The first Druk Gyalpo was Gongsa Ugyen Wangchuck (King of Bhutan). He was instrumental in establishing peace and harmony in Bhutan, as well as the country’s sovereignty and independence. He was overwhelmingly chosen to succeed as Bhutan’s sovereign, having been trained in combat and statesmanship. He put an end to the prospect of civil war and made numerous conscious decisions that kept Bhutan unified during periods of rivalry and strife. He was a visionary who saw the value of western education and established a number of schools. He formed long-lasting relations with monks and helped the country build a dharmic consciousness. He was a dependable king who was well-liked by not only his subjects but also many British officials at the time. Many of his initiatives were geared at improving the lives of his people, therefore his capable administration, astute diplomacy, and internal reforms were warmly applauded.
Childhood and Adolescence
Trongsa Penlop Jigme Namgyal and Ashi Pema Choki have a son named Ugyen Wangchuck. His exact year of birth is uncertain, although he was born in Bumthang’s Wangduecholing Palace in the year 1862.
Despite the fact that he was the second son, his father designated him as the heir apparent. He accompanied his father in all of his hobbies and endeavors from a young age. He had received leadership and warfare training.
Career of Ugyen Wangchuck
At the age of 17, he rode into war against Paro Ponlop Tshewang Norbu because of his bravery and military skills. The dzongpön of Paro was then bestowed upon him by his father. He began his military training at an early age. When he accompanied his father on his daily routine, he picked up a lot of useful abilities in warfare, battle, and statesmanship.
Jigme Namgyal died, allowing Ugyen to build an empire that is still revered and admired today. After his death, the young soldier led roughly 2400 troops in numerous fights, culminating in the victory at Changlimethang.
He had a variety of spiritual ideas and had contacts with a number of well-known spiritualists, including Lama Serkong Dorji Chang, Terton Zilnon Namkha Dorji, and the 15th Karmapa, Khachyab Dorji. He began work on the “Kurjey Temple,” one of the most important Vajrayana Buddhist sites in the world, in 1894. In the same year, he completed the construction of Kurjey’s middle lhakhang, complete with a towering Guru statue.
He traveled to India and other nations on multiple occasions. In 1904, he joined the “Younghusband Expedition to Tibet” as a British-Tibetan mediator. At the moment, he was the Tongsa Penlop.
Chogley Yeshey Ngodrup, the last of Bhutan’s secular monarchs, fled to Paro in 1905, leaving the position of nominal ruler empty. Kazi Ugyen Dorje, a friend of his, petitioned the state council to elect Ugyen Wangchuck as its leader.
When the Prince of Wales came to India in 1906, he went to Kolkata and saw him for the first time. Even though he was not anointed King, his might and administrative prowess were clear. For all intents and purposes, he was a king and head of state, and these elements ensured his monarchy the following year.
On December 17, 1907, he was unanimously crowned the first hereditary King of Bhutan after a period of toil and civil conflict that lasted almost 40 years. The Shabdrung’s dual government system came to an end as a result of this.
His crowning was the cornerstone of the new monarchy, and it was seen by many powerful people in the Punakha Dzong. His power was sealed by a legal document with the Shabdrung’s seal and thumbprint attestations. The ceremony was presided over by Sir Claude White, who represented the British monarchy.
His insight resulted in the Treaty of 1865 being updated. He changed a clause in 1910 that required Bhutan to consult British India while interacting with foreign countries.
He returned to India for the second and final time in 1911. During his first journey to Delhi in 1906, he met King George V, Prince of Wales.
He began to construct schools after his visits to Kolkata and Delhi, the earliest of which were at Lame Goenpa and Wangdicholing in 1914. The number of boys climbed from 14 to 46 from an initial strength of 14. Later in life, these students went on to become influential officials.
He recognized the value of education and offered scholarships to his people. He dispatched two groups to Tibet to pursue geshey (doctoral) studies. He sent young monks to Dokham to study under Zhenphen Choki Nangwa in 1915 and 1917. They went on to become some of Bhutan’s most knowledgeable and powerful geshes and lamas.
With finances supplied by him, the “Swayambhunath Temple” in Kathmandu, a renowned Buddhist pilgrimage hub, was rebuilt. The remodeling was overseen by Kagyu Lama Togden Shacha Shri, a frequent correspondent.
He spent the majority of his later years devoted to spirituality and religion. He was a strong supporter of several monastic schools and religious studies, and he spent his free time meditating.
Major Projects of Ugyen Wangchuck
In 1907, he established the “Buddhist Monarchy.” In order to make Bhutan a peaceful country, he built it on the principles of dharma, peace, and spirituality. In the Kingdom of Bhutan, he established long-term peace and tranquility.
Achievements & Awards
Many awards were showered upon him by the British Raj in India. He was appointed “Knight Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire” in 1905.
In 1911, he received two honors: “Knight Commander of the Order of the Star of India” and “Delhi Durbar Gold Medal.”
He was named “Knight Grand Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire” in 1921.
Personal History and Legacy
Ashi Tsundue Lhamo Kurto Khoma Chukmo was King Ugyen Wangchuck’s wife. Jigme Wangchuck was his eldest son and heir.
He died on August 26, 1926, after a long and prosperous career. At the time of his death, he was between the ages of 63 and 64. He died in Bumthang’s Phodrang Thinley Rapten and was cremated at Kurje Lhakang Temple, as he requested.
Estimated Net Worth
The estimated net worth of Ugyen Wangchuck is unknown.
His coronation day, December 17, is commemorated as “National Day of Bhutan.”
Sir Claude White, a British political officer, grew to admire Ugyen Wangchuck and noted that he was “upright, honest, and straightforward.”