The history of Bhutan | Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel | The life of the Shabdrung | Ngawang Namgyel, the person

Ngawang Namgyel, the person

Who was the Shabdrung, what sort of a person was hidden behind the ruling figure? The Bhutanese sources may well describe his activities, but not the flesh-and-blood-person he was. A report that contains more information was written by a Jesuit, Father Cacella, the first westerner to visit Bhutan. He and his companion reached Bhutan in April 1627 and stayed with the Shabdrung at Cheri monastery. Father Cacella described the Shabdrung in a way that one can gain some idea of his personality:

»He received us with a demonstration of great benevolence, signifying this in the joy he showed on seeing us and on knowing where we were coming from, where we were from, i.e. from what country and nation, and he asked the other questions normal at a first meeting. ...The king [i.e. the Shabdrung] is also the chief lama ... He is proud of his gentleness, for which he is highly reputed, but rarely feared ... The king is also highly celebrated for his abstinence, he eats neither rice nor meat, only fruit and milk ... He told us that he spends most of his time in praying, and the rest of his time is spent making various objects that were standing around, of which he showed us the best piece, an image of the face of God in white sandalwood, small, but very well made, and he is very proud of this skill, and also of his skills as a painter, at which he is very good ... The king is also venerated as a man with great knowledge of literature. ... He has a long beard and some of the hairs reach down to his waist.«


Self portrayal

The Shabdrung described himself in the »Sixteen I's« (Nga Chudrugma), which were included in his seal:

I am the one who turns the wheel for both doctrines

I offer everyone safe refuge

I am the one who upholds the teachings of the glorious Drukpas

I am the scourge of all who pretend to be Drukpas

I turn the Sarasvasti Composition into reality

I am the pure source of moral aphorisms

I am in possession of an unlimited view

I am the adversary of all who spread lies

I am the one who maintains the upper hand in a dispute

Where is an enemy that does not tremble before me?

I am the hero who conquers the demonic armies

Who is strong enough to resist my power?

I speak all languages to explain the doctrines

I am wise in all sciences

I am the incarnation prophesied by the patriarchs

I am the executioner of all false incarnations

The history of Bhutan
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.  .  .  Fleeing to Bhutan
.  .  .  Entering Bhutan
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.  .  The unification of ..
.  .  The cultural heritage
.  .  A dark era
.  The monarchy
Bhutans religion
Gods and Sacred ..

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The Shabdrung, clay, painted; 17th century; H: 28 cm.; loan from the Sammlung für Völkerkunde, St. Gallen
It's assumed that this statue is a true portrayal of the founder of the state.