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Bhutan's King weds childhood sweetheart

world Updated: Oct 14, 2011 01:33 IST
Lalita Panicker
Buddhist culture


Bhutan's legendary gross national happiness quotient went into overdrive with prayers soaring into the mountains surrounding the startlingly beautiful 17th century monastery-fortress in Bhutan's old capital as the country's 31-year-old reformist king Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck crowned childhood sweetheart Ashi Jetsun Pema his queen.

Wearing the raven crown symbolic of the Wangchuck dynasty, the king was completely at ease and all cheeky smiles as his bride prostrated herself before him thrice and offered him a goblet of 'ambrosia' to signify everlasting life for the couple.

In his laidback, casual manner the king dispensed with all formality and held hands, talking soothingly to his nervous bride now and again. There was some buzz that either of the Gandhi siblings - Rahul and Priyanka - would attend the ceremony, but they did not show up. India was more than adequately represented by minister of state for commerce and industry Jyotiraditya Scindia and his wife, West Bengal governor MK Narayanan, a posse of former ambassadors and the ebullient envoy to Bhutan Pavan K Varma.

Luminous in gold, red and black, the new queen seemed overwhelmed by the weight of history in the ancient monastery. The highest abbot in the land, Je Khenpo, presided over the ceremony attended by royalty from the region and under the watchful eye of the young king's father, Jigme Singye Wangchuck.

Earlier the couple underwent a purification ceremony in front of the enormous Thongdral tapestry of Bhutan's 17th century monk-king founder Zhabdrung.

The king took pains to stop and admire each of the many dances put on for him and to greet and chat with the dignitaries. There was no tawdry memorabilia, no over-the-top emotions, just a graceful show of joy and gratitude by the gathering of people who had walked miles to be part of this day.

Praising his new wife, the king spoke to the media of her warmth and intelligence and the common love of art that bound them together. As he joined the new queen and the entire audience in a dance at the end of the ceremony, it was quite clear that the bonds of the love affair that started when she was seven and he 17, go far beyond that.