Today, is a national public holiday in Bhutan. It is a day when Bhutanese remember and honor the birth anniversary of Druk Gyalpo Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, the Third Dragon King of Bhutan. It is also celebrated as Teachers’ Day because it is the Third Druk Gyalpo who is known as the Father of Modern Bhutan since he first began the modernization of the educational system throughout the country.
His Majesty King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck was born May 2, 1929 in Thruepang Palace in Trongsa. His Majesty married Ashi Kesang Choden Wangchuck (b. 1930), the daughter of Gongzim (Lord Chamberlain) Sonam Tobgay Dorji (1896–1953), in 1951. The royal wedding was held in Paro Garden Palace. The following year, His Majesty became the King after his father died in Kuenga Rabten Palace. Coronation was held in Punakha dzong on 27 October 1952. He was only 24.
In contrast to his father and grand-father, Bhutan’s third king did not continue to keep his country secluded from the world. Upon ascending to the throne, he began to open Bhutan to the outside world and took the first steps toward democratization. By 1958, the development of Bhutan’s modern infrastructure was well underway, with assistance from India. Although the first primary road construction started in 1959, the large scale undertaking became systematic two years later in 1961, with the commencement of the 1st Five Year Plan (FYP) that envisaged construction of 177 km of primary roads, 108 schools, a free healthcare system including three hospitals, and 45 health clinics. The systematic envisioning of the economic future of Bhutan through FYPs was put into practice in 1961. The idea of budgeting and programming on a five-year basis is a legacy from that period. A final key event his era was enabling Bhutan to join the United Nations in 1971, when it became its 125th member.
Unfortunately, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk suffered from bad health much of his life. It is believed he may have experienced his first heart attack at an early age of 20. He was troubled by his health throughout his life and traveled widely in the world to receive medical treatment for a ailing heart. Unfortunately, his reign suddenly ended at the age of 43 while receiving medical treatment in Nairobi, Kenya. King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk died a premature and an unexpected death on the 21st of July 1972.
He was cremated following Buddhist traditions at Kurjey Monastery, in the Bumthang valley of Bhutan, also the final resting place of the remains of the first two Kings of Bhutan.