfathomable future, the statement our crown prince, Dasho Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, made in his address to the nation on the 17th December, 2003, will echo and reecho in everyone's mind: "The past did not see a king like His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck and neither will the future".

Many, many years from now, in the distant future, even when fairy tales fail to inspire them, the children of Drukyul will love to hear from their parents a great story of a peerless king and his men who surged forward in an unrivalled courage and snatched from the jaws of death Drukyul's Destiny. Many, many years from now, even when the sky is over‐cast with ominous dark clouds, the children of Drukyul will love to go out and leap and laugh and sing the praise of their king of yore.

Many, many years from now, even when Drukyul's Destiny poses formidable questions, the short episode will inspire all the answers. Many, many years from now. 

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