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Bhutan royal wedding: Pomp and pageantry bring festivities to a spectacular end

17 OCTOBER 2011

Three days of majestic wedding celebrations for Bhutan's Dragon King and his true love, a beautiful student who has been crowned the Druk Gyal-tsuen or Queen, came to an end with a thrilling all-day spectacle.

King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck had announced that "his wedding would be a family affair and the people of Bhutan are his family."

And tens of thousands of his devoted subjects turned up to enjoy the show, featuring 500 performers, in the capital Thimpu.

 

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Running for seven hours, the event showcased the very best of Bhutanese culture.

The most striking feature of Saturday's festivities was in fact a wedding gift.

Measuring 108 feet in height, 88 feet in width and weighing about one tonne, the giant throngdrel – a tapestry depicting the guru credited with bringing Buddhism to Bhutan in the 8th century – created a spectacular backdrop to the party.

 

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But it was the royal couple who proved the main draw.

And they were rewarded as the newlyweds kissed in public for the very first time.

"We know they love each other so much," said high school student Rinzin Dema, who was in the crowd.

"Seeing our king and queen, it's like an inspiration to us that in the future we should be a husband and wife like that."

 

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Since his lavish coronation, the 31-year-old 'prince charming of the Himalayas' – an Elvis fan who plays a good game of basketball and sports slicked back hair – has sought to forge his own path. 

In contrast to his more austere father, the humble royal often invites ordinary folk round for tea at his cottage – he chose to move out of the palace some years ago – and happily mingles with them at public events. 

And it's clear that the Bhutanese have fallen in love with his new wife as much as they have with their charismatic leader.

Despite his wish that it should be a modest affair, public euphoria brought a real sense of grandeur to the festivities.

 

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At every stage of the celebrations, tens of thousands – many dressed in traditional costumes – have turned out to cheer the love-struck couple.

On Friday the king and his radiant bride were greeted by adoring well-wishers every step of the way as they travelled on foot from the ancient capital of Punakha, where their marriage took place, to Thimpu – a journey of 50 miles, which took them 11 hours.

And they arrived in a capital decked out in a manner befitting the marriage of their beloved sovereign; buildings were adorned with lights, flags, and pictures of the royal couple.



Royal wedding ceremony

  • October 13
  • 0400: His Holiness Je Khenpo initiates prayers for the royal couple
  • 0700: Royal Bridal Escort arrives at Royal Cottage, comprising members of royal family and Privy Counsellors
  • 0700: Their Royal Highnesses present gifts of His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo or Dragon King and Their Majesties the Queen Mothers to the parents of the Royal Bridge
  • 0820: His Majesty the Fifth Druk Gyalpo or Dragon King arrives at Dzong (fortress) in Punaka
  • 0830: The Royal Bride arrives after processing over the Mochhu Bridge
  • 0830-1100: Purification ceremony, including placing of the crown on Royal Bride's head; Royal Bride offers the King a cup of Ambrosia signalling her devotion and is proclaimed Druk Gyal-tsuen or Queen
  • 1120: Felicitation offered to the couple by Prime Minister, Speaker of Parliament and other dignitaries
  • 1200-1600: Entertainment programme with the public
  • October 14
  • 0730: Their Majesties are received by His Holiness Je Khenpo before setting out on foot for capital Thimpu
  • Early evening: Arrive at the city gates to be greeted by MPs of Thimpu and local government leaders
  • October 15
  • 0800: Their Majesties are met by a Royal Guard of Honour in the courtyard of the Tashichho Dzong
  • The King ascends the Golden Throne accompanied by the Druk Gyal-tsuen
  • 1000: Royal couple arrive at Changlimithang Stadium to unveil the Thongdroel /tapestry), light butter lamps and offer prayers
  • Entertainment programme begins