The tiny Himalayan nation of Bhutan crowned its new King today. Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck, the 28 year old Oxford educated bachelor, is Bhutan’s fifth king.
King Jigme Khesar was coronated in an elaborate Buddhist ceremony in Thimpu, the country’s capital. Upon being crowned, he received the title, Druk Gyalpo, or Dragon King. Jigme Khesar took over after his father, Jigme Singye, abdicated in 2006. Court astrologers waited for the most auspicious moment for a coronation during this time, to assure a successful reign.
Thousands of Bhutanese people gathered in Thimpu to enjoy the three day celebrations. Many see their King as a stronghold on their tiny kingdom, which is slowly opening up to democracy and modernity.
“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,” Bhutan’s Prime Minister Jigme Thinley, who was elected in the country’s first democratic elections in March, told reporters Wednesday.
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.
It is a wonder how much this new King will allow change to his country. Bhutan prides itself on concentrating on its Gross National Happiness, which seeks to follow strict Buddhist philosophy over materialism.
That concentration has kept Bhutan in a mostly medieval-like state, with few paved roads or electricity. King Jigme Singye only allowed television and the Internet in 1999.
The people of Bhutan 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.”
As King Jigme Khesar walked among his people during the coronation festivities, he said, “The greatest gift I can ask for is this…being with you…my people.”