Tomorrow, on December 17, 2023, we commemorate the 116th anniversary of Bhutan under the Wangchuck Dynasty. As we traverse the corridors of time, spanning a century and 16 years, we revere our forebearers who, bound by solemn oaths sealed by 50 emblems, entrusted the destiny of Bhutan to the first Druk Gyalpo, Ugyen Wangchuck. Our gaze turns to an era shaped by the unwavering resolve and stature of a towering figure in our history, Trongsa Penlop Jigme Namgyel. With sword and shield, he liberated Bhutan from the grip of senseless and protracted civil strife that had engulfed the nation for nearly two centuries and laid the foundations for his son to become Bhutan’s first King.
The transfer of power and responsibilities from one monarch to the next unfolds before us. We witness Bhutan emerging unified and consolidated, casting aside self-imposed isolation and embarking on a trajectory of modern development. We can contemplate the trying times faced by our past leaders, as they engaged with the British Raj in India, always mindful that the security and sovereignty of Bhutan remained paramount. We recognize our architects laying the foundational institutions of governance and Bhutan gradually securing a place in the international arena. Each monarch played a pivotal role, guided by an extraordinary vision, steering Bhutan to the shores we proudly stand upon today.
Yet, the progress of a nation that constructed its first roads during the monumental achievements of Neil Armstrong’s lunar landing and Yuri Gagarin’s space voyage is sometimes challenging to fathom. This week, Bhutan proudly shed its status as one of the least developed countries (LDC), a momentous gift as the nation celebrates its 116th National Day.
The National Day not only offers an occasion to reflect on and celebrate our accomplishments but also serves as a juncture to assess our current national standing. It is the moment to contemplate on the ambitious goals and objectives we have set, the existing challenges, and the roles each individual must undertake in this collective journey. Additionally, the 116th National Day stands as an extraordinary and unprecedented moment, awaiting the unveiling of one of Bhutan’s most significant tasks as His Majesty the King addresses the nation. Within His Majesty’s words, we will discern the Throne’s profound vision for the people, and the roles and responsibilities of every citizen in transforming this vision into reality.
Amidst the solemnity and grandeur of the day, it is also a time for introspection. It is a moment for every citizen to delve within and question if we have met the expectations of our King, if we are fulfilling our mandated duties, and if we have been exemplary citizens and human beings. This introspective exercise is not arduous; it merely requires measuring ourselves against the sacrifices and sweat of our parents and ancestors. The people are the life force of the nation, the nation breathes through her people and Bhutan can only progress with the unwavering support of her people.
Interwoven in the National Day celebrations are the past, present and future of a country envied and in more ways than one mythical; a nation steered by an extraordinary King chiseling the future of His country and people. While the celebrations are about Bhutan’s journey till today, it is also about the country’s present and her expedition into the future.