‘George’ Dundul Namgyal Tsarong

Dundul Namgyal was born in 1920 in Lhasa as the eldest son of DASANG DAMDUL TSARONG, the commander-in-chief of the Tibetan army. His family sent him to study at St. Joseph’s College, Darjeeling, from 1935 to 1940, after which he returned to Tibet to work in the Tibetan government. He served the Tibetan government both in Tibet and in exile.

Following in the footsteps of his father, Dundul Namgyal Tsarong was a strong proponent of modernization in Tibet. He took the help of Mr Reginold N Fox, who was working at the Indian Mission in Lhasa, to power printing machines using a ten horse-power diesel engine and successfully printed Tibetan currency notes on time.

He was involved with the wireless Telegraphy in the British mission since 13 February, 1944. He also contributed his expertise to work on the first-ever hydroelectric power station in Lhasa, proposed by his father to fulfill the future needs of the mint. He employed the valuable service of Mr Peter Aufschnaiter, an Austrian survey engineer, who escaped to Tibet from a prison camp in India, along with his companion, Mr Heinrich Harrer, the author of Seven Years in Tibet. He was even known to have built his own short wave radio receiver. During his tenure as a fourth rank official he also took up the position of the Yaso General (Yaso Chikyab), commandeering 500 men all wearing the uniform of the ancient Mongol army during the ceremony.

He was later promoted to the rank of Rimshi (4th Rank) and appointed as an assistant to the Drapchi office.

After the occupation of the Chinese in the year 1959, he left Tibet and took up residence in Kalimpong in the foothills of the Himalayas. Like many new refugees, he contributed his skills and knowledge towards helping set up the Tibetan Government in Exile under the leadership of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. He served as an English translator to Tsepon Wangchuk Deden Shakabpa, the former finance minister of Tibet, as there was dearth of English-speaking Tibetans in exile.

He was actively involved in helping the newly arrived Tibetan refugees through the Central Relief Committee for Tibetan Refugees in New Delhi, which was established by the Indian government.

In exile he was involved with the treasury department in keeping track of the reserves of the Tibetan Government in exile in Sikkim and using its proceeds to invest in the stock market and various other investment projects that the government had planned.

He had an early interest in photography, which became a passion with him. Known as one of the first photographers of Tibet, he even had his own dark room with enlargers. In fact, some of the old photographs of Tibet that we see today, which give us a close look into Tibet before ‘59, were taken by Dundul Namgyal. He spent the later years of his life in Kalimpong and Dehra Dun undertaking research work on Tibet and trying to reconstruct the past through his memories. He became an avid cricket fan and watched every single game that India played.

Dundul Namgyal also wrote a biography of his illustrious father called “In the Service of his Country: The Biography of Dasang Damdul Tsarong, Commander General of Tibet.” He also published “What Tibet Was,” a book of his photographs of Tibet. Dundul Namgyal will always be remembered as a far-sighted visionary who made an immense contribution to Tibet through his photographs. Even though, Dundul Namgyal took photographs as a hobby, today it seems hard to fathom the magnanimity of his hobby in his depiction of Tibet as a free nation.

George’ Dundul Namgyal Tsarong, 91, died on June 18th 2011 in a hospital in Dehra Dun, India. He is survived by his wife, Yangchen Dolkar Tsarong and his five children, Namgyal Lhamo Taklha, Norzin Shakabpa, Tsewang Jigme Tsarong, His Holiness Drikung Chetsang Rinpoche, and Tseten Paljor Tsarong. He also left behind eight grandchildren and two great grandsons.

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