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Friday, May 24, 2013

Sir, who designed our national Flag…….

Sometimes, it is a boon to take a subject that you aren’t specialized in. I am a Physics teacher by design, but by accident, I ended up being a Social Studies teacher. It was during one of the periods that one child hesitantly asked,Sir, we talked of our national symbols. So, can you please tell us who designed our national flag and composed the national anthem?” I was numb to answer instantly.
Because I have participated in the quiz contest at many levels before, I answered the second question that was quite clear in my mind.
“Dasho Gyaldon Thinley”, the father of our present Prime Minister Lynchhoen Jigme Yoezer Thinley has composed our national anthem. The tune is said to be composed by Druk Thuksey Dasho Aku Tongmi. National Flag, um….I believe….”
“Um….if you give me some time, I will explore and share in more details in the next class”.
“Yes sir”, gave a huge chorus.
“Thank You”
Back in the staffroom, I robed the time of my colleagues to probe the answer but to no avail. Eventually, I decided to surf the internet using my data card, which seldom serves the purpose due to poor network receptivity.
That evening I explored many things. As a matter of sheer luck as one may call, I caught the resource exactly fitting for my assignment.
The prominent Bhutanese researchers, Dasho Dr. Sonam Kinga, the then researcher in Centre for Bhutan Studies (Current NC elect from Trashigang and Chairperson of the National Council) and Dorji Penjore, in their research has succinctly put in plain words about our national flag and the national anthem. Stories ranging from the genesis to its composure and rationales to its significance are awfully revealed.
Firstly, it is worth understanding the basic visible organs of the flag:

                                          Key terminologies:
  1. Bicolour A flag of two colours, usually in equal fields. Bicolours are generally horizontal (Ukraine), vertical (Malta) or diagonal (Bhutan).
  2. Charge An emblem, object, device or design superimposed on the field(s) of a flag.
  3. Field It is the background (predominant colour) of a flag.
  4. Fimbriation It is a narrow line separating two other colours in a flag.
  5. Finial The ornament on the end of a flagstaff or flagpole.
  6. Fly It is a free end of a flag, farthest from the staff. The term is also used for the horizontal length of the flag.
  7. Ground It is the background of a flag.
  8. Halyard It is the rope used to hoist and lower a flag.
  9. Hoist It is the part of the flag closest to the staff. The term is also used for the vertical width of a flag.
  10. Honour point The place on a flag where the colour or charge with the greatest or highest symbolism is placed.
  11. Length The maximum length of a flag, measured straight from hoist to fly.
  12. Staff It is a pole a flag hangs on.
  13. Truck It is the wooden or metal block at the top of a flagpole below the filial (staff ornament). It may include a pulley or holes for halyard.
  14. Width It is the height of a flag along the hoist.
[NOTE: Fearing the deterioration of meanings for the jargons used, I have plainly picked up the   words as described by the researchers]
  1. The National Flag
  1. Why dragon on the flag?
Tsangpa Gyare Yeshey Dorji, the founder of the Drukpa Kagyud School of Buddhism, saw a rainbow and light in the Namgyiphu valley in Tibet. Believing it to be an extraordinary premonition, he visited the site to locate a place to construct a monastery.
During his visit, in the clear winter sky, he heard the dragon thundering repeatedly thrice. He predicted that his teachings would flourish to the places where the noise of the dragon is heard. He constructed a monastery there in 1189 and named it as Druk Sewa Jangchubling, widely branded as Druk Ralung.
Tsangpa Gyare’s teachings known as Druk flourished in three branches: Toed Druk, Med Druk and Bar Druk. The Toed and Med Druk has later merged into one and was popular in Bhutan after the arrival of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel. He unified our country and name of our beautiful kingdom was known as Druk or ‘Dragon’. The dragon is used as the main symbol in our national flag today.

   II. First Version of the National Flag
The 2nd King Jigme Wangchuck initiated designing the national during the signing of Indo-Bhutan Treaty in 1949.
It was a bicolour square flag with fimbriation running from the lower hoist to the upper fly end. The yellow field extended from the hoist to the upper fly end, and the red from the fly end to lower hoist. It has a green dragon at the centre of the yellow-red fields, parallel to the fly, facing the fly end. It was embroidered by Lharip Taw Taw from Pesiling, Bumthang. He was one of the very few lharip (painter) available in the court at that time. The dragon was painted green in accordance with the traditional and religious reference to dragon as yu druk ngonm གཡུ་འབྲུག་སྔོནམ - turquoise dragon. A sample of this flag is put up behind the throne in the National Assembly Hall in Thimphu although the green dragon is embroidered along the fimbriation, not parallel to the fly. It was the first flag of such design used only for this occasion, and nothing has been heard or known about it since then (Kinga & Penjore. 2002).

III. Second Version of the National Flag
When the Late Majesty, the 3rd King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck visited the eastern Bhutan, officials working in the late His Majesty’s secretariat initiated to use during the journey. They have duplicated the same flag available in the Indo-Bhutan Treaty except the colour of dragon which was changed to white.
After the interview with Dasho Shingkhar Lam, the former Secretary to His Majesty and the Sixth Speaker of National Assembly (1971-74), the researchers have managed to record his lines like this:
The flag was square and the dragon, instead of being diagonally placed, was straight. I was later commanded to redesign the flag as it is today. (Kinga & Penjore. 2002).

IV. Description and explanation of the second flag
Every country has a national flag as a symbol of its identity. Hence, the explanation of our national flag is narrated comprehensively.
1. The national flag is half yellow and half red. The yellow spreads from the summit to the base while the red extends from the base and forms the fluttering end.
2. His Majesty, the Dharma King is the summit and root of the Drukpa Kagyud of Palden Drukpa. As he wears the yellow robe, the yellow represents the being of His Majesty.
3. The significance of red is that the Kingdom of Kagyud Palden Drukpa is governed from the foot of the Dharma King His Majesty consistent with dual monastic and civil systems, and therefore, the country's entire borders and centre is consistent with the teachings (Dharma).
4. The red and yellow fields are adjoined. The dragon spreads equally over them. This signifies that ....the people are united in oneness of speech and mind in upholding the Kingdom's interest. The dragon symbolizes that in the eyes of Palden Drukpa, there is no discrimination against people of any disposition, and that they are being governed towards peace and prosperity (Kinga & Penjore. 2002)

V. The present National Flag
The present flag including its dimensions, shape and design was made during one of the Gangtok-based Political Officer of India visited Bhutan in 1950s. The square Bhutanese flag was found not fluttering. Taking the measurements from the Indian flag, which as nine by six feet, it was redesigned with four significant changes.
  1. The colour of the dragon was changed to white.
  2. The dragon which was parallel to the fly was embroidered diagonally along the fimbriation.
  3. The lower half was changed to orange colour.
  4. The shape was changed to a rectangle with nine by six feet.
  1. The National Anthem
The Late His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck issued an order to compose a national anthem for our country.
Aku Tongmi, the country’s first bandmaster trained in Shillong, India has composed the music for the event of Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s visit to Bhutan. The original anthem was composed by Dasho Gyaldon Thinley with 12 lines as follows:
In the southern Kingdom where cypresses grow,
Protector of the Dharma of dual traditions,
The King of Druk, precious sovereign,
May his being remain unchanged, his lotus foot stable.
The wisdom of His heart increases,
Deeds of monastic and civil traditions flourish,
While the glorious power equals the skies,
May the people flourish and prosper.
In the Drukpa Kingdom of Dharma sovereign
The teachings of enlightenment flourish.
Suffering, famine and conflicts disappear
May the sun of peace and happiness shine forth!
[Courtesy: Kinga & Penjore. 2002]
The right hand was raised in a gesture of salute, whenever they sung the anthem. Since 12 line lyrics was found long, it was shortened to six and submitted to the late King for approval and adoption. The original tune of our national anthem was based on a folk song titled Thri nyampa med pa pemai thri, ཁྲི་ཉམས་པ་མེད་པ་པད་མའི་ཁྲི-[The Unchanging Lotus Throne].
 The national anthem today:
In the Kingdom of Druk, where cypresses grow,
Refuge of the glorious monastic and civil traditions,
The King of Druk, precious sovereign,
His being is eternal, his reign prosperous
The wisdom of His heart increases,
The enlightenment teachings thrive and flourish,
May the people shine like the sun of peace and happiness. 
                                              [Courtesy: Kinga & Penjore. 2002]
Kinga, Sonam & Penjore, Dorji. (2002). The Origin and Description of The National Flag and National Anthem of The Kingdom of Bhutan. The Centre for Bhutan Studies:Thimphu.   
"I like traditions, and the national anthem is important" Kate Mara.  

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