Friday, September 17, 2021

Earliest Bhutanese Coins: Obverse & Reverse

Bhutan’s coins were hammered some 310 years back – thus it cannot be said with certainty which side of our coins was intended to be the “obverse” and which the “reverse”. Thus I believe that we will have to rely upon our own power of reasoning as to which should be which.

In an article by John Deyell titled “Reflections on “Obverse” and “Reverse” in numismatics, he writes:

“The implication is that each has a “front” side that is by the standards or conventions of the industry somehow more significant, higher-quality or otherwise of greater importance, than the other side, the “reverse” side. Where the medium bears information, as is the case with coins, banknotes, printed pages or discs (double-sided DVDs, etc.), the obverse or front is the side on which the message begins and the reverse carries the remainder of the information.”

…. and ends with:

“The only solution is for scholars to define obverse and reverse in terms of the priorities they consider most important and then be consistent in their own work”. Probably a good last word on the subject!”

I had difficulty in deciding which should be considered the obverse and which the reverse of our coins – or more simply which should be the front side and which the back side. I spent many months brooding over the matter. I consulted a number of experts, writers and historians across the globe. But at the end of it all, it was really very simple - there was nothing so complicated about it.

We should simply follow the Koch Kingdom's scheme.

As confirmed to me by Mr. S. K. Bose, Past President of the Numismatic Society of India, in the scheme of things thought up by the Cooch Beharis from whom we borrowed the idea of our earliest coinage, the side with the "Cha" is the obverse or the front of the coin and the side with the “Ndra” is the reverse or back of the coin. The reason why the "Cha" side should be the obverse is because it carries the name of the Hindu God “Shiva”. Thus, in the scheme of things of the Cooch Beharis, the side with the name of the God Lord Shiva takes precedence over the side with “Ndra” which is part of the name of the ruler of the Koch Kingdom who issued the coins.


Half Silver Rupee of Maharaja Devendra Narayan of Cooch Behar

Thus for us too this rule should apply – because Lord Shiva is also considered God in our religion. He is known in our religion as “Lha Wangchuk Chenpo” – sometimes also called “Wangchen Deva” or simply “Maha Deva”, among others.


Bhutan's silver "Sa" Ngueltum - one of the very few coins with full die-sized planchet

The side with the "Ndra" cannot be considered obverse for the Bhutanese since it carries the name of a Koch king. This will be in keeping with the order of importance - God first!

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

What the Dang Hell Is Gya Chila??

 Hi .................,

 

I cracked the mystery of  “Gya Chila”!!

 

I went to speak to someone called Lam Kesang Chhoephel. He is the CEO of APIC (Agency for Preservation of Indigenous Crafts). He is a qualified and learned Lama. So I asked him if he had ever heard of “Gya Chila” …. He said never. But as we dwelled over the matter and began to wonder what would be “Gya Chila”, he came up with:

 

“This cannot be “Gya Chila”. It has to be “Ja Chila”. Sometimes foreigners tend to grasp our words wrongly. As you know, Ja is short for “Jaggar” which as you understand means India or Indian. So it must mean Poenlop of India – "Ja Chila".


I totally agree with him!


As I said in my earlier mail, if a regional ruler is a Lam, he would be called “Chila” and not “Poenlop”. That is why the title of the first Mangde regional ruler Chogyel Minjur Tempa was called “Choetse (Trongsa) Chila” because he was a Lam. Whereas Jigme Namgyel was called Trongsa Poenlop or Choetse Poenlop.

 

The Ja Chila under reference must have been a Lam or Lama. He would have been appointed by the 8th Druk Desi Druk Rubgye who ruled between 1707 – 1719.

 

“This strengthened the position of the Bhutanese who stationed in Cooch Behar their agent named Gya Chila along with an escort. Bhutan went a step further and struck the Ngutam (a silver coin) for circulation in Cooch Behar thus undermining the independence of Cooch Behar as a State.”


I will reply to your other mail tomorrow.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Re-Christening Bhutan's Earliest Silver Coin

 Dear Mr. Bose,

Good Morning … I hope you are continuing to keep well and safe.

Regarding my yesterday's mail to which was attached a .pdf file about my views on the coinage of Bhutan’s earliest Maartums, I believe that I may have made a mistake regarding my views on Bhutan’s silver “Ma” Maartums. I feel that others may be right – that the silver “Ma” Maartum may indeed be Bhutanese. I came to this conclusion after realizing that I failed to look at the Maartum’s obverse where the Bhutanese numeral “1” is inscribed.

I took a careful re-look at the Maartum’s image and I find that if I consider the coins obverse, I can see a perfect Bhutanese number “1” inscribed inside the CHA. The number there is a perfect Bhutanese “1” - as written by the Bhutanese. It is no where close to how the Bengalis/Assamese would write. The Assamese/Bengali 1 is written completely differently - from how the Bhutanese write ours.


Bhutan's earliest silver coin



A comparative study of the Assamese/Bengali/Bhutanese number 1 and alphabet "Ma"

Finally, in my upcoming book I am going to rename the “Ma” Maartum as “Ma” Ngueltum. The reason is that "Ma" Maartum actually means red coin whereas “Ma” Ngueltum would translate to: “Ma” Silver Coin.

