Her Majesty Gyalyum Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck and Her Royal Highness, Princess Ashi Sonam Dechan Wangchuck graced the launch of a book titled “Bhutan: The Unremembered Nation,” on 1 June, 2023. The book is authored by Dasho Karma Ura, President of the Centre for Bhutan and Gross National Happiness Studies and is dedicated to His Royal Highness, Gyalsey Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck. The book narrates the activities of ordinary people before modernization began in the 1960s.
The book has two volumes and Volume I contains stories about births and rebirths in a household, building of houses, embedding of individuals in a community, rearing of children and breeding of livestock, and husbandry of ecologically diverse land and forest. It also depicts seasonal migration, backpack and caravan trade, and travel over different climatic and linguistic areas. The Volume evokes the sounds of languages and dialects, songs and sayings, rivers and wind, beasts and birds; and with the smells of herbs, foods and drinks; and with the colors of village settings and nature. It comes to rest with the rhythm of farming, while growing major cereals such as millet, maize, buckwheat and barley.
The second Volume of the set, builds on collective remembrance of the world of yesterday before modernization began in the 1960s. It introduces the monumental architecture of dzongs (castles) and the administration of the country from these soaring buildings, and elaborates on the distribution of authority and power, and the ethical notions underlying them. The visual arts conveying certain cosmological concepts and beliefs and their relationship with visualization are sketched in a chapter.
This book is an act of collective remembrance, knitting together many voices and stories. Huge changes that took place over the last generation or two have transformed the narrative of the Bhutanese people. On the whole, the process of modernization has brought discontinuities in collective memory as the lines of its transmission have been hard to maintain.
Dasho Karma Ura is an alumnus of St Stephen’s College, Delhi; Magdalen College, Oxford; Edinburgh University; and Nagoya University. He was a visiting fellow in many institutes including Oxford University, and is a member of several international bodies advancing policies on happiness and wellbeing, based on His Majesty the Fourth King’s concept of GNH. He was bestowed the Druk Khorlo (Wheel of the Dragon Kingdom) by His Revered Majesty the King for his contributions to literature and the fine arts.