GREAT FIGURES OF THE MISSIONARY WORK – Bengal and the Kingdom of the Dragon (54)

– Joaquim Magalhães de Castro

Sometime between the conclusion of the Punakha monastery and the final retreat of Shabdrung, a new form of communication between the Buthanese authorities and the people was established: inscriptions of public messages in stone. The slate inscription with the code of the “written law of Shabdrung” is a unique monument that has remained almost intact for more than 350 years. Unlike Tsayig Chenmo, the code of behavior prescribed for monks living in monasteries (also called “Shabdrung code”) aimed to publicly disclose the rules of behavior imposed on state ministers and their representatives. The inscription contains clear evidence of having been dictated by the monarch itself. In the preamble, the author states clearly that “I, the Glorious Drukpa Rinpoche, the Dharmaraja, the One Possessed by the Magical Power, Destroyer of Enemy Forces, erected this of my own intention.” All these legal documents presumed the universal applicability of Buddhism and its moral teachings, thus promoting law and order and constituted a clear statement for citizens to understand how governance under the so-called “double” system should happen.

We visited Punakha, by chance, on an auspicious date. It was celebrated on that day the birth of the second child of the beautiful Jetsun Pema, the youngest queen in the world, wife of Jigme Khesar Namgya, the Oxford educated and former air force pilot, the current head of the House of Wangchuk. He renounced the right to have multiple wives, promising Pema to be “the only woman he would marry.” The guests of honor were  Prince William of England and (at that time) his girlfriend Kate, hence the exceptional security measures. We saw a number of local guards wearing traditional kilt and knee-high socks with a gun in their lap and hearing devices in their ears, and in the midst of them an individual with a distinctly western facies. Immediately I was inform by our guide Sangay that it was Lyonpo Dina Nath Dhungyel, Minister of Information and Communications. Amazing! The man had nothing of an Asian. In fact, he could pass off as a European. It is not at all improbable that he had in is bloodstream some Portuguese genes, for after the passage of Estêvão Cacela and João Cabral, and once this new route to Tibet was opened, Portuguese merchants already established in Bengal traveled to Bhutan and there install themselves. Some of them had probably constitued family. If we consider that such anonymous people did not leave written reports, little or nothing is known of their existence. Moreover, there have certainly been conversions to Buddhism and Hinduism, as it had been the case before in Moghual’s India, conversians to Islam. Those cases were often referred to by the coeval chroniclers who attributed to them the epithets of “renegades.”

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