As the world was celebrating the victory of Barack Obama as the next president of the United States, the small Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan was preparing for a grand celebration, not for Obama, but for the Coronation of the fifth king of Bhutan, Jigme khesar Namgyal Wangchuk. At 8:31 a.m. on the morning of Nov. 6, 2008, the fifth king of Bhutan was officially enthroned by his father, the fourth King, in the Chamber of the Golden Throne in Thashichhodzong, the monastery in the capital city of Thimphu.
“The King of Destiny,” as the Bhutanese people call him, is a 28-year-old bachelor who graduated from Oxford University. He has been presented with the Raven crown. Unlike other crowns that are made up of gold and diamond, the Royal crown of Bhutan is modestly made up of satin and silk, and it has a raven’s head, the national bird of Bhutan, embroidered on top of it. It was believed that in the 17th century, the male deity of Bhutan, Yeshey Gembo, turned into a raven and helped Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, a Tibetan priest, find his way into Bhutan. The Raven Crown was first worn by the father of Bhutan’s first king in the year 1885. Though the Coronation was held in November, the fifth king has been on the throne for about two years. He waited for this particular day for the official Coronation because three enlightened astrologers discovered that Nov. 6 was an auspicious day for this historic event.
Bhutan had been preparing for this “lavish coronation,” as the BBC calls it, since last year. In the capital city, a soccer field adjoined with an archery field was reconstructed to make the first stadium in Bhutan to accommodate the local and international observers of the event. The highway connecting the only airport to the capital city was also broadened to make it easier and comfortable for the outside visitors. The day that had been awaited for more than a year finally came and surprisingly brought with it a large number of tourists. The tour operators feared the number of visitors would drop as a result of the financial crisis in America, but it seemed like a large number of foreigners decided to have this experience anyway. People dressed up in their finery; shops, schools, and offices were closed; and vehicles could not use the streets as the excited crowd poured over them.
Dignitaries from around the globe came to greet the world’s youngest monarch, who is also the head of the country that became the youngest democracy in March 2008. Among the many ambassadors present for the Coronation, David Mulford, the American Ambassador to India, said to the press in Bhutan that he brings, “the greetings of the American people, President Bush, and President-elect Obama. “We are deeply impressed by the democratization process, which has been going on for a long time,” he said.
After the people, the guests and the king arrived in the stadium, the ceremony started off majestically with traditional rituals and the national anthem. After that, His Majesty the King of Bhutan addressed the people who had come to witness the occasion.
He said, “Throughout my reign I will never rule you as a king. I will protect you as a parent, care for you as a brother, and serve you as a son. I shall give you everything and keep nothing. I have no personal goals other than to fulfill your hopes and aspirations. I shall always serve you, day and night, in the spirit of kindness, justice and equality.” As the country is famous for the policy of Gross National Happiness instead of Gross National Product, like in the case of America, the king reminded the people that the central goal is “the peace and happiness of our people and the security and sovereignty of the nation.”
Information gathered from BBC News, Bhutan Broadcasting Service (BBS) and Kuensel Online.
Choni Selden lived in Bhutan with her family until Aug. 2007 when she came to the U.S. to attend college.