World

Bhutan's beloved king marries commoner

The beloved king of the tiny Himalayan nation of Bhutan married his commoner bride in an ancient Buddhist ceremony at the country's most sacred monastery fortress.

The beloved king of the tiny Himalayan nation of Bhutan married his commoner bride Thursday in an ancient Buddhist ceremony at the country's most sacred monastery fortress.

King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck, wearing the raven crown, came down from his golden throne in front of a huge statue of Buddha to place a smaller, silk brocade crown upon the head of his bride, Jetsun Pema. Monks chanted in celebration as she took her seat beside him as the new queen of the country.

The wedding has captivated the nation, which had grown impatient with their 31-year-old bachelor king's lack of urgency to wed. Children composed poems, flight attendants practised celebratory dances and posters of the couple were nearly ubiquitous.

The celebrations began at 8:20 a.m. local time  — a time set by royal astrologers — when the king, wearing the royal yellow sash, walked into the courtyard of the 17th century monastery in the old capital  of Punakha and proceeded up the high staircase inside. A few minutes later, his 21-year-old bride arrived at the end of a procession of red-robed monks and flag bearers across a wooden footbridge over the wide, blue river beside the fort and followed him inside.

Singers chanted songs of celebration amid the clanging of drums and the drone of long dhung trumpets.

She wore a traditional wraparound skirt with a gold jacket with deep red cuffs.

Inside, the nation's top cleric, who presided over the wedding, performed a purification ceremony for the couple in front of a massive, long Thongdal tapestry of Bhutan's 17th century founder.

King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck holds a young child as he greets locals with Queen Jetsun Pema during a celebration after they were married. ((Kevin Frayer/Associated Press))

The pair then proceeded to the temple for a ceremony broadcast live on national television, save for a few minutes when the king, his father — the former ruler — and the cleric entered the sacred tomb of the founder of Bhutan.

The king's father gave the bride an array of five coloured scarves representing blessings from the tomb. Hesitantly, she then approached the king's throne with a golden chalice filled with the ambrosia of eternal life. They held it together for several seconds and then he drank.

He came down from the throne and placed the crown on her head. After she took her place as queen, the newly married couple was feted by monks playing deep tones on traditional trumpets and pounding drums. Well-wishers gave them offerings representing hopes for long life.