The Shabdrung’s life
Ngawang Namgyel was born in Tibet in 1594 into the princely family of Gya*, who played an important role in the Drukpa Kagyupa school of Tibetan Buddhism. He was brought up in a monastic-religious environment and was given the title »Shabdrung«, which means »at whose feet one submits«, because of his religious accomplishments. Nowadays he is often referred to as »the Shabdrung« in Buthan.
He was recognised as the incarnation of the great Drukpa scholar Pema Karpo. Due to political power struggles his claim was disputed and he had to flee to Buthan. With his arrival in Buthan, in 1616, he was received by family and supporters of the Drukpa school. During the following thirty years he was able to gain control of all the small independent principalities and unified them to form »Druk Yul«, »country of the Drukpas«. In doing so he had to fight against both external and internal enemies. During the course of all his battles his protective deity Mahakala watched over him.
The Shabdrung created a unified cultural system as the basis for his realm. His last years, devoted to religious meditation, were spent in seclusion in the Punakha Dzong.