There is a term “Ngingtum” which means old coin. As the oldest coin, the “Ma” Ngueltum could also be called “Ma” Ngingtum but I think “Ma” Ngueltum would be more appropriate.

Bye and take care


Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Say No To Plastics

In a landmark decision during the Club’s Weekly Meeting on Friday the 3rd of September, 2021, the Rotary Club of Thimphu resolved as follows:

AGENDA 3:

Rtn. Yeshey Dorji proposed to the Members that our Club should henceforth decline all and any projects that have components of supply of non-biodegradable Shed Nets, Green Houses and Mulching Plastics. He said that supporting projects that require these environmentally harmful plastics is in conflict with Bhutan’s environmental friendly image. He said that the Club could, however, accept the donation of plastics that are bio-degradable and harmless to the environment.

The Club President and other Members present in the Meeting agreed with the proposal and said that we should do nothing that would contribute to environmental degradation. Additionally the Members were reminded that as of this Rotary Year 2021-2022, Rotary International had adopted a new and its 7th area of focus – ENVIRONTMENT. Thus in keeping with the Rotary International’s endeavors to support the protection of the environment, all the Members agreed that Rotary Club of Thimphu will forthwith not support any agriculture projects that have components of supply of non-biodegradable shed nets, green houses and mulching plastics.

Over the last six years, the Rotary Club of Thimphu’s contribution to the country’s agriculture sector has totaled over Nu.13.00 million. Of that quite a substantial amount went into supporting the supply of shed nets, green houses and mulching plastics.


One of the many large greenhouses donated by the Club in support of agriculture production

The government talks of organic farming but they officially supply fertilizers and weedicides and pesticides. They make a show of banning plastics but subsidize the installation of shed nets, green houses and mulching plastics. They are mindless about where these plastics will ultimately end up.

Today because of the irresponsibility and poor stewardship of the agriculture sector by the people at the helm of things, the country is strewn with thousands of miles of plastics that will ultimately end up inside the belly of the mother earth. If we cannot contribute to the improvement of the health of the environment, let us not contribute to its deterioration.

Let us be more responsible than our government has been – Let us stop the use of non-biodegradable plastics in agriculture production.

Monday, September 6, 2021

The Rotary Club of Thimphu Is Yet Again At It!

As always we are frantically busy delivering humanitarian service during these painful times. This time it is a small school in Samtse – a school by the name of Sang Ngag Choeling Lower Secondary School - with students numbering a little over 300. To safeguard the children from the COVID-19 virus, the school authorities requested the Club for Hand Washing Stations and some Face Masks. And we were happy to oblige. The school Principal picked up the PPEs a few days back from our office in Thimphu.


The Club President, Club Secretary and Community Service Director of the Club hand-over two units of Hands Free Hand Washing Station and 1,005 Nos. of reusable fabric Face Masks to the Principal of Sang Ngag Choeling Lower Secondary School

Not to be outdone, the Lakhu Primary School in Punakha wanted us to help with electrification of their bathrooms and toilets. Few hours back, our Executive Secretary conveyed to the school Principal – to go ahead and start the wiring and purchase of whatever is needed – to electrify their toilets and bathrooms. Our Club Members approved the needed budget during our last Weekly Meeting on Friday.

By this afternoon, our Club will be delivering 4 more hands-free Hand Washing Stations to Gelephu based “Friends of the Frontliners” – a group responsible for initiating the construction of a soon to open 200-bedded Quarantine Center in Gelephu. Two of the stations are due to be installed at this Center and the other two will be installed at the entry gate at the border adjoining the Indian border. The request was generated by our Gelephu based Club Member Rtn. Dawa Penjor who is a Member of the  group “Friends of the Frontliners”.


4 Nos. of hands-free Hand Washing Station for the Friends of the Frontliners” of Gelephu

Few months back the Club had donated 83 of these hands-free systems to Thimphu Thromde - for installation at places of mass gathering and heavy human traffic.

In the coming days we will be handing over a 12,000 ltrs. capacity SkyHydrant water filter to the newly opened school in Phadhuna in Punakha, established to accommodate the relocated students from Phuentsholing numbering some 887 students. The filter is already installed and was ready before the children arrived.

It is getting a little hectic – but hey!, this is SERVICE TO THE TSA WA SOOM – at its humblest!


Sunday, September 5, 2021

Rewriting History of Bhutan’s Modern Coinage

The Annual Report of The Director of Mint, United States Government Printing Office, Washington – for the fiscal year ended June 30, 1930, reads as follows:

US government mint report for the year 1929

The coinage about which the above report speaks of is Bhutan's first ever milled silver Thala of 1929. A total  of 20,000 pieces were struck - valued at Nu.10,000.00. The following is the coin the obverse die of which was erroneously crafted.


