Today, residents throughout the country celebrated the observance of the Death Anniversary of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, the Unifier of Bhutan. All Government offices and schools in the Kingdom were closed. In Thimphu, residents visited Lhakhangs and Goendeys, including the Memorial Chorten and Changangkha Lhakhang and offer prayers and various gifts, primarily food.
Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyel (1594–1651) was a Tibetan Buddhist lama and the unifier of Bhutan as a nation-state. In addition to unifying the various warring fiefdoms for the first time in the 1630s, he also sought to create a distinct Bhutanese cultural identity separate from the Tibetan culture from which it was derived.
In 1627, the first European visitors to Bhutan (the Portuguese Jesuits Estevao Cacella and João Cabral) found the Shabdrung to be a compassionate and intelligent host, of high energy and fond of art and writing. In keeping with his position as a high lama he was also meditative and had just completed a three-year silent retreat. He was proud to have the Jesuits as guests of his court and was reluctant to grant them permission to leave and offered to support their proselytizing efforts with manpower and church-building funds, but they pressed on to Tibet in search of the apostate church said to be isolated in the heart of central Asia. He entered into meditation when he was 58 for 12 years at the Puna Dewai Chenpoi Phodrang and died in 1651.
At this time power effectively passed to the local governors (penlops) instead of to a successor Shabdrung. In order to forestall a dynastic struggle and a return to warlordism, they conspired to keep the death of the Zhabdrung secret for 54 years. During this time they issued orders in his name, explaining that he was on an extended silent retreat. The passing of the Zhabdrung is modernly celebrated as a Bhutanese national holiday, falling on the 3rd month, 10th day of the Bhutanese calendar.