The 31-year-old “Dragon King” of the Himalayan nation ofBhutanhas married his commoner bride in a Buddhist ceremony at a 17th Century monastery. The British-educated Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck came down from his throne to place a crown upon the head of 20-year-old student Jetsun Pema. As the monks chanted, the king returned to the seat and Ms Pema sat upon the throne beside him as the new queen.
In a nation of 700,000 people where television was only introduced in 1999, the ceremony was broadcast live. Thousands of people, dressed in traditional coloured robes, stood outside. Some monks chanted, others played drums and cymbals.
After a brief ceremony, the king and his bride held hands and walked into the monastery. An hour of blessings and prayers marked the marriage ceremony, reports said. There were no visiting heads of states, foreign princes or celebrities at the wedding, which was mainly attended by the royal family.
“The whole theme of the wedding was to keep it a simple family affair, that is the Bhutanese family,”Kinley Dorji,Bhutan’s secretary of information told the Associated Press news agency. The king and his father entered a sacred chamber holding the embalmed body of the 17th-century remains ofBhutan’s founder, where they received holy Buddhist scarves and a chalice of blessed curd that represents eternal life. The king’s father, accompanied by his four wives, handed the blessed coloured scarves to a nervous-looking bride.
The king, who has been educated inIndiaandBritain, took over after the abdication in 2006 of his father, who began the country’s democratic transition. In March 2008,Bhutanbecame a constitutional monarchy and the king relinquished his absolute powers.Bhutan, known as the “Land of the Thunder Dragon” has been happy to promote a Shangri-la image with its snow-capped peaks and largely untouched forests. People must still wear the traditional knee-length robes in public.
Bhutanis famed for its “Gross National Happiness” index, an alternative to GDP that measures personal well-being and the environment rather than focusing on economic growth.