The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan crowned a young Oxford-educated bachelor as its new king, just six months after abolishing absolute monarchy to become the world’s youngest democracy.
Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, 28, became the youngest reigning monarch on the planet when he was handed the Raven Crown by his father, the former King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, in an ornate ceremony in the nation’s capital Thimpu.
The former King, who is 52, abdicated two years ago as part of a plan to democratise the insular Buddhist nation of 635,000 people, wedged between Indian and China, which had no roads until the 1960s and allowed television only in 1999.
The Wangchuk dynasty, which has ruled Bhutan for a century and is still widely revered, had to wait until now for court astrologers to find an auspicious year for the coronation of the 5th Druk Gyalpo, or Dragon King.
Hundreds of foreign guests attended the ceremony in the Golden Throne Room at Tashichhodzong, a fortress in Thimpu.
The ceremony began with the sound of giant gongs and Buddhist chants as the Je Khenpo, or chief abbot, recited sacred sutras empowering the new King Jigme with virtues such as wisdom, compassion and vision.
The young monarch was then presented with eight auspicious articles: a mirror, medicine, curd, incense, fruit, vermillion, yellow mustard and a right-whorled conch shell.
Next came another round of offerings: seven precious symbols signifying devotion, valour and eternity, besides eight auspicious signs symbolising truth and wisdom.
Three days of national celebration will follow, involving masked dances and ritual offerings that will also mark the centenary of Bhutan’s monarchy.
Most Bhutanese believe that it is the kings who have allowed their nation and its unique culture to survive intact despite being surrounded by 1.3 billion Chinese and 1.1 billion Indians.