In this issue:
1. Father Estevao Cacella’s Report on Bhutan in 1627 by Luiza Maria Baille
The article introduces a translation of the account written in 1627 by the Jesuit priest Father Estevao Cacella, of his journey with his companion Father Joao Cabral, first through Bengal and then through Bhutan where they stayed for nearly eight months. The report is significant because the Fathers were the first Westerners to visit and describe Bhutan. More important, the report gives a first-hand account of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, the Founder of Bhutan.
2. Gyalse Tenzin Rabgye and the Founding of Taktsang Lhakhang by John A. Ardussi
It is a translation of the portion of the biography of the 4th Druk Desi Tenzin Rabgye (1638 – 96) which describes his visit to the sacred cave of Taktsang Pelphug during the Tshechu season of 1692, and his founding there of the temple devoted to Padma Sambhava known as Gu-ru mTshan-brgyad Lha- khang – ‘The Temple of the Guru with Eight Names.’
The story is by now well known, of how a dispute over recognition of the legitimate rebirth of Kun-mkhyen Padma- dkar-po led to its split into a Northern and Southern branch, and to the founding of an independent ’Brug-pa state in Bhutan. The struggle, whose seeds were sown during the 15th century, pitted the claimants for supremacy by reincarnation against the supporters of the traditional pattern of “uncle – nephew” succession, and culminated in the flight to Bhutan in 1616 of the man who founded the modern state, Zhabs-drung Rin-po-che Ngag-dbang-rnam-rgyal (1594- ?1651)
4. Coinage in Bhutan by Nicholas Rhodes
In Thimphu, and elsewhere in Western Bhutan, it is still possible to find many examples of the old copper coins, known as Matam, Chetam and Zangtam. Old silver coins can also be found, although less frequently. Very little, however, has been written about the background to these coins – who made them, where and when, and how they were used. The purpose of this article is to set out what I know about these old Bhutanese coins, not only to present the information more widely, but also in the hope that there will be people in Bhutan who will be encouraged to provide additional evidence from oral tradition, written records, or from any other sources. Elderly people may still be alive who remember such coins being struck, but unless their memories are recorded soon, the information will be lost forever.
5. Bhutan: Political Reform in a Buddhist Monarchy by Thierry Mathou