Punakha, Bhutan, Oct 13: The picturesque kingdom of Bhutan erupted in joy to welcome its new Queen as its ‘Prince Charming' King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck married his childhood sweetheart and commoner Jetsun Pema in a traditional Buddhist ceremony at an imposing monastic fortress here today.
The much-loved Oxford-educated Wangchuck, 31, tied the nuptial knot with India-educated Pema, 21, amidst chants of hymns and prayers by monks at the proceedings led by the Chief Abot (head of the monks) of Bhutan Je Khenpo. The ceremony at the stunning fortress in this historical city started early at 4.00 am as thousands of people gathered outside to witness history unfold in front of their eyes and to get a glimpse of the Royal Couple.
The dashing King Jigme Khesar is the fifth king of the 100 year old Wangchuk dynasty, and Pema, whom he met when he was 17, is the daughter of a pilot.
Pema, who wore a golden jacket and a skirt according to traditions, was proclaimed the ‘Queen of the Kingdom of Bhutan' as the King bestowed the crown on her after a series of ceremonies attended by 300 guests, including India's Ambassador to Bhutan Pavan K Varma, West Bengal Governor M K Narayanan, Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia and former Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran.
Wearing a raven crown, the King sat on his throne, with a huge Buddhist statue in the background. Amid chanting of hymns by red-robe Buddhist monks and clanging of drums, Pema prostrated thrice before King Wangchuck, who then stood up with a smile from his throne, and placed the crown on her head.
The King then sipped from a glass of ‘ambrosia' for the longevity and prosperity of the couple. A purification ceremony followed that according to belief would remove any obstacles in the way of the couple's married life. After a two-hour ceremony, Wangchuck and Pema were declared husband and wife and members of the Royal family and the monks then made their offerings to the couple and presented to them the traditional white scarfs.
Outside the stunning 17th century fortress, located between two rivers - Fochu (Father River) and Mochu (Mother River), thousands of Bhutanese, including children and women, thronged the ground to catch a glimpse of their King and the newly crowned Queen.
And the Royal couple did not disappoint them. Following the ceremony the two stepped out to meet and people and posed graciously for the media.
As celebrations erupted, the two newly weds joined thousands of Bhutanese at the huge ground near the palace, dancing and singing with their subjects. The King mingled freely with the assembled people, shook hands with them and even cradled babies. The people, including nomads and villagers who live in remotest parts of the country, had started assembling at the ground as early as 5 AM (local time) braving intense cold conditions, even as majority of the 7 lakh population were glued to their television sets to watch the wedding ceremony. The elaborate wedding ceremony began at 4 AM with initiation of special prayers by 100 monks led by His Holiness Je Khenpo.
Earlier, the Oxford-educated mountain-biking fanatic Wangchuck emerged from his palace at around 8.20 AM accompanied by Prime Minister Jigmi Y Thinley and the Chief of Bhutan Royal Police and proceeded straight to the large monastic fortress.
Minutes later, the Royal Bride, who did her higher secondary schooling in Himachal Pradesh's Sanawar, walked to the fortress through the wooden bridge across the river in a procession of over 100 people beating drums and chanting hymns.
After her arrival at the Dewa Chhen-Poi Phodrang (Palace of Great Happiness), Pema lit a golden lamp, offered prayers and proceeded towards Wangchuck, whom she has been accompanying on official tours for the past few months. The King's wedding was held at the same place where his father tied nuptial knot more than 30 years back. Braving the chill, thousands of people climbed down the hill to Punakha hoping to catch a glimpse of the Royal Couple. While the guests that includes Ambassadors of various countries in Bhutan and personal invitees of the King were served to a traditional Bhutanese lunch that will also have Indian items like roti.
Around 60 culinary experts from all 20 Valleys of Bhutan have been engaged in preparing the food items for the guests. The Royal Couple will now set out on the road from Punakha to Thimphu tomorrow and are likely to be welcomed by people through the way.
Known for his simplicity and soft-spoken nature,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, something not very common with monarchs.