Jigme Namgyal (Bhutan)

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This article is about the historical figure Jigme Namgyal of Bhutan. For the 21st-century Tibetan politician Jigme Namgyal, see Jigme Namgyal.
Emblem of Bhutan.svg
Country Bhutan
Parent house
Titles Dragon King of Bhutan
Founded 17 December 1907 AD
Founder Ugyen Wangchuck
Current head Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck

Jigme Namgyal of Bhutan (Dzongkha: འཇིགས་མེད་རྣམ་རྒྱལ་; Wylie:" Jigs-med rNam-rgyal; also "Jigme Namgyel") (1825–1881) is a forefather of the House of Wangchuck. He served as 51st Druk Desi (Deb Raja, the secular executive) of Bhutan (1870–1873), and held the hereditary post of 10th Penlop of Trongsa.[1][2][3] He was the descendant of the Nyingma saint Pema Lingpa and a patriarch of the Nyö clan. With his influence as Druk Desi, he aided his son in consolidating power in Bhutan and retained considerable clout after his official tenure had ended, gaining him the moniker Deb Nagpo ("the Black Deb").[4]:132 Jigme Namgyal effectively reigned through his death 1881, punctuated by periods of retirement during which he retained control of the country.[5]

During his lifetime, Jigme Namgyal and his forces came to dominate the eastern provinces of Bhutan as Penlop of Trongsa from his base at Trongsa Dzong in the town of Trongsa, Trongsa Province. A generation later, eastern forces led by his son Ugyen Wangchuck conquered western forces loyal to the anti-British Paro Penlop.


Jigme Namgyal was born into the Dungkar Choji family of the Nÿo clan, whose origins lie in Bumthang Province.[2][6] The clan is descended from Pema Lingpa, a Bhutanese Nyingmapa saint. The Nyö clan emerged as a local aristocracy, supplanting many older aristocratic families of Tibetan origin that sided with Tibet during invasions of Bhutan (17th–18th centuries).[7] In doing so, the clan came to occupy the hereditary position of Penlop of Trongsa, as well as significant national and local government positions.[8] In doing so, the clan came to occupy the hereditary position of Penlop of Trongsa, as well as significant national and local government positions.[8]

Under Bhutan's early theocratic dual system of government, decreasingly effective central government control resulted in the de facto disintegration of the office of Shabdrung after the death of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1651. Under this system, the Shabdrung reigned over the temporal Druk Desi and religious Je Khenpo. Two successor Shabdrungs – the son (1651) and stepbrother (1680) of Ngawang Namgyal – were effectively controlled by the Druk Desi and Je Khenpo until power was further splintered through the innovation of multiple Shabdrung incarnations, reflecting speech, mind, and body. Increasingly secular regional lords (penlops and dzongpons) competed for power amid a backdrop of civil war over the Shabdrung and invasions from Tibet, and the Mongol Empire. The penlops of Trongsa and Paro, and the dzongpons of Punakha, Thimphu, and Wangdue Phodrang were particularly notable figures in the competition for regional dominance.[4]:123, 132 [9][10]

Jigme Namgyel entered the service of the Penlop of Trongsa upon a vision of a white bird and a prophecy of the future throne. When Penlop Choki Dorji retired, Jigme Namgyel was given the regency for five years, as the actual successor was still a minor. However, after five years, he refused to hand over power, resulting in a civil war. At the conclusion of the war, his son Ugyen Wangchuck was made Penlop of Trongsa at Jakar.[11]

As Penlop of Trongsa, Jigme Namgyal effectively exercised control over central and eastern Bhutan.[1][4][12] Meanwhile, the rival Penlop of Paro controlled western Bhutan; and dzongpons controlled areas surrounding their respective dzongs. The Penlop of Paro, unlike Trongsa, was an office appointed by the Druk Desi's central government. Because western regions controlled by the Penlop of Paro contained lucrative trade routes, it became the object of competition among aristocratic families.[8] During Jigme Namgyal's tenure as 51st Druk Desi (1870–1873), he appointed his son Ugyen Wangchuck as Paro Penlop.[1]

