Thimphu, Oct 12: Bhutan's popular King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck is set to tie the knot with India-educated commoner Jetsun Pema at a Buddhist ceremony tomorrow, a watershed event for the tiny nation which is expected to be attended by foreign dignitaries like Rahul Gandhi.
31-year Oxford-educated King will marry Pema, a pilot's daughter who is 10-year younger than him and is currently a student of London's Regents College, at a stunning fortress in the historic city of Punakha, 71 km from here, in line with Bhutanese Buddhist traditions.
Wangchuck, the youngest reigning monarch in the world, had promised to his subjects that his wedding would be “simple and traditional” when he announced in May this year his plans to get married. Apparently, the King had met Pema first time during a family trip when he was 17 and she was 7.
The King and his would-be wife will arrive at around 8 am local time tomorrow at the Punakha Dzong, a large monastic fortress built in the 17th century, for an elaborate wedding ceremony, which is expected to go on for a couple of hours.
Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi is one of the “personal guests” of the King, who shares a very good rapport with the Nehru-Gandhi family, sources told PTI.
The King, an avid photographer and mountain-biker, and the future Queen will join the Bhutanese people in celebrating the event after the sacred wedding ceremony.
“The wedding ceremony will begin at 8 am when the Queen's procession will arrive and the King will come out of his residence. Then both will go to the sacred temple,” Dasho Kinley Dorji, Secretary in the Bhutanese Ministry of Information and Communication, told some 160 foreign journalists covering the event.
Wangchuck and Pema, who did her higher secondary schooling from Lawrence School in Himachal Pradesh's Sanawar from 2006 to 2008, will exchange their vows before nearly 1,500 guests, including those from India like West Bengal Governor M K Narayanan, at the fortress surrounded by mountains and a river.
Some 10,000 people are expected to arrive from different valleys of the country and converge at a huge stadium near a monastery for the royal wedding. Traditional archery matches and dancing and singing events will also be held throughout the day.
A majority of the nearly 7 lakh Bhutanese people would be glued to their television sets as the wedding would be telecast live on the Bhutan Broadcasting Service TV. After the ceremony at the temple, the royal couple would be crowned, Dorji said, terming it a “historic event” which many Bhutanese would not have seen in their lifetimes.
Dorji said all people will be served a traditional Bhutanese lunch at the end of the celebrations.
Ambassadors of 25 countries based in Bhutan have been invited, but not any head of the state or Prime Minister as the King wanted it to be a “simple, Bhutanese family affair,” he said.
However, he said, some high-profile guests from foreign countries are expected to attend the wedding as “personal guests” of the royal couple.
Known for his simplicity, a soft-spoken Wangchuck, who was coronated as King of Bhutan on November 6, 2008 after his father Jigme Singye Wangchuck abdicated and transferred the throne to him, likes to cycle across the capital and invite his subjects for a cup of tea.
On Friday, the royal couple will set out on a road trip from Punakha to Thimphu. Dorji said thousands of people, all along the way, are expected to welcome them. PTI