"Dragon King" marries commoner in reclusive Bhutan

Thu Oct 13, 2011 8:15am EDT
 
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By Alistair Scrutton

PUNAKHA, Bhutan (Reuters) - Bhutan's "Dragon King" married a young commoner in an ancient Himalayan monastic fortress on Thursday, sipping a chalice of ambrosia symbolizing eternal life in a Buddhist wedding that has transfixed a reclusive kingdom slowly embracing globalization.

King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck wore a crown adorned with a raven's head during the sumptuous ceremony in this 17th-century fortress, as 21-year-old student Jetsun Pema, daughter of an airline pilot, received a crown embroidered with silk.

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 colored robes, stood outside. Some monks chanted, others hit drums, as white incense drifted through the morning mist.

Oxford-educated Wangchuck, 31, is revered as this insular nation slowly embraces democracy after his father abdicated in 2006 to introduce parliamentary elections. The monarchy is seen as helping stabilize a fragile democracy wedged between India and China in a conflict-ridden region.

HORNS IN THE MIST

"I am happy. I have been waiting quite some time," the king told reporters after the ceremony. "She is a wonderful human being, intelligent. Her and I share one big thing in common - love and passion for art."

As the mist slowly lifted, Buddhist horns sounded across the Punakha valley as the bride arrived in a procession of singers, relatives and Buddhist monks across an ancient footbridge, all led by a white horse. Baby elephants guarded one of the fortress's entrances.

Nomadic farmers dressed in ceremonial dress walked down from the mountain hills to the fortress, nestled between two rivers.   Continued...