The Thala of 1929 with the erroneous obverse

The Annual Report of The Director of Mint, United States Government Printing Office, Washington – for the fiscal year ended June 30, 1931, reads as follows:

US government mint report for the year 1930

The coinage about which the above report speaks of is Bhutan's second milled silver Thala of 1930. In an effort to correct the mistake in the obverse of the Thala of 1929, a second lot of 30,000 pieces were struck - valued at Nu.15,000.00. Unfortunately while the obverse was corrected, the reverse was yet again flawed. The mint used the same old reverse die. Thus while the year of coining should have been stated as "Sa Drue Lo", it was erroneously indicated as "Sa Druk Lo".

The following is the silver Thala of 1930:

The second issue of the silver Thala - with the wrong year of coinage

As of now the dates of issue for the above two Thalas are recorded as 1928 and 1929. I will be correcting the record in my upcoming book on Bhutan's coining journey.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Bhutan's Ancient Monies

Dear Mr. Bose,

As informed in my yesterday’s mail, contrary to what Mr. N Rhodes wrote, Bhutan did use Cowrie or seashells or Karshapani - as it is known in the local language – as money. There is written proof of it in an ancient ritual prayer book called “NAMSAY YANGKHUG”. It is a book dating back to the time of Buddha – it praises NAMSAY the God of Wealth and in it the people entreat him for a hundred thousand Karshapani on a daily basis. You would know the God by its Hindi name – Kuber or Kubera.

Obviously this book proves that the Cowrie pre-dates the use of salt as currency. Bhutan also used salt as currency – as did few other countries around the world such as – the UK.

My book will carry two articles that describe the use of Salt and Karshapani as monies. For now as desired by you, I reproduce below a small portion of page 423 of the book where the narration: “Please gift us, on a daily basis, a hundred thousand Karshapani” appears.


The text on page 423 zoomed in


Translated into English

Monday, August 23, 2021

One For The Hilltop

The Rotary Club of Thimphu continues to deliver humanitarian service – unabated. The latest in the series of projects we implemented was the delivery and installation of a 12,000 liters capacity, gravity activated, patented, SkyHydrant water filter at the Tango Center for Buddhist Studies. The filter is large enough to cater to the needs of both the Tango Dzong as well as the institute.





SPBD's Engineer Sonam Norbu handed over the filters on behalf of the Club

This 3-years, one million Australian Dollars project is a collaborative effort between the Ministry of Education and the Rotary Club of Thimphu. The funding is provided by Disaster Aid Australia – a Rotary created NGO based in Melbourne.


Saturday, August 21, 2021

Koch Kingdom's Earliest Silver Coin Found in Bhutan

Relations between Bhutan and the Koch Kingdom (modern day Cooch Behar within the state of West Bengal) go back centuries. In fact written records now confirm that Bhutan’s earliest silver Maartums were hammered in Cooch Behar – not in Bhutan. Those coins were most often referred to as Deb Rupee – Rupee of the Deb – or Druk Desi’s coins. The metal used was silver.

Bhutan was flush with foreign coins – I believe that of the coins of eight foreign countries that found their way into Bhutan, the most numerous were the Narayani of Koch Kingdom, Baltum from Nepal, Boetum from Tibet and Rupee of East India Company/British India Government. The earliest of these coins were all in silver.

Amazingly, some of those coins still survive in Bhutan. Recently I acquired the following Koch Kingdom’s earliest known silver coin – called the "Narayani" - symbolically from a remote village in Chhukha, close to the State of West Bengal:

10.00 gms; 24.02 mm

Silver Narayani of Maharaja Naranarayan - issued during his coronation in 1555. Supposedly this is the first ever coin issued by the Koch Kingdom.

Koch Kingdom’s most powerful king - Maharaja Naranarayan, son of Maharaja Biswa Singh of Cooch Dynasty, issued the above coin. It was issued to commemorate his coronation that took place in 1555. Thus this coin is close to four and a half centuries old.

During late 1780's, the British government shut down the Cooch Behar mints - resulting in stoppage of supply of coins to Bhutan. This is when Bhutan was forced to start to hammer our own coins. Some say hammering coins in Bhutan began in 1790.

In 1866, the British India government stopped the circulation of the Narayani coins altogether. Thereafter no Narayanis were issued, although the ruling Maharajas of Cooch Behar did issue commemorative coins on the first day of their accession to the throne.

UPDATE FROM AN EXPERT:

A coin historian and an expert on Indian coins tells me that I have the earliest version of the coin. He explained that in the earliest version, the alphabets were separated. The later versions had joined alphabets - as follows:


Sunday, August 8, 2021

My Dream Project ….. Sloooooowly Beginning To Take Shape

Realizing my dream project – a coffee table book on Bhutan’s coining journey – has taken more time than it should. There are a couple of reasons for it – firstly I have to put in many grueling hours every day for Rotary work, leaving me with little time for the project. Secondly, I find that much of the recorded history turns out to be faulty. Thirdly, getting to photograph the coins in the right way has been an exercise in futility. But after trying for over a year, I believe that I have finally nailed it. The following images should tell you that it cannot get any better.

As a rule, collectors do not clean old coins. But a soiled coin makes for poor detail – thus my book will feature coins that have been cleaned – for clarity of details. Centuries of handling by thousands of people result in the deposit of layers upon layer of grime on the coin’s surface. A coin caked with grime may look ancient and collectible – but much of the coins details remain concealed. The only way to bring out the details of the coin is to give it a cleaning treatment.

