The history of Bhutan | Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel | The unification of the state | Tibetan invasion

Tibetan invasion

The first Tibetan invasion appears to have taken place shortly after the Shabdrung's arrival in 1616. The Tibetan ruler did not want to tolerate the presence of his arch enemy immediately south of his own territory. It was not enough for the Tibetan ruler that the Shabdrung had left Tibet; the opponent had to be destroyed.

 

 

In the course of the first Tibetan invasion, the general of the attackers fell and the Tibetan troops were beaten off. The fame of the Shabdrung as superior military strategist started to spread.

In Tibet the power of the ruling Tsang collapsed in 1642. Since then the Gelugpa school, headed by the fifth Dalai Lama, reigned with the support of the Mongolians. The Gelugpas also thought that they could not afford a powerful state on their southern border. In 1644, Tibetan and Mongolian armies attacked Bhutan, but the campaign was not successful. In 1648/49 several Tibetan and Mongolian columns again attacked Bhutan at various points. They advanced as far as Thimphu, Punakha and Paro, but were ultimately defeated. Another Tibetan invasion took place in 1657, after the Shabdrung's death, but failed to achieve anything. It was the last Tibetan attempt to conquer Bhutan.

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Shield, bamboo, wood; size: 47 cm x 18 cm;
Helmet, bamboo, wood; size: 26 cm x 18 cm; loans from the National Museum, Paro
Protective objects made of bent reeds and interlaced bamboo were part of the standard equipment of common foot soldiers.


The Drukgyel Dzong blocked the way to Bhutan for intruders from the North. It was built by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel in 1647 in commemoration of the victory over the Tibetans in 1644. The name »Drukgyel Dzong« means »Fortress of the Victorious Drukpa«. In 1951 it was destroyed by fire.
In the background there is the Chomolhari mountain, which is the place and embodiment of the female mountain goddess Tsheringma, who watches over the land.