Jigme Dorji Wangchuck
Dragon King of Bhutan
Picture of King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck at Paro International Airport
Dragon King of Bhutan
Reign30 March 1952 – 21 July 1972
Coronation27 October 1952[1]
PredecessorJigme Wangchuck
SuccessorJigme Singye Wangchuck
Born(1928-05-02)2 May 1928
Thruepang Palace, Trongsa
Died21 July 1972(1972-07-21) (aged 44)
Nairobi, Kenya
Cremated at Kurjey Lhakhang 27°37′N 90°42′E / 27.617°N 90.700°E / 27.617; 90.700
SpouseAshi Kesang Choden
IssueSonam Chhodron Wangchuck
Dechan Wangmo Wangchuck
Jigme Singye Wangchuck
Pema Lhadon Wangchuck
Kesang Wangmo Wangchuck
FatherJigme Wangchuck
MotherAshi Phuntsho Choden

Jigme Dorji Wangchuck (Dzongkha: འབྲུག་རྒྱལ་པོ་ འཇིགས་མེད་རྡོ་རྗེ་དབང་ཕྱུག་མཆོག་, Wylie: jigs med rdo rje dbang phyug; 2 May 1928[2][3] – 21 July 1972) was the 3rd Druk Gyalpo of Bhutan.[4]

He began to open Bhutan to the outside world, began modernization, and took the first step towards democratization.

Early life

Jigme Dorji Wangchuck was born in 1928 in Thruepang Palace in Trongsa.[5] At a young age, he was apprenticed in etiquette and leadership at the royal court of his father the King. Wangchuck was educated in a British manner in Kalimpong and went on study tours and stay to many foreign countries such as Scotland and Switzerland from where he drew inspiration to develop Bhutan with suitable adaptations.[6] In 1943, he was appointed Trongsa Dronyer and then elevated as the 25th Paro Penlop in 1950, upon the death of the 24th Paro Penlop, Tshering Penjor (1902–1949). Wangchuck married Ashi Kesang Choden Wangchuck (born 1930), the daughter of Gongzim (Lord Chamberlain) Sonam Topgay Dorji (1896–1953), at the Ugyen Pelri Palace, Paro, on 5 October 1951. The royal wedding was held at the Garden Palace. The following year, Wangchuck became the King after his father died in Kuenga Rabten Palace. Coronation was held in Punakha Dzong on 27 October 1952.[6]


Father of modern Bhutan

During his 20-year reign that ended in July 1972, the fundamental reorientation of Bhutanese society began.[7] Wangchuck not only achieved the reorganisation of society and government, but also consolidated Bhutan's sovereignty and security. He mobilised resources from the international donors as aid. Wangchuck's strategy was to broaden the source of aid by developing relationships with other countries. Bhutan joined the Colombo Plan in 1962 to obtain international aid.[8] However, India became the main source of financial and technical assistance. He was a deft and farsighted planner in the sense that he modernised Bhutan without destabilizing its culture and tradition. Wangchuck brought modern techniques and methods to preserve and promote the culture of Bhutan, yet at the same time, he introduced Western science and technology.[7] He was a forerunner among environmentalists in this part of the world. The Manas Sanctuary established in 1966 was one of the first in the region.[9]

Political and social reforms

In the context of Bhutan, there were small groups who were bonded labourers. They would work on the farms of the aristocratic and prominent families. In return, they would receive food, lodging and clothes. As soon as he became the King, labourers who worked on the royal lands were made into tenants and sharecroppers instead of indentured labourers.[10] Later, similar indentured labourers were set free in other areas of the country, especially in some parts of Eastern Bhutan, where they were concentrated. In 1953, Wangchuck, realising that hitherto the decision of the King and that of the high officials were binding on the country, wanted them to be shared. As a result, Wangchuck opened the National Assembly of Bhutan in 1953 in Punakha Dzong.[7] For the first time, elders from different gewogs were invited to voice their concerns, ideas and solutions for the future of this country. At the same time, it was a forum for Wangchuck to share his larger vision for Bhutan in the years to come. After the National Assembly was established in 1953, the king drafted and devised a series of progressive laws for the Kingdom. The King brought out a holistic set of laws covering fundamental aspects of Bhutanese life such as land, livestock, marriage, inheritance, property and so forth. The Thrimzhung Chenmo (Supreme Law) was passed by the National Assembly in 1959. The laws are very organic, coherently interrelated within themselves and to the evolving reality and manifested his vision of law-based society.[11] Along with the promulgation of Thrimzhung Chenmo, a mechanism to implement and enforce laws was needed. Wangchuck decided to open the judiciary, first with the appointment of Thrimpons (judges) in districts, and then finally to the High Court, which was set up in 1968. These administrative and social reforms were prior to any economic modernisation programmes. In 1955, he intensified the conversion of commodity taxes to cash taxes by assessing land for cash taxation.[10] Cash taxes were nominal, but moving from commodity taxes to cash taxes was a radical step at that time. Apart from promulgation of better laws and tax reforms, the Royal Bhutan Army was formally established in 1963. Furthermore, the entitlements of all officials were converted from commodities to cash and new designations were given. Wangchuck established new Ministries in 1968.[12]

Culture and education

The king paid considerable policy attention on preserving Bhutanese culture so that Bhutan could always perpetuate itself as a culturally distinct nation, in particular with a flourishing Buddhist culture. He commissioned Buddhist monuments, including a large statue of the Buddha near the parliament building in Thimphu, as well as ornate copies of Buddhist texts such as the Kangyur and Tengyur.[2]

He established Simtokha Rigzhung Lobdra (now known as the Institute of Language and Cultural Studies) in 1967, where a new breed of traditional scholars could be nurtured.[7] He also increased the number of monks in many dratshangs. During his reign the systematic phonetic, syntax and grammatic rules of Dzongkha language were devised.

