Bhutan crowns young king to guide young democracy

Thu Nov 6, 2008 5:48pm EST
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By Simon Denyer

THIMPHU (Reuters) - With mediaeval tradition and Buddhist spirituality, a 28-year-old with an Oxford education assumed the Raven Crown of Bhutan on Thursday, to guide the world's newest democracy as it emerges into the modern world.

As the chief abbot chanted sacred sutras to grant him wisdom, compassion and vision, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck was crowned Bhutan's Fifth Druk Gyalpo, or Dragon King, by his own father, who imposed democracy and then abdicated two years ago.

Dressed in a red and gold gho -- the knee-length gown all Bhutanese men wear -- he then sat cross-legged on the ornate Golden Throne, looking solemn but allowing himself one fleeting smile, as offerings were made to the new king and the gods.

The red and black silk crown, embroidered with images of white skulls and topped with a blue raven's head, represents Bhutan's supreme warrior deity and a monarchy that united this country 100 years ago and remains enormously popular.

This charming young king, who also studied in the United States and India, embodies the changes sweeping the conservative Himalayan kingdom -- a young country, a young democracy, with an eye on the outside world but one foot firmly planted in its past.

"I need nothing," he told a crowd of thousands come to pay their respects in the afternoon.

"What is important to me are the hopes and aspirations of the people and a long, healthy life for my father Jigme Singye Wangchuck."

"On this special occasion, just pray and wish that the sunshine of happiness will always shine on our country."   Continued...

<p>Bhutan's King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck walks with Prime Minister Jigmi Thinley (L) during his coronation ceremony in Thimpu November 6, 2008. REUTERS/Desmond Boylan</p>