Tibet is perhaps the first country with whom Bhutanese interacted, including Nepal with whom we were in touch – as far back as early 1600’s. We even had a postal service running between Kathmandu and Punakha. Thus in addition to Boetum (coin of Tibet), we also had Baltum (coin of Nepal) entering our country. In total coins of eight foreign countries were available in Bhutan:

Tibet

Nepal

Koch Bihar

Assam

British East India Company

Crown British India or British Raj

French East India Company

China

The following are some of the coins hammered by Bhutan – supposedly beginning 1790 - 1910. After 1910 when Gongsa Ugyen Wangchuck ruled as King, new breed of coins began to emerge. They were produced from machine cut dies. As of 1928, machine milled coins came into being - during the time of the second King, His Majesty Jigme Wangchuck.


Bhutanese Maartums

The following are some of the coins of Tibet. Tibetan coins were the most numerous. Thus my book will feature 9 coins of Tibet while only 3 each of other foreign country’s coins will appear in the book.


Tibetan Coins

By the way, the colored background on which the coins sit is actually a row of colored prayer flags that flutter on the hillock where the Dechenphodrang Lhakhang stands - I wanted just their colors, which I achieved by throwing off the details of the prayer flags – through the selection of very low aperture on the camera’s lens.

Let us see if the prayer flags will bring me much fame and fortune - I need both 😋

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

The Emergence of the Idea of Paper Money for Bhutan

Every nanosecond, history is being made and remade and unmade, in some corners of the earth. The intention behind their making is not always premeditated – a good portion of them are accidental - pure chance and, at times, out of frustration. Ostensibly, one such history was played out in Paro – to be precise at Ugyen Wangchuck Academy in Satsam Chorten – possibly the earliest emergence of the idea of paper money for Bhutan, in place of the weighty and cumbersome cupro-nickel Tikchungs.

A verbal narration given to me by a friend goes like this:

Mr. Michael Rutland, currently the British Honorary Consul to Bhutan, joined Ugyen Wangchuck Academy in 1971 – as a Royal Tutor. He had to be paid monthly salary, which he believes was delivered to him on horse back - from Ugyen Pelri Palace in Paro. Her Majesty Queen Ashi Kesang Choeden Wangchuck wanted to make sure that Mr. Rutland got paid, and in time. Her Majesty instructed the late Finance Minister Lyonpo Chogyal to personally oversee the delivery of the salary – in the form of Tikchungs packed in cotton bags.

In keeping with Her Majesty’s orders, Lyonpo Chogyal ensured that the salary was delivered to Mr. Rutland in time and in the right amount. Not to say that they were any use to him – there was nothing that he could buy with them – even for a piece of cake he had to drive all the way to Swiss Bakery in Thimphu.

One evening Mr. Rutland met Lyonpo Chogyal at a dinner and he had the opportunity to thank him personally for delivering his salary in time. Lyonpo Choyal wished that there was a simpler way to deliver the salary - he wished that he could issue a written document signed and sealed by him to Mr. Rutland, and he could use it to purchase whatever he wanted. The conversation resulted in Mr. Rutland pulling out a British Pound bank note and showing it to Lyonpo and telling him that back home in England – they used paper money to pay for services and everything else. They were light and available in various denominations.

Although not educated in western education and their monetary system – the profundity of such a concept did not escape the old man Chogyal. The idea stuck with him and he began to ponder over the possibility of introducing Bhutanese paper money. Eventually, while it is not clear if he was responsible for the happenstance – Bhutan’s paper money got printed and issued, for the first time, in 1974.


Bhutan's earliest bank notes released in 1974

Lyonpo Chogyal is no longer alive but Mr. Michael Rutland is still around. I had the occasion to ascertain the veracity of the oral account as narrated above. He confirms that the account is accurate - to the last word.


Sunday, July 25, 2021

I Think I Finally Nailed It!

For the past over one year, I have been trying and trying and trying, to improve my coin photography. I wasn't getting it - however hard I tried. Unbalanced lighting, ghosting, uneven sharpness, reflection and shadows caused me misery. I was not at all satisfied by what I produced. But I am not one to give up - I aim for perfection.

Then a few days back - I nailed it! Take a look at the following three sets of coins and you know what I mean.




The coin set at the top and middle are Bhutanese Maartams - hammered between 1790 and 1910. The coin set at the bottom is Tibetan Sho Gung - minted during the 1st Year of 16th Rabjung (Fire Rabbit Year: 1927).

As you can see, there are no shadows, the sharpness is spot on and the color is vibrant! Goes to show - if you keep trying, you will eventually get it. Never give up!

ENJOY!

Thursday, July 22, 2021

The Aliens Did Not Do It

Garbage is ugly – it is dirty and it stinks. Regardless it is not the aliens from outer space that generate them – it is us who do. Thus, it should be us who should take on the responsibility to dispose off the garbage safely, securely and in a way that it does not harm the natural world around us. But we won’t – because we reason that there are some agencies and organizations that are charged with the responsibility of managing the garbage – and they are paid for the job and they draw sustenance in the name of managing garbage. The truth though is that garbage should be everybody’s responsibility. If the people who are charged with the responsibility fail to do their job, we should not fail in fulfilling our duty - as responsible citizens.

