Bhutan celebrates coronation of new king

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

The tiny Himalayan nation of Bhutan crowned its new king today after a two-year wait for the precise moment deemed most auspicious for a successful reign.

At exactly 8:31 a.m., former King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, 52, placed the Raven Crown on the head of his son, 28-year-old Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck, giving him the title of Druk Gyalpo, or Dragon King.

The elder Wangchuck, who was crowned in 1974, announced two years ago he was abdicating in favor of his Oxford-educated son as part of reforms yielding much of the monarchy's power and transforming the country into a democracy.

Although the son has been effectively acting as king since December 2006, the coronation was delayed as court astrologers waited for an auspicious date.

The ceremony was seen as deeply reassuring for the last independent Himalayan Buddhist kingdom — once one of the most cut off, tightly controlled places on earth, but now slowly opening up to the uncertainties of modernity and vagaries of democracy.

Tens of thousands of people came from all over the country for the coronation, including nomadic yak herders who trekked for days from the icy Himalayan mountains of northern Bhutan and members of the Hindu minority who came from the subtropical south.

Conducted in the Tashichho Dzong, a massive 17th century white-walled fortress that serves both as administrative headquarters and a monastic center, the ceremony was an elaborate display of pageantry mingled with sacred Buddhist rituals.

After being greeted by troupes of brightly clad dancers, who whirled through the frigid morning air to the sounds of drums, cymbals and trumpets, the royal family, heads of government and the chief abbot went up to the throne room.

There, the new king received his satin and silk crown topped with an embroidered raven's head from his father before taking his seat on the intricately carved golden throne.

The new king then walked through an honor guard, past three four-story-high banners depicting the lives of Buddha and the gurus who brought the faith to Bhutan, to a temple on the other side of the fortress.

Led by the Je Khenbo, head of the Bhutanese Buddhists, dignitaries placed offerings of fruit, wine and food before the king and eight objects — including the umbrella of supremacy and the fish of wisdom — symbolizing the virtues a good king should have.

Later in the day he was to re-enact much of the ceremony in front of thousands of citizens who gathered at a large amphitheater next to the fortress.

Thimphu, the capital, was decorated with bright lights and multicolored banners for the three days of festivities.

The monarchy has been at the heart of Bhutan's idiosyncratic recent history, at times imposing strict laws to maintain traditional medieval ways of life and at other times prodding a reluctant nation toward change.

Most Bhutanese believe it is the kings who have allowed the small nation of some 700,000 people to survive with their culture and sovereignty intact while sandwiched between 1.1 billion Indians to the south and 1.3 billion Chinese to the north.

These two Asian giants have already swallowed the other Buddhist kingdoms, like Sikkim or Tibet, that once thrived across the Himalayan range.

"We have enjoyed progress, sustained peace, security and growth. These are all attributed to the great kings, benevolent kings, selfless kings that Bhutan has had," Prime Minister Jigme Thinley, who was elected in the country's first democratic elections in March, told reporters yesterday.

With so much faith being placed on guidance from the monarchy, the last two years have been somewhat bewildering for Bhutan after the elder Wangchuck announced he was giving up much of the monarchy's power to transform the nation into a democracy.

Under his reforms the king remains the head of state and will continue to have extensive powers, but Parliament can impeach him with a two-thirds majority.

The kings first decided to begin opening the country to the outside world in the 1960s, embarking on a program of deliberately slow-paced reforms.

At that time Bhutan was a medieval society with no paved roads, no electricity and no hospitals.

It was only at the coronation of the last king in 1974 that foreign dignitaries and the media were allowed into Bhutan for the first time. Foreigners are still restricted, with only 20,000 tourists allowed in each year on heavily supervised, expensive trips.

Television and the Internet were first allowed in 1999.

Some methods of preserving Bhutanese culture seem heavy-handed to some, particularly to members of a Hindu minority concentrated in southern Bhutan. More than 100,000 of them were driven out in the early 1990s. Most now live in refugee camps in Nepal, and Bhutan refuses to take them back.

Bhutanese say the slow pace of exposure to the outside world allows them to maintain their own culture and pursue Gross National Happiness, an overarching political philosophy which seeks to balance material progress with spiritual well-being.

They hope the new king will follow the ways of his gentle-spoken, much-loved father.

"This ceremony, it's not just about crowning a prince," said Tinle Tenzin, 39, who owns a shoe shop in Thimphu. "It is about a new king who we hope will bring much good for the country and the people in the future."



Suggested Topics
Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Performers dressed as Tunnocks chocolate teacakes, a renowned Scottish confectionary, perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Sport
Arsenal signing Calum Chambers
sportGunners complete £16m transfer of Southampton youngster
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

ICT Teacher

£21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a qualified ...

DT Design and Technology Teacher

£21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: We are urgently for ...

Maths Teacher

£21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you an experienc...

Junior / Graduate Application Support Engineer

£26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on