The age of the Shabdrung

The person who had the greatest impact on the history of Bhutan was Shabdrung Ngwang Namgyel (1594-1651). Shabdrung Rimpoche meaning, “the precious jewel at whose feet one submits”, as he is reverently referred to, was a great spiritual personality, & a statesmen & leader of exceptional ability, as well as a great architect & builder. He crushed several foreign aggressions & in the process set up a chain of sturdy monastery-fortress called Dzong, which became centers of stability to the country by establishing a strong & dynamic administrative system & by codifying a set of strict but fair & just laws of such enduring value that they have formed the framework for the present judicial system of Bhutan.

The dual system of administration that Ngwang Namgyel established, whereby a spiritual leader looked after the clergy & a temporal ruler looked after the affairs of state, endure until the establishment of hereditary monarchy in 1907.