The pro-Britain Penlop Ugyen Wangchuck ultimately prevailed against the pro-Tibet and anti-Britain Penlop of Paro after a series of civil wars and rebellions between 1882 and 1885. After his father's death in 1881, Ugyen Wangchuck entered a feud over the post of Penlop of Trongsa. In 1882, at the age of 20, he marched on Bumthang and Trongsa, winning the post of Penlop of Trongsa in addition to Paro.[5] Thereafter, the Paro Penlop as well as the Trongsa Penlop have remained within the Wangchuck family.[1][2]

Notable descendants[edit]

Jigme Namgyal is the father of the first Druk Gyalpo King Ugyen Wangchuck, who founded the Bhutanese monarchy in 1907 after besting his rivals, the Penlop of Paro and allies, ending protracted civil war. Jigme Namgyal is thus the forefather of all subsequent Kings of Bhutan: Jigme Wangchuck, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, and Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck.[2] Several monarchs of the House of Wangchuck have borne Jigme Namgyel's names.

Crown Princes of Bhutan traditionally take the title Penlop of Trongsa (also called "Chhoetse" Penlop), reflecting the hereditary position and historical significance of the office of Jigme Namgyal.[2][7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Dorji, C. T. (1994). "Appendix III". History of Bhutan based on Buddhism. Sangay Xam, Prominent Publishers. p. 200. ISBN 81-86239-01-4. Retrieved 2011-08-12. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Buyers, Christopher (2010-03-20). "BHUTAN – The Wangchuck dynasty". The Royal Ark – Royal and Ruling Houses of Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas. Retrieved 2011-08-10. 
  3. ^ Dorji Wangdi (2004). "A Historical Background of the Chhoetse Penlop" (PDF). The Tibetan and Himalayan Library online. Thimphu: Cabinet Secretariat. Retrieved 2011-02-20. 
  4. ^ a b c White, J. Claude (1909). Sikhim & Bhutan: Twenty-One Years on the North-East Frontier, 1887–1908. New York: Longmans, Green & Co. Retrieved 2010-12-25. 
  5. ^ a b Brown, Lindsay; Mayhew, Bradley; Armington, Stan; Whitecross, Richard W. (2007). Bhutan. Lonely Planet Country Guides (3 ed.). Lonely Planet. pp. 38–43. ISBN 1-74059-529-7. Retrieved 2011-08-09. 
  6. ^ Crossette, Barbara (2011). So Close to Heaven: The Vanishing Buddhist Kingdoms of the Himalayas. Vintage Departures. Random House Digital, Inc. ISBN 0-307-80190-X. Retrieved 2011-08-10. 
  7. ^ a b Rennie, Frank; Mason, Robin (2008). Bhutan: Ways of Knowing. IAP. p. 176. ISBN 1-59311-734-5. Retrieved 2011-08-10. 
  8. ^ a b c Harding, Sarah (2003). Harding, Sarah, ed. The life and revelations of Pema Lingpa. Snow Lion Publications. p. 24. ISBN 1-55939-194-4. Retrieved 2011-08-10.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  9. ^ Worden, Robert L.. "Administrative Integration and Conflict with Tibet, 1651–1728". Bhutan: A country study (Savada, Andrea Matles, ed.). Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress of the USA (September 1991).  This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  10. ^ Worden, Robert L.. "Civil Conflict, 1728–72". Bhutan: A country study (Savada, Andrea Matles, ed.). Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress of the USA (September 1991).  This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  11. ^ Kapadia, Harish; Kapadia, Geeta (2005). Into the untravelled Himalaya: travels, treks, and climbs. Indus Publishing. pp. 76–77. ISBN 81-7387-181-7. Retrieved 2011-08-21. 
  12. ^ Madan, P. L. (2004). Tibet, Saga of Indian Explorers (1864–1894). Manohar Publishers & Distributors. pp. 77 et seq. ISBN 81-7304-567-4. Retrieved 2011-08-14.