The case of the two piles of garbage by the wayside in Dechenchholing area is a case in point. For close to two months, I noticed that there were two huge piles of garbage dumped by the roadside – on two separate locations – on the road leading to Dechenphu Lhakhang. For a while I believed that they would be disposed off by the people and agencies responsible – but at the end of nearly two months, they remained where they were – unmoved, unattended and threatening to be gnawed open by the rummaging stray dogs.

Monks, religious aficionados on their way to Dechenphu Lhakhang, archers and fitness freaks and even romancing couples pass that road on a daily basis ... and yet the two piles of garbage remained unattended to. Finally I realized that no one was going to be bothered about the unsightly piles – neither the garbage collectors nor the pseudo environmentalists. I decided that I would have to do the job myself. Over two evenings, with the help of a DeSuup, I broke up the three huge piles of garbage into manageable sizes and carried them in my car, to be deposited at the garbage drop off points.



The piles of garbage on the way to Dechenphu Lhakhang as photographed on July 7, 2021



On July 11, 2021 I managed to carry away 2 of the 3 piles of garbage. I could not manage all three because they needed to be broken up into manageable bundles so that they fit into my car



By the evening of July 12, 2021, all the three unsightly garbage piles were removed and the area looked green and clean


Let us not be hoity-toity about handling garbage – we created them – we have to be responsible for their safe and proper disposal.


Sunday, July 11, 2021

Lonely But Busy As Hell

Rotary Club of Thimphu is the lone Rotary Club in Bhutan. It was chartered in 2012 under the aegis of the DPT government. Since then, the Club has never looked back.

We may be lonely, but certainly we are among the world’s busiest Rotary Clubs - even in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. To date, including seven projects that are currently in the pipeline, the Rotary Club of Thimphu has completed 91 community service projects, valued at over Nu.140.00 million.

While a large section of the Bhutanese population has been rendered jobless and hapless, the Club officials at the Rotary Club of Thimphu have been running helter-skelter – handing over projects and delivering project equipment. In the middle of the raging pandemic, we are proud to have have been able to deliver the following:

21st October, 2020

The following photo is from the Club’s archives – it shows the Club's Past President Rtn. Dr. Lam Dorji and Foundation Chair Rtn. Tshering Choki handing over the donation of a 30 Kgs. per charge capacity medical waste incinerator to the officials of the Ministry of Health. This is the first of three units being donated by the Club to the Ministry of Health. This unit was destined to be installed at Memelakha, for use by the JDWNRH, Thimphu.

First of the three units of medical waste incinerators being handed over to the Health Ministry officials

July 6, 2021:

Handed over a 100 Kgs. per charge capacity medical incinerator to Paro Dzongkhag Health officials, including Dzongkhag authorities. This is the second of the three medical waste incinerators that our Club is donating to the Health sector – to combat COVID-19 pandemic. This one is due to be installed at Paro.


Second of the three units - this one a 100 Kgs per charge capacity medical waste incinerator - being handed over to the Health and Dzongkhag officials of Paro Dzongkhag.

July 7, 2021:

Handed over another 30Kgs capacity medical waste incinerator to the Ministry of Health – represented by Ms. Pem Zam, Infection Control Program Officer, MoH. This is the last of the total three medical waste incinerators that our Club is donating to the Health sector – to combat COVID-19 pandemic. This unit is destined for Nanglam Government Hospital. With the handing over of this unit, the Rotary Club of Thimphu completes its Medical Waste Incinerator Project with the Ministry of Health – valued at a total of Nu.6.5 millions.


Last of the three units of medical waste incinerator being handed over to the Health Ministry official - this one is destined to be installed in Nanglam, Eastern Bhutan.

July 8, 2021:

One of the Club’s principal areas of focus is agriculture production. In line with this area of focus, we handed over the completed construction of a mushroom incubation and harvesting shed - measuring 60’ in length and costing Nu.583,000.00. The project was handed over to the group leader of a women farmer group in Phangyul village, Wangduephodrang. The funding for this came from a private donor and Rotary Club of Brooklyn Bridge, USA.


A 60' long mushroom incubating and growing shed being handed over to the farmer group leader accompanied by local government officials and Agriculture sector representative.

July 8, 2021:

The same day before the above handing over ceremony, the Club officials visited a very remote school in Punakha called Lakhu Primary School. The school wanted one additional water filter – we had already donated one earlier. After the visit it was ascertained that they really do not need the additional filter since the student enrolment is less than a hundred. The matter will be discussed further among Club Members to see if it would be more meaningful to support them with installation of electricity in their bathrooms that are currently without electricity.


