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Bhutan Hands Raven Crown to New King


The small Himalayan nation, Bhutan, officially has a new king. The coronation of the fifth king of the hereditary dynasty took place Thursday in the Bhutanese capital, Thimpu. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman witnessed the event and files this report.

In an esoteric Buddhist ceremony in a 17th Century fortress, the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan crowned a new monarch.

At the precise, auspicious moment determined by Buddhist astrologers - 8:31 in the morning - on the pedestal of the Ceremonial Golden Throne, Bhutan's fourth king, handed the Raven Crown to his son, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck. He is now the fifth Druk Gyalpo or king of the Land of the Thunder Dragon.

Later in the morning, wearing the satin and silk crown, adorned with fire-breathing skulls and topped with an embroidered raven's head, the new king accepted felicitations and ceremonial scarves from dignitaries, including a number of foreign ambassadors.

In the past two years, Jigme Khesar actually assumed the duties from his father, Jigme Singye, the fourth Druk Gyalpo, who shocked Bhutan in late 2006 by announcing he would abdicate in the prime of his life.

Bhutan Prime Minister Jigme Thinley explains why the coronation was not held until now.

"Last year happened to be a "black" year according to our astrologers," he explained. "It was a year during which no important steps or important developments should be initiated."

That meant not only the coronation was delayed but also the celebration for the centenary of the Wangchuck family dynasty, along with Bhutan's first democratic elections and the signing of the constitution.

Although this is Bhutan's first coronation in three-and-a-half decades, Prime Minister Thinley says the ceremonies and three days of official celebration are a "modest" affair, by royal directive.

"We are still a poor country largely dependent on foreign assistance," he noted. "And, so, the [fifth] king was concerned that valuable resources, scarce resources may be spent or frittered away on celebrations that may not have any long-term benefits to our people."

The new, Western-educated king is only 28, but Bhutan's government leaders say he has enough experience and is old enough to reign, noting his father assumed the throne at the age of 17.

The fourth king guided his small country out of isolation and leaves behind a legacy of ushering in democracy and making environmental preservation and happiness enshrined national priorities.

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