The history of Bhutan | Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel | The life of the Shabdrung | Entering Bhutan

Entering Bhutan

While still in Tibet, Ngawang Namgyel received the following message from lama Tenzin Drugye (1591-1656): »Rinpoche, if you are not on good terms with the ruler of Tsang, come to our southern country, where there is neither a lama, nor a lord who has authority in the region. Here you will obtain religious estates.«


The flight to Bhutan was in no way based on a hurried decision, but rather on a realistic evaluation of the dangerous position the Shabdrung was in. He knew that his forefathers had gained numerous powerful supporters of the Drukpa school in Bhutan, and that they would gladly welcome him.

In 1616, at the age of 23, Ngawang Namgyel left Tibet with his entourage on their way to Bhutan. With his arrival in Laya he was met by Tenzin Drugye, who had brought a small troop of men with him to ensure the Shabdrung's safety. Shortly after his arrival the Shabdrung went to visit the Dechenphu temple, the home of the protective deities of the Drukpa school. Here he said a prayer of thanksgiving for his safe journey and received obeisance from the local main protective deity, the Genyen Jagpa Melen.

For many Bhutanese it is clear that the successes of the Shabdrung can be ascribed to the fact that he was supported by these guardian deities. Only after many dangers, and more than 30 years of battles, the Shabdrung was able to unite all the Drukpa families, defeat other religious schools, repel three Tibetan invasions and build a fortress in each of the valleys of western Bhutan. Only then did he become the unrivalled leader in the country.

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The pre-Buddhist deity Jagpa Melen, is the protective deity of the Dechenphu temple. After his safe arrival in Bhutan the Shabdrung came here to say prayers of thanksgiving.