Water filter that was supplied sometime back by the Rotary Club of Thimphu - working very well at Lakhu Primary School, Punakha

July 9, 2021:

The last in the series of project implementations for this month, we handed over a 12,000 lts. per day capacity SkyHydrant water filter to Dechenchholing Higher Secondary School in Thimphu. Dechenchholing HSS has the country’s largest number of students – totaling close to 2,000 including teaching and support staff. This is part of our Club’s ongoing project valued at AUS$1.00 million – to supply safe drinking water to Bhutan’s largest educational institutions - in collaboration with Disaster Aid Australia. Installation of all the promised 120 filters will be completed this September – the last of the 23 units are in stock with us - awaiting installation. The progress of installations have been rather slow due to limitations placed by the pandemic.

The Past Presidnet Dr. Lam Dorji handing over the SkyHydrant water filter to the Vice Principal of Dechenchholing HSS

There is no respite - in the coming weeks, I start work on a funding proposal for a agriculture project in Chhukha Dzongkhag, followed by a number of COVID-19 related projects to help the government contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Dismantling Evil

Achieving success is dependent on a great number of factors all coming together: financial muscle, human resource, dedication, hard work, perseverance, commitment, experience, knowledge and wisdom. And yet, even if you do have all that at your command, there is every chance of failure.

On the other hand, dismantling a great evil requires nothing much – only courage and willingness to perform ones duty and obligation. If we are able to dismantle evil, good will definitely prevail – there is no chance of failure.

This is what I said in one of my earlier articles on this Blog – that since achieving greatness seems a remote possibility given what we are, let us shift gear and work at dismantling evil that is hindering progress and growth. We have gotten into the bad habit of missing the forest for the trees.

The above is what I wrote on this Blog on June 4, 2021.

Given our limitations, it is not easy to achieve great things – but certainly dismantling evil is doable – it does not take money – it takes guts and a sense of commitment. And that is what the DNT has done – dismantled an evil the consequence of which not many seems to have understood. The lifting of ban on the sale of tobacco products is a move that is most welcome, and very sensible.


There are no dearth of weirdos who will ague that smoking is against our religion – ask them how and why – they have no answers – at most they will give you equally weird justifications. Some will argue that it costs the nation – in terms of health care. But they fail to understand that even boozers get free health care in Bhutan.

The ban on tobacco should have never happened. It happened and it has caused all sorts of problems. Sadly it was the government that I supported who imposed it. Historically bans and prohibitions have caused bigger problems than it has solved. American history is rife with tragedies related to the prohibition in the early 1900’s. I hope future governments will remember this.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

India On The Road To Success!

Finally things seem to be falling into place for India – in its efforts at vaccinating its citizens against the COVID-19. India’s success is good news for Bhutan – on many fronts.

I have been truly encouraged by the falling numbers in new cases in India. Their figures for the past one week have been as follows:

22nd June, 2021 54,393

21st June, 2021 39,096

20th June, 2021 53,009

19th June, 2021 58,588

18th June, 2021 60,800

17th June, 2021 62,409

16th June, 2021 67,294

One can see that the number of new cases has consistently fallen every day for the past one week. If this keeps up, Bhutan should see some respite soon enough. There is no reason why India should not succeed. They have all the resources at their disposal. And now the political will seems to be in place too.

Here is wishing India and the Indian people the VERY BEST OF SUCCESS.

Friday, June 18, 2021

The Amazing Institution Called Rotary

The Rotary Year 2020-2021 is about to end. And our Club is thanked for our contribution to humanity. Every year a number of Club Members of the Rotary Club of Thimphu make personal contribution to the Rotary International’s World Fund. This year too we did our part – most of our Members donated personal money for the cause of the Rotary.  Ofcourse what we contributed is not even one thousandth of what the Rotary community contributed to Bhutan. But it is about leaving our footprint – which we have never failed to do, year after year.


Although the above Thank You Note is addressed to me personally, in reality the Club is being thanked. My name appears since in my capacity as its Secretary, I am the primary contact for The Rotary Foundation (TRF)

This Rotary year, the global community of Rotarians has helped do humanitarian projects worth US$139.00 million across the glob. You can imagine – if the Rotary Foundation can do so much in a pandemic year, how much would have been done during normal times.

It is an amazing institution made up of amazing people with equally amazing spirit of giving.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Rotary Club of Thimphu is Honored

Few months back, an independent international consultant contacted me with a request to contribute a write up, on what we at the Rotary Club of Thimphu, considered our most meaningful community service project. The article was sought for inclusion in the Rotary International magazine. Two things were to be understood clearly:

1.  The project I choose should not be one funded with funding from the Rotary Foundation

2.  It is not necessary that the project and the write-up I submit will feature in the Rotary magazine since the project and the write-up would be assessed at the global level – among over 35,000 Rotary Clubs worldwide, made up of over 1.2 million Rotary members.

I chose our 3-years signature project – “BHUTAN2020” that was launched in 2018 and which will be concluded this September.


Under this project valued at AS$ 1.00 million, the Rotary Club of Thimphu with support from Disaster Aid Australia (DAA), would deliver 120 patented SkyHydrant water filters to 120 of Bhutan’s largest schools.

If it were not for the pandemic, we would have successfully concluded the project last month itself – two months ahead of schedule. The fact that the Rotary International featured our project on their magazine, in preference to million other endeavors, means that we did well.


Tuesday, June 15, 2021

The Lockdown Can Wait

Thimphu’s THIRD LOCKDOWN when it was announced 3 days back was abrupt and instantaneous, and without warning. Considered from the point of prudence, it was spot on.

Even as the lockdown was being announced of which I was clueless, I was driving down to town to make some purchases. When I reached a certain outlet, the place was jam-packed with shoppers. I refused to enter. I moved back to Motithang to do my purchases at the regular store where I generally do my shopping. That store was also jam-packed. It dawned on me that something was not quite right.

I was told a LOCKDOWN had just been announced – effective 6.00PM. It was few minutes past 6.00PM.

Through the door, I told the store owner that I am not entering his shop. I requested him to deliver what I wanted - at home. I rattled off the items I wanted ---- he agreed.

Hours later I got a call from the storeowner informing me that he would soon deliver my order. I said no thank you – it is not necessary. I do not want them.

The reason: I did not want him to bring the virus into my home. I feared that if there were any undetected active cases in the community, he would surely have picked it up – given the massive throng in his store.

The lockdown was good and necessary …. I would call for it again and again. But the way it is to be implemented needs serious pondering.

I am told that people were stranded on the road for hours. A number of vehicle accidents were reported.

The reason: Upon hearing of the lockdown, people did not heed the call for lockdown – instead they rushed out to stock up. They choked up the traffic, they jammed up the shops – so bad that some shop owners voluntarily downed shutters, because they could not handle the crowd.

The result of all these was that the rule of physical distancing was ignored. People compromised their safety – if there are undetected active cases in the community, you can guess the outcome of this mindlessness:

Our FOURTH LOCKDOWN …. very, very soon.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Greening The Dustbowl

 Someone had said it quite accurately:

“If nature and the environs contained within it are to have a chance, the human race has to go extinct.”

The good news is that nature and the environment is destined to survive because at the rate we are going and the direction towards which the human race is headed, its extinction is assured.

Even as we speak of lofty ideals and achievements such as GNH and position our country as a nation with negative CO2 emission, our forest cover is shrinking and our mountainsides bear ugly scars of digging and wanton destruction.

Recently I was made aware of an initiative by a voluntary group called the "Bhutan Forest Restoration" headed by Sonam Gyeltshen, at the Kuenselphodrang – to restock the mountainside with trees, through planting tree saplings. It is an encouraging effort that will perhaps contribute to the greening of the capital city that has now been turned into a dustbowl. How bad the situation is can be determined every morning when you notice that your car’s body is swathed in a thin layer of fine dust. It is clear what we are all breathing, all day long.

Thousands of tree saplings are being planned to be planted on the mountainside of Kuenselphodrang. I am not sure how successfully they will follow through the plan. Nonetheless I am encouraged that we are, for once, putting our money where our mouth is. Thus, I decided to contribute one Stihl earth auger to help speed up the digging of holes for the saplings.


On an average it was recorded that the STIHL auger dug more than 3 sapling holes per minute during its maiden test run this morning. More than a thousand saplings have been planted by the day's afternoon today at Kuenselphodrang.

I am not a rich man that I can afford to donate equipment worth close to Nu.70,000.00. The truth is that a seriously generous person offered me Nu.50,000.00 as Semso - upon the demise of my late dad. Of that money, I donated Nu.15,000.00 to pay for the tuition fee of a young girl of Class 10 in Punakha. So now the balance Nu.35,000.00 is being surrendered for the sake of our natural environment – by partially covering the cost of the Auger, that will help restore back to nature, trees that we robbed from it. I will find the balance money, somehow.

I believe that this is more meaningful and practical - than offering the Semso to some sleazy lama or a temple somewhere. It is my belief that God has no need for houses or roads, or that he would be found going hungry.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

The Reason And The Tradition Behind The Observance Of Holiday On The First Day of Snow

Currently I am chasing the truth on when exactly coining began in Bhutan. Some say 1790 - others say something else. I am now even confused about the term “Matang”. I was dead set on calling it “Maartang” with the belief that the word is an amalgamation of two separate words: “Maar” = Red …. “Tang” = coin. But now I find that would be completely wrong – because the term “Matang” was used even before the time of Zhabdrung. There was no red colored coins then.

To add to my confusion, another very rarely used term popped up: Nyingtang Gatikha. This is said to be a silver coin hammered in a mint in a place called Gatikha.

So I began to hunt for anything related to Nyingtang Gatikha. My search has so far yielded noting, except that Nyingtang is a Bhutanese term meaning “old coin”. But all has not been in vain. While not related to Nyingtang Gatikha, I stumbled on to something that perhaps very few Bhutanese would know about:

The reason and the tradition behind the observance of holiday on the first day of snow.

The oral account of the source attributes the tradition to His Majesty King Jigme Wangchuck, the Drukgyal Nyipa. It started in Domkhar Palace in Bumthang. Domkhar Palace was supposedly constructed as a honeymoon Palace for His Majesty Jigme Wangchuck and his queen Her Majesty Phuntsho Choeden.

His Majesty Jigme Wangchuck used to spend his summer months in Domkhar and Wangdichhoeling Palaces. Winter months were spent in Trongsa Dzong, Thruepang Palace, but mostly in Kuenga Rabten Palace.


After the first day of the arrival of snow in Domkhar, His Majesty King Jigme Wangchuck would serve a grand feast to all the Boegarps and Zingarbs and the Chaangarps serving at the Dzong. He would then announce that from next day they could go home for a break.

With the arrival of snow in Domkhar, His Majesty would then move to his summer residences – Trongsa Dzong, Thruepang Palace and Kuengarabten Palace. Thruepang Palace was built to accommodate Her Majesty Queen Phuntsho Choeden who was not allowed dwellings inside the Trongsa Dzong. When His Majesty desired the company of his queens, he would either visit Thruepang Palace or Samchoeling Palace where his second queen, Her Majesty Ashi Pema Dechen resided.

The above historical account was narrated to Lam Kezang Chhoephel of APIC, by the late Sonam Wangdi of Koortoe Jarey who served in the courts of both the 1st and the 2nd Kings. He was a member of the inner circle of the 2nd King – known as Nungsheb. He began as a Tohze at the age of 13, to fill-in for his deceased father who also served as a Chaangarp at the court of the first king.

His Majesty the third king was born in Thruepang Palace.

In keeping with tradition, on the seventh day of his birth, the child prince Jigme Dorji Wangchuck had to be taken outside in the open air. The most trustworthy, virtuous and providential person was chosen to carry the child prince.

Sonam Wangdi was chosen for the honor. In appreciation for that act, Her Majesty Phuntsho Choden would gift Sonam Wangdi two woven Thermai Gho and Nu.3,000.00 every year, until his death in 1980.

Sonam Wangdi was also a member of the retinue of over 300 who accompanied Trongsa Poenlop Ugyen Wangchuck during his visit to India in 1906. Of the number of places the entourage visited in India, Sonam Wangdi recalled visiting the Gatikha mint. In his words, Sonam Wangdi described the sound of minting, thus:

Graap …. Tsing …. Graap …. Tsing …. Graap …. Tsing…. Graap …. Tsing…. !!

It is amazing that Gatikha Mint was still operational in 1906. I will need to cross check this. The sound “Graap …. Tsing” appears to describe the minting of coin on a mechanized coin press, and not the sound of hammering. The sound “Graap” would denote the sound of pressing the planchet and “Tsing” would be the sound of the finished coin hitting the ground or on to a pile of coins inside a holding ampule.

Friday, June 4, 2021

Making Up For Nature's Occasional Quirks

Achieving success is dependent on a great number of factors all coming together: financial muscle, human resource, dedication, hard work, perseverance, commitment, experience, knowledge and wisdom. And yet, even if you do have all that at your command, there is every chance of failure.

On the other hand, dismantling a great evil requires nothing much – only courage and willingness to perform ones duty and obligation. If we are able to dismantle evil, good will definitely prevail – there is no chance of failure.

This is what I said in one of my earlier articles on this Blog – that since achieving greatness seems a remote possibility given what we are, let us shift gear and work at dismantling evil that is hindering progress and growth. We have gotten into the bad habit of missing the forest for the trees.

All these thoughts came flooding back into my mind when I stopped by the following display board erected at Dochu-La, yeserday afternoon on my way back from visiting a project site in Wangduephodrang:

The huge display board at Dochu-La. A collaborative work between the TCB and the Rotary Club of Thimphu. The display board depicts all the peaks of the Eastern Himalayan mountain range that can be viewed from Dochu-La on a clear day.


A close-up of the Display Board containing full information depicted on it. More than two years since its installation, I am glad to note that the board has not faded, mainly because of the media used in its printing.

There is no denying that Dochu-La is the most visited tourist site in Bhutan – more than 95% of all tourists visiting Bhutan drive up to Dochu-La pass. By contrast, the much-touted Taktsang provably does not get even 20% of the tourists, given its location.

Visitors drive up to Dochu-La with only one purpose in mind – to view the great expanse of the snow-capped Eastern Himalayan mountain range. Unfortunately, most of the time clouds that blanket the mountain range block the view. It is painful to see the look of disappointment on the faces of the tourists. Although every body must accept that nothing is certain in nature, it is incumbent upon us, the hosts, to try and make up, if we can, for nature’s occasional quirks. Thus I requested the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) to install a large display board depicting the full mountain range that can be viewed from Dochu-La, on a clear day. I offered to provide the necessary photograph - free of cost, including the supervision of the printing of the image, and construction and installation of the board. They agreed and thus the huge display board came up - as it stands now - so that on days when the mountain range is not visible, the visitors can walk over to the display board and see the view that they missed.

Now, hopefully, the visitors will moan: Awwwww ---- we missed it!! Instead of cursing: Awwwww ---- what a waste of time!!

Let us learn humility in doing small things, which we can - so that big things, which we are unable to, could fall into place.

One small but meaningful dismantling has been the removal of the Immigration gate at Hongtsu. I have been going hoarse asking for its removal because it was stupid to harass the tourists going up to Dochu-La to stop and make entry at the gate. After all, Dochu-La is within the same Thimphu Dzongkhag. Incredible as it may sound, it has taken many decades for the decision makers to see the folly of their decision - but I see that the gate has finally been removed.