Sunday, September 26, 2021

A Great Loss: Sad Demise of Dr. Diana Natalicio of UTEP

I was greatly distressed when Rotarian Dawa Penjor from Gelephu called me up to inform me of the sad demise of a great educator and one of Bhutan’s most valuable friends in the US. I had met the distinguished lady twice. And I continued to be in her company – as a co-Council Member of the Bhutan Foundation’s Advisory Council.

It was due to this great lady that many of us Bhutanese parents could afford to send our children to one of US’s top ten universities - University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). My youngest son spent five years in this great institution of learning. Without her love and special consideration for Bhutan and the Bhutanese, I could not have afforded to educate my son in UTEP.

I was truly grateful for this lady for her special love for Bhutan. In fact I wrote to the erstwhile PDP government – on three separate occasions (last request was sent to the government on June 28, 2018) – requesting the government to invite the lady to Bhutan as a government guest – to show how grateful Bhutan is about her competent stewardship of the institution where preferential treatment is accorded to our children – in preference to all others. The PDP government wasn’t interested.

In desperation, I spoke to the Members of the Rotary Club of Thimphu – requesting them to allow me to invite her as our Club’s guest since the government was not interested. The Members agreed. Sadly by the time I was ready to send out the invitation, a decision had already been made by UTEP to fund the travel to Bhutan of the President Dr. Natalicio accompanied by Dr. Catie McCorry Andalis, Associate Vice President and Dean of Students. All travel arrangements had already been made and air tickets already purchased – at their own cost. A great opportunity to show gratitude was lost to Bhutan.

And now she is no more.

Dr. Natalicio’s last visit to Bhutan was in October of 2019.

I blogged about UTEP and Bhutan connection. Please read about it at the following:

Dr. Diana Natalicio

UTEP President Dr. Diana Natalicio, far left, with the erstwhile Secretary of the Royal Civil Service Commission, Dasho Bap Kesang, far right, and Director General of the Cabinet Secretariat, Mr. Sonam Wangchuk (center), in Bhutan in March 20, 2007. An MoU was signed offering scholarships to Bhutanese students.

May her soul rest in peace.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Two New Discoveries

Two new discoveries have puzzled me greatly. One is that there is also a “Sa” imprinted on the Tibetan silver Sichuan.

Sa counter-marked on Silver Sichuan Rupee of the flat nose minted for Tibet

Our ancient Maartum with "Sa" is the most abundant coins currently available in private collections and in handicraft shops. And it was coined earlier than the silver Sichuan which was minted sometime during early 1900's. So it has to be that the Tibetans (rather Chinese since the coin was minted in Sichuan) borrowed it from Bhutan. But what is the connection?

Bhutanese "Sa" Maartum

The other discovery is the term “Nyingtam Ghatikap”. The terms translate to: Old Coin from Ghatika. This means that our silver coins were hammered in a mint located in a place called Ghatika. As you know if a person from Chapcha is named Tshering, he would be called Chapchap Tshering; Dagap Thinley; Sharchop Pema etc. Likewise a coin hammered in Ghatika would be Nyingtam Ghatikap.

There is a place called Ghatika in West Bengal, India. But I am now trying to find out if there was a mint there during the ancient times.

Location map of Ghatika

According to History of Bhutan by Bikram J. Hasrat, the term he uses is Ngultrum Ghatikha. But a knowledgeable person in Bhutan says that the term should be: Nyingtam Ghatikap. The term Ngueltrum came much later. The person says that his late father would pronounce the terms as Nyingtam Ghatikap.

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 Maartams, I believe that I may have made a mistake regarding my views on Bhutan’s silver “Ma” Maartams. I feel that others may be right – that the silver “Ma” Maartam may indeed be Bhutanese. I came to this conclusion after realizing that I failed to look at the Maartam’s obverse where the Bhutanese numeral “1” is inscribed.

I took a careful re-look at the Maartam’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” Maartam as “Ma” Ngueltum. The reason is that "Ma" Maartam actually means red coin whereas “Ma” Ngueltum would translate to: “Ma” Silver Coin.

There is a term “Nyingtam” which means old coin. As the oldest coin, the “Ma” Ngueltam could also be called “Ma” Nyingtam but I think “Ma” Ngueltam 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:


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.