List of rulers of Bhutan

Bhutan was founded and unified as a country by Ngawang Namgyal, 1st Zhabdrung Rinpoche in the mid–17th century. After his death in 1651, Bhutan nominally followed his recommended "dual system of government". Under the dual system, government control was split between a secular leader, the Druk Desi (འབྲུག་སྡེ་སྲིད་, aka Deb Raja);[nb 1] and a religious leader, the Je Khenpo (རྗེ་མཁན་པོ་).

King of Bhutan
Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck
since 9 December 2006
5th Dragon King (Druk Gyalpo)
StyleHis Majesty
Heir presumptiveJigme Namgyel Wangchuck
First monarchUgyen Wangchuck
Formation17 December 1907
ResidenceSamteling Palace, Thimphu

Both the Druk Desi and Je Khenpo were under the nominal authority of the Zhabdrung Rinpoche, a reincarnation of Ngawang Namgyal. In practice however, the Zhabdrung was often a child under the control of the Druk Desi, and regional penlops often administered their districts in defiance of the power of the Druk Desis until the rise of the unified Wangchuck dynasty in 1907.[1]

Since the rise of the unified Wangchuck family in 1907, the Druk Gyalpo (འབྲུག་རྒྱལ་པོ་; lit. "Dragon King") have been the head of state of the Kingdom of Bhutan.

Druk Desis (1650–1905)

Below appears the list of Druk Desis throughout the existence of the office. Officeholders were initially appointed by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, though after his death the Je Khenpo and civil government decided appointments.

Italics indicate coregencies and caretaker governments, which are not traditionally separately numbered.

A photo of the 54th Druk Desi, Choley Yeshe Ngodub.
Druk Desis of Bhutan[2]
No. Name Date of Birth Reign start Reign end Date of Death
1 Tenzin Drukgye1591165016551655
2 Langonpa Tenzin Drukdra165516671667
3 Chhogyel Minjur Tempa1613166716801680
4 Gyalsey Tenzin Rabgye1638168016941696
5 Gedun Chomphel169517011701
6 Ngawang Tshering17011704
7 Umze Peljor170417071707
8 Druk Rabgye170717191729
9 Ngawang Gyamtsho171917291729
10 Mipham Wangpo17291736
11 Khuwo Peljor17361739
12 Ngawang Gyaltshen17391744
13 Sherab Wangchuk17441763
14 Druk Phuntsho17631765
15 Wangzob Druk Tenzin I17651768
16 Sonam Lhundub[3][table 1]176817731773
17 Kunga Rinchen17731776
18 Jigme Singye1742177617881789
19 Druk Tenzin17881792
20 Umzey Chapchhab179217921792
21 Chhogyel Sonam Gyaltshen (Tashi Namgyel)17921799
22 Druk Namgyel17991803
23 Chhogyel Sonam Gyaltshen (Tashi Namgyel)
(2nd reign)
24 Sangye Tenzin18051806
25 Umzey Parob18061808
26 Byop Chhyoda18071808
27 Tulku Tsulthrim Daba1790180918101820
28 Zhabdrung Thutul (Jigme Dragpa)18101811
29 Chholay Yeshey Gyaltshen1781181118151830
30 Tshaphu Dorji Namgyel18151815
31 Sonam Drugyel18151819
32 Gongzim Tenzin Drukda18191823
33 Chhoki Gyaltshen18231831
34 Dorji Namgyal18311832
35 Adab Thinley18321835
36 Chhoki Gyaltshen
(2nd reign)
37 Dorji Norbu18381850
38 Wangchuk Gyalpo18501850
39 Zhabdrung Thutul (Jigme Norbu)
(in Thimphu)
Chagpa Sangye
(in Punakha)
40 Damchho Lhundrup18521854
41 Jamtul Jamyang Tenzin18541856
42 Kunga Palden
(in Punakha)
Sherab Tharchin
(in Thimphu)
43 Phuntsho Namgyel (Nazi Pasang)18601863
44 Tshewang Sithub18631864
Tsulthrim Yonten18641864
45 Kagyud Wangchuk18641864
46 Tshewang Sithub
(2nd reign)
47 Tsondul Pekar18671870
48 Jigme Namgyel1825187018731881
49 Kitshab Dorji Namgyel18731879
Jigme Namgyel
(2nd reign)
Kitshab Dorji Namgyel
(2nd reign)
50 Chhogyel ZangpoMarch 1879June 18801880
Jigme Namgyel
(3rd reign)
June 1880July 1881
51 Lam Tshewang1836July 1881May 18831883
52 Gawa ZangpoMay 1883August 1885
53 Sangay Dorji188519011901
54 Choley Yeshe Ngodub1851190319051917
  1. Druk Desi Sonam Lhundub was the first Bhutanese ruler to confront British power, losing in a power bid in Cooch Behar, a traditional Bhutanese dependency.