To propagate culture and traditions in schools, and to study scientific disciplines as well as humanities, the Third King established modern education on a wide spread basis. He established what were then the centres of education excellence with two public schools: Yangchenphug, in western Bhutan in 1969, and the other, Kanglung, in eastern Bhutan in 1968.[7] An Agriculture Department was created to improve nutrition and to generate income from horticulture. The Kingdom's free health service was also founded.

Infrastructure development

Modernising Bhutan's infrastructure for transportation, communications, education, health system and agriculture started after India was receptive enough to offer aid. India became independent in 1947, and was not in any immediate position to help Bhutan. Wangchuck officially visited India in 1954. The first Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru made a historic journey to Bhutan in September 1958. King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck then paid repeated visits to India.[7] A year after Nehru visited Bhutan in 1958, the development of Bhutan's modern infrastructure began, with assistance from India. Although road construction started in 1959, a large scale undertaking became systematic two years later in 1961, with the commencement of the 1st Five Year Plan (FYP) that envisaged construction of 177 km of road, 108 schools, three hospitals, and 45 clinics.[7][13] In 1961, motor road transport reached Thimphu. The systematic envisioning of the economic future of Bhutan through FYPs was put into practice in 1961. The idea of budgeting and programming on a five-year basis is a legacy from that period. The construction of roads expanded vigorously to the end of Jigme Dorji Wangchuck's reign; by his death, more than 1200 km (750 miles) of road had been built in the country.[14] His last visit to central Bhutan was partly to open the Zhunglam, the highway between Wangdue Phodrang and Trongsa, in 1971.[7]

Foreign relations

The king's priority was to continue deepening the excellent relationship with India. The second priority was to diversify the relationship with other countries. He intended to strike close economic relationship with Bangladesh. Bhutan was the first nation after India to recognise the independence of Bangladesh.[7] One key event his era was enabling Bhutan to join the United Nations in 1971, when it became its 125th member.[15]


Wangchuck suffered from long-term heart problems; he had his first heart attack at the age of 20.[2] In July 1972, Wangchuck traveled to Nairobi to receive treatment for this condition, but he died suddenly during this visit. The king's body was subsequently flown back to Bhutan to be cremated there.[14]




National honours

Foreign honours


See also


  1. ^ "Public Holidays". Archived from the original on 2021-08-06. Retrieved 2021-03-26.
  2. ^ a b c "Patron Kings Part XI: King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck of Bhutan". Khyentse Foundation. Archived from the original on 2021-11-11. Retrieved 2021-11-11.
  3. ^ "Holidays Around the World: Bhutan Third King's Death". Archived from the original on 2021-11-11. Retrieved 2021-11-11.
  4. ^ "WANGCHUCK DYNASTY. 100 Years of Enlightened Monarchy in Bhutan. Lham Dorji". Archived (PDF) from the original on 2018-07-05. Retrieved 2017-05-01.
  5. ^ Tshewang, Lopen Pema (1994). 'Brug gi rgyal rabs: 'Brug gsal ba'i sgron me. Thimphu: National Library.
  6. ^ a b Michael, Aris (2005). The Raven Crown: The Origins of Buddhist Monarchy in Bhutan (2 ed.). Chicago: Serindia Publications. ISBN 978-1932476217.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i dpal ‘brug zhib ‘jug lte ba (2008). 'brug brgyd 'zin gyi rgyel mchog gsum pa mi dwang 'jigs med rdo rjé dwang phyug gi rtogs brjod bzhugs so (The Biography of the Third King of Bhutan). Thimphu: The Centre for Bhutan Studies. ISBN 978-99936-14-49-4.
  8. ^ Ministry of Foreign Affairs Website Archived 2017-08-03 at the Wayback Machine, Thimphu, Bhutan
  9. ^ Ministry of Foreign Affairs Website Archived 2015-07-23 at the Wayback Machine, Thimphu, Bhutan
  10. ^ a b Ura, Karma (1995). The Hero with a Thousand Eyes, A Historical Novel. Thimphu: Karma Ura. ISBN 978-8175250017.
  11. ^ Resolutions Adopted During the 28th Session of the National Assembly of Bhutan Archived 2015-07-23 at the Wayback Machine, National Assembly of Bhutan (1968), Thimphu
  12. ^ Gross National Happiness Commission. "1st Five Year Plan (1961-1966)" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-09-24. Retrieved 2015-06-12.
  13. ^ a b "Jigme Dorji Wangchuck Is Dead; King of Tiny Himalayan Bhutan". New York Times. 1972-07-23. Archived from the original on 2021-11-11. Retrieved 2021-11-11.
  14. ^ Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Website Archived 2017-08-03 at the Wayback Machine, Thimphu, Bhutan
  15. ^ "Third Druk Gyalpo honored by Bangladesh". Archived from the original on 2019-08-24. Retrieved 2019-08-24.
  16. ^ "Times Content". Archived from the original on 2016-09-20. Retrieved 2016-09-14.

Further reading

Jigme Dorji Wangchuck House of WangchuckBorn: 2 May 1928 Died: 21 July 1972 Regnal titles Preceded byJigme Wangchuck King of Bhutan 1952–1972 Succeeded byJigme Singye Wangchuck