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Asia

Bhutan Crowns New King

Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck became the youngest reigning monarch of the world on Thursday in the tiny kingdom of Bhutan with just over 600,000 inhabitants. The Oxford-educated 28-year old received the crown from his father, who had announced his abdication two years ago, and has been guiding his country towards more democracy. After the coronation, which was attended by the Indian president and Bollywood film stars, he met thousands of citizens in a stadium.

Bhutan's fifth king Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck

Bhutan's fifth king Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck

„No chance! Please don’t mind!" No chance to enter, unfortunately. The policeman is announcing via megaphone to his waiting compatriots that the event is totally overcrowded already. A stir goes through the crowd, the queue is still 200 metres long down the path.

Many have come here from far-away parts of Bhutan, just to see the young king. "In former times it took three days for us to come to the capital, nowadays I can make the trip in two days", says a woman who is holding one little child by the hand and has another one on her back. Like many here, she is carrying a white scarf which she wanted to give to the king as a sign of homage.

Reverence knows no boundaries

"Once the king came to my province", she remembers. "When I saw him for the first time, it was as if God had come down to us to do us a favour. Now I would have loved to see him for a second time!"

No doubt: The reverence many Bhutanese feel for their king knows no boundaries. Which might be one reason why his father