Kings of Bhutan (1907–present)

The Bhutanese monarchy was established on 17 December 1907, unifying the country under the control of the Wangchuck dynasty, hereditary penlops (governors) of Trongsa district. The king of Bhutan, formally known as the Druk Gyalpo ("Dragon King"), also occupies the office of Druk Desi under the dual system of government. Since the enactment of the Constitution of 2008, the Druk Gyalpo has remained head of state, while the Prime Minister of Bhutan acts as executive and head of government in a parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy.[4]

NameLifespanReign startReign endNotesFamilyImage
  • 1st Druk Gyalpo
  • ཨོ་རྒྱན་དབང་ཕྱུག
(1862-06-11)11 June 1862 – 26 August 1926(1926-08-26) (aged 64)17 December 190726 August 1926Wangchuck
  • 2nd Druk Gyalpo
  • འཇིགས་མེད་དབང་ཕྱུག
1905 – 30 March 1952
(aged 47)
26 August 192630 March 1952Son of UgyenWangchuck
Jigme Dorji
  • 3rd Druk Gyalpo
  • འབྲུག་རྒྱལ་པོ་ འཇིགས་མེད་རྡོ་རྗེ་དབང་ཕྱུག་མཆོག་
(1928-05-02)2 May 1928 – 21 July 1972(1972-07-21) (aged 44)30 March 195221 July 1972Son of JigmeWangchuck
Jigme Singye
  • 4th Druk Gyalpo
  • འཇིགས་མེད་སེང་གེ་དབང་ཕྱུག་
(1955-11-11) 11 November 195521 July 19729 December 2006
Son of Jigme DorjiWangchuck
Jigme Khesar Namgyel
  • 5th Druk Gyalpo
  • འཇིགས་མེད་གེ་སར་རྣམ་རྒྱལ་དབང་ཕྱུག་
(1980-02-21) 21 February 19809 December 2006IncumbentSon of Jigme SingyeWangchuck


Jigme Khesar Namgyel WangchuckJigme Singye WangchuckJigme Dorji WangchuckJigme WangchuckUgyen Wangchuck

See also


  1. The original title is སྡེ་སྲིད་ཕྱག་མཛོད་; desi chhak zod.


  1. Worden, Robert L.; Savada, Andrea Matles (ed.) (1991). "Chapter 6 – Bhutan: Administrative Integration and Conflict with Tibet, 1651–1728". Nepal and Bhutan: Country Studies (3rd ed.). Federal Research Division, United States Library of Congress. ISBN 0-8444-0777-1. {{cite book}}: |first2= has generic name (help)
  2. Dorji, C. T. (1995). A Political & Religious History of Bhutan, 1651–1906. Delhi, India: Sangay Xam; Prominent Publishers. ISBN 9788186239032.
  3. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain. Worden, Robert L. (September 1991). Savada, Andrea Matles (ed.). Bhutan: A Country Study. Federal Research Division. Civil Conflict, 1728–72.
  4. "The Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan" (PDF). Government of Bhutan. 18 July 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 July 2011. Retrieved 8 October 2010.

Further reading

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