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His Majesty encourages voters in Bhutan
Dungkar: A history
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His Majesty encourages voters in Bhutan
It was an auspicious moment in history when His Majesty, King Jigme Khesar entered Dungkar village in Kurtoe, on 21 April 2007.

Along the lawn of the Jigme Namgyel Nagtshang-home of Jigme Namgyel, father of the first King of Bhutan- men, women, and children gathered to welcome His Majesty with warmth and affection.

His Majesty's visit to Dungkar, Lhuentse, while touring across the eastern dzongkhags, was to personally witness and encourage villagers participating in the first ever parliamentary mock election exercise in the nation.

Meeting with about 568 voters from the 24 villages of Kurtoe gewog, His Majesty reiterated the importance of people's participation in the democratisation process.

His Majesty the King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck with the Their Royal Highnesses Ashi Dechen Yangzom and Ashi Kesang Choden Wangchuck, leading voters to the polling station.
His Majesty said, "A strong democratic system will ensure that our people's aspirations will always be fulfilled. However, as always, whether we are successful will depend on the commitment and the dignity, people accord to the process."

His Majesty added, "Bhutan is a unique country and our democratic transition is unique. But unless we work hard, we will not be able to build a strong democratic system unique to Bhutan, which is what we need."

His Majesty said that the mock election was not so much a test of government machinery than an effort to further strengthen awareness among the people. Where villagers seemed hesitant and apprehensive, His Majesty urged them to seize this opportunity to play their part in a historic moment in Bhutan.

His Majesty said that they must learn their roles and responsibilities and become confident in their ability to make the right choices and decisions during the coming parliamentary elections. "We are still learning the process so we are fortunate to have His Majesty guide us," a 60-year old Minjur Dema of Dungkar village said.

"Until now I had been thinking that I have got nothing to do with the 2008 elections. But seeing His Majesty's personal concern, I realize that it is important for everyone of us to participate and I will try my best to learn the procedure," said Kencho Tseten, 69.

In general the people of Dungkar said that they were deeply touched and grateful for His Majesty's words of encouragement and assurance. "When His Majesty, who himself is a great patron, advised us on choosing the right leaders, then I think the new system of government is really our benefit," said Phuntsho Tshewang, 63, of Jatsabi.

"His Majesty's guidance would serve as a tool to elect the right leaders that would benefit both the country and the people during the real elections in 2008," said farmer Tshering, 68.

While in Dungkar, His Majesty visited both the Jigme Namgyel Nagtshang, which is under renovation, and also the Dungkar Nagtshang. "We did not even dream that His Majesty, who was accompanied by Their Royal Highnesses Princesses Ashi Dechen Yangzom Wangchuck and Ashi Kesang Choden Wangchuck, would visit Dungkar. In my lifetime, I feel blessed for getting the opportunity to see three successive Kings," Karma Lhajey, 49, from Jatsabi village said.


Dungkar: A history

Dungkar, the northern-most village of Kurtoe, has long been renowned not only as the birth place of Bhutan's royal family but as a land blessed by Guru Rimpoche, and the site of several nyes (sacred places) such as Rinchen Bumpa and Belyul Khenpajong. According to Lam Neten of Lhuenste Rabdey, history has it that Guru Rimpoche meditated in a Dra-phu (meditation cave) on the face of a steep cliff overlooking Dungkar- what we now know as Rinchen Bumpa - from across the Kurichhu river. A little further south, nestled higher up in the mountains, it is believed that there is a hidden sacred abode of Guru Rimpoche, which will be revealed at a pre-ordained time, for the preservation of the Dharma.

Dungkar was also visited many times by Terton Pemalingpa, the great treasure revealer of Bhutan, who lived in the 15th century. A lhakhang built by Pemalingpa on a flat stretch of land near the riverbed of Kurichhu, is known as Goeshog Pang (meadow resembling the spread wings of an vulture). Goeshog Pang is one of the most sacred sites in Kurtoe. Pemalingpa also built two sacred chortens, the renowned Phu-Sangda Chorten and Dha-Jangchub Chorten, and brought forth a drup-chu (sacred spring) which still flows today from under a tree near the house of the Dungkar Choejey (hereditary nobles).

The Dungkar Nagtshang was founded as a centre for the Peling tradition in the later half of the 16th century by Drekha and Lankha, the twin sons of Pemalingpa's grandson, Kuenga Gyaltshen. According to legends, the three older brothers of the twins were approached by the powerful local deity, Aum Wangchen Zangmo, to establish the centre, opposite her abode, on a ridge shaped like a Dungkar (conch). Hence the Nagtshang and its surroundings are known as Dungkar.

In keeping with the purpose of building the Dungkar Nagtshang, as a centre of the Peling tradition, rituals dedicated to Goempo Jatsha is performed even to this day, on the first day of the eleventh lunar month, culminating in a three-day Tshechu (mask dance festival) from the ninth day to the eleventh day.

The dances are all Terchhams (treasure dances), that were once choreographed by Pemalingpa himself.

The family members of the Dungkar Nagtshang, being descendants of a great personage like Pemalingpa, are known as Dungkar Choejey.

Two prominent sons of the Dungkar Choejey were Pila Goempo Wangyel and his older brother, Pala Gyaltshen. Pila, who was born in 1782, went to Gangtoe Goemba to stay with the Gangtoe Trulku Sizhi Namgyel. He led the army of Zhabdrung Jigme Drakpa when the Zhabdrung and Sungtruel Yeshi Gyaltshen were in conflict. After living in western Bhutan for several years, he returned to Dungkar and lived separately at Khetangbi Nagtshang on a hill overlooking the Dungkar Nagtshang.

Pila had five sons, one of which was Jigme Namgyel, born in 1825, who became the dynamic and powerful Trongsa Penlop. Jigme Namgyel successfully led Bhutanese forces against the British in Dewangiri, and laid the foundation for the emergence of the Wangchuck dynasty and the start of a new era of peace and stability in Bhutan after many years of internal strife and conflict.

Khetangbi Nagtshang was rebuilt and expanded during Jigme Namgyel's time by his sister, Ashi Tshewang Dem. It has since been known as the Jigme Namgyel Nagtshang and is looked after, today, by the Lhuentse Rabdey. Religious ceremonies in keeping with the traditions established in the time of Pila Goenpo Wangyal and Trongsa Penlop Jigme Namgyel are still being performed to this day.

Contributed by Kesang Dema and Rinzin Wangchuk, Bhutan's National Newspaper, April 2007
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