Thursday, March 18, 2021

Australia-Bhutan Connection

Dear Rotary Foundation Director Maurie,

Greetings from Bhutan and Thank You for your mail and additional input on Australia-Bhutan collaborations. I would like to further expand the historical connections with the following mail that I had sent to an Australian Rotarian, four years back.



Dear Rtn. Bruce,

This is to acknowledge the receipt of your mail dated 14th November, 2017 soliciting our support in being a Global Grant partner in your drive towards raising funds to eradicate FASD among the First Nation people of the Kalgoorlie-Goldfields region of Western Australia.

In my capacity as the Club Secretary of the Rotary Club of Thimphu, I had the opportunity to put up your request to our Club Members for their consideration, during our weekly Club Meeting held yesterday.

While making a pitch for your cause, I presented the following to our Members.


More than half a century ago, in 1962, it was the then Australian Prime Minister Sir Robert Gordon Menzies who invited Bhutan to attend the 14th Consultative Committee Meeting of the Colombo Plan – as an observer. This resulted in the Colombo Plan making the rare exception of admitting a none-qualified Bhutan as a Member. Thus, Australia has been pivotal in Bhutan’s joining a world body for the first time in its history. This was a prodigious moment for Bhutan – being admitted as a member of the Colombo Plan meant that Bhutan was now recognized as an independent sovereign country.


In the last one decade alone, more than 500 Bhutanese have received scholarships from the Australian Government. This year alone, over 60 scholarships are on offer to Bhutanese academics.


In recent times, Australia has emerged as the most preferred destination for the Bhutanese – both for education as well as for employment. Bhutanese prefer Australia over even USA. There are few thousand Bhutanese currently domiciled in Australia - very happily and comfortably.


In the last two months, Disaster Aid Australia, Melbourne (a project of the Rotary Club of Endeavor Hills) has donated 6 SkyHydrant water filter systems to 6 of our schools in rural Bhutan. Valued at tens of thousands of dollars, these innovative water filters dispense 10,000 liters of filtered water every day, for the safety of our school children's health. (This project has since been raised to AUS$1.00 million till end June 2021).


Bhutan is grateful to Australia – for its role as a longstanding development partner. In recognition of this fact, you may be happy to know that the Royal Government of Bhutan has declared the year 2018 as a special Bhutan-Australia Friendship Year. In celebration, the Royal Government of Bhutan is allowing all Australian nationals to visit Bhutan without having to pay the mandatory Minimum Daily Tariff. During the 3 months of June, July and August 2018, all Australian Passport holders can visit Bhutan on payment of the sustainable development fee of US$ 65.00 only.

For us at the RC Thimphu, a request from Australia - perhaps first of its kind - is no trivial matter. I am happy to inform you that after a short discussion, all our Members were emphatic in their support for your cause and have agreed that they will contribute, personally, to raise the requested US$2,000.00 as our Club’s cash contribution to your humanitarian cause.

Yeshey Dorji

Club Secretary

Rotary Club of Thimphu

PS: Bhutan's first Colombo Plan Meeting mentioned above was represented by a lady - Ashi Tashi who is still alive at 98 years.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Bhutan Cheated Out Of Rs.5,000.00 Worth Of Silver

On pages 435-436 of the compilations of correspondences titled “PERSIAN CORRESPONDENCE”, the following appears as item 1583:

Portions of correspondence from Druk Desi to the Governor General of British East India Company dated January 15, 1785

The letter addressed to the Governor General of British East India Company was dated 15th January, 1785. Thus, the Druk Desi who authored the letter would have to be Druk Desi Jigme Singye who ruled between 1776 to 1789. From this letter it is clear that Bhutan sent silver to Koch Bihar to be converted to coins. We know that the earliest Bhutanese coins were of silver – only later we began hammering coins in copper.

Although the claim for the silver worth Rs. 5,000.00 is being made in a letter dated 1785, the letter is explicit that the silver was handed over to the grandfather of the incumbent Koch Bihar Raja ruling in 1785.  It means that the silver would have had to have been sent to Koch Bihar earlier to 1772 - the logic behind this assumption is explained further down the post.

A Bengali civil servant working for the East India Company by the name of Babu Kishen Kant Bose visited Bhutan in 1815. His comments in relation to coinage in the country are perhaps among the first references to the existence of minting in Bhutan - many years prior to his visit. His report submitted to his superiors records that:

"There was formerly no mint in Bootan, but when the Booteahs carried away the late Raja of Cooch Behar*, they got hold of the dies, with which they still stamp Narrainee Rupees. Every new Deb Raja puts a mark upon the Rupee of his coinage, and alters the weight. The Dhurma Raja also coins Rupees, and besides them, no one else is permitted to put their mark upon the Rupees, but there are mints at Paro, Tongso, and Tagna**".

This firmly establishes that by 1815, Bhutan already had at least three mints – one each at Paro, Trongsa and Tagna. In addition to these three mints, it is also recorded that more of them were pressed into service in later years. The report also names exact locations of the mints – Sisina in Thimphu and Yudrong Choling in Trongsa.

Bhutan had been over lording the poor Koch Biharis – to the point that we had maintained a garrison in the Koch kingdom. However, the garrison was driven away by the British East India forces in 1772. To halt further atrocities by the Bhutanese, the British East India Company annexed Koch Bihar. In an effort to make the Koch Biharis use British India coins, they closed down the Koch Bihari mints – effectively shutting off supplies of coins to Bhutan. Bhutan requested British East India Company to supply coin dies – they were refused - in an effort to force the Bhutanese to use their coins. It appears that the Bhutanese weren’t going to do so – instead they carried off Koch Bihari moneyers and started to hammer our own coins within the country.

NOTE: We always make the mistake of calling Governor General of British India Government. It was the British East India Company that ruled India - until its closure in 1858. Only thereafter the British India Government took over the administration of India.

** Tagna is most likely Dagana.

* The Maharaja of Koch Bihar that the Bhutanese supposedly abducted would have to be either Maharaja Rajendra Narayan (1770 – 1772) or Bijendra Narayan (1772 – 1774).