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Durbar held when the Tongsa Penlop was presented with the insignia of the K.C.I.E. [Punakha, Bhutan]

Durbar held when the Tongsa Penlop was presented with the insignia of the K.C.I.E. [Punakha, Bhutan]

Photographer: White, John Claude

Medium: Photographic print

Date: 1905

Shelfmark: Photo 20/(15)

Item number: 15

Length: 23.4

Width: 28.8

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Photograph

Photograph of the Durbar at the Investiture of the Penlop (Governor) of Tongsa (Trongsa), Ugyen Wangchuk, with the order of the Knight Commander of the Indian Empire, at Punakha in Bhutan, taken by John Claude White in 1905. White was the Political Officer in Sikkim and the British were expressing their thanks for Ugyen Wangchuk's role as mediator in their relations with Tibet. This view shows the scene inside the durbar hall in the palace at Punakha and is one of a set of photographs documenting this mission to Bhutan. White's caption also supplies the following identifications of figures in the photograph: seated along the left wall - Subadar Jahandad Khan (40th Pathans), A.W. Paul, Major Rennick, John Claude White; centre - Deb Raja, Head Abbot; right - Thimbu Jongpen [Dzongpen or lord of Thimpu Dzong], Tongsa Penlop, Ugyen Kazi (British Agent). The photograph is also used in The National Geographic Magazine (Apr 1914, p.406), where the caption draws attention to the altar covered with offerings of fruit, the dish of fruit in front of each official and 'the magnificent silk hangings and coverings'. The durbar is described in pp.402-09 of the same article, which also includes another photograph of the durbar not included in this album. The durbar and surrounding circumstances are also described, in greater detail, in White's Sikhim and Bhutan (1909). The Devaraja was the term used by the British for the Desi or secular head of Bhutan. Under the system invented by the great Shabdrung or powerful lama Nwagang Namgyal in the 17th century, Bhutan was run by the twin powers of the spiritual or monk body led by the Je Khenpo or Head Abbot, and the civil administration led by the Desi or temporal ruler. Both were based in the Punakha Dzong which was the seat of government when White visited. The capital shifted from Punakha to Thimpu in 1961 but Punakha Dzong remains the winter residence of the Je Khenpo. Ugyen Wangchuk was elected King of Bhutan in 1907 and established its hereditary monarchy, taking the title Druk Gyalpo.

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