As Bhutan is set to celebrate her 114th National Day on 17 December, Chang Dorji, 81, from Khasadrapchu in Thimphu who is well versed in Bhutanese history shares his insight about the National Day of Bhutan.
As the years have gone by, most cannot say what may have happened and there are only a few folks who have withstood the test of time, history, and values that should not change to honor and celebrate.
Ap Chang Dorji recalls, on a national day, Bhutanese in their most profound traditional dress starts their day by offering prayers to their Majesties and showing the affection and care that they have for their King.
Most importantly, he said, the day is being celebrated in honor and respect to the Wangchuck Dynasty for selflessly leading the country and even to paying tribute to our forefathers and their benevolent deeds.
On 17 December 1907 saw the coronation of His Majesty the First King of Bhutan, Druk Gyalpo Ugyen Wangchuck, and the establishment of the Wangchuck dynasty which continues to rule Bhutan.
Ap Chang Dorji says that even if he didn’t see the enthronement of the first hereditary monarch in the country, he feels privileged to be born in Bhutan and to be blessed under the brilliant leadership of their Majesties.
He recalls that the national day during the reign of the Third Druk Gyalpo used to be a simple ceremony but the grand celebration of the day gained momentum and popularity during the reign of His Majesty the Fourth King.
Before a simple ceremony like the national day would be a laborious work to the people. He shares it was done manually and all the preparation was labor-based which was tiring to the people.
He mentioned, “The things that took them one month are easily done in one week now. Now the preparation is being done through modern technologies and machines which has made the task effortless.”
Like today, there used to be public meals offered by the King however, the distinct feature during those times was that the King would give Chhetrum (coin) to the public attending the day which was considered of high value.
He added that the dances and songs that were staged during the national day in his younger days were even different and more majestic, blessed, and written by important saints and personnel. “Even now there are songs and dances blessed by important persons but the blessing and the intensity were very different from now,” he added.
“The way things are, there has been a drastic change in the dress of the people on a national day,” he continued, adding that before people would wear simple traditional dresses but now people wear elegant dresses much like the kings and queens.
He believes that the national day is auspicious and we as Bhutanese should celebrate such days.
In recent times, he said, there has been a shift in the venue of the national day celebration from dzongkhags to dzongkhags which he feels is an initiative taken by His Majesty the King to instill the importance of the day to all the Bhutanese and to entertain the citizen.
Yet he hasn’t seen such a thing as a venue for national day celebration during his youthful days and all that were celebrated in a simple ceremony held where their Majesties lived.
Meanwhile, His Majesty the King has commanded that the theme for the 114th national day celebrations will be ‘Bhutan First’ to give priority to the national interest.
“What our forefathers have done, it is important that the younger generation does the same as their ancestors to preserve and promote the unique Bhutanese culture and tradition,” says Ap Chang Dorji.
He ended the interview by wishing goodwill prayers and wishes for the country to shine with happiness and prosperity under the visionary monarchs in all times to come.
Ap Chang Dorji started his service under His Majesty the Third King at the age of 14 as a meal attendant and ever since that time, he has worked in different institutions and has seen his better days and how Bhutan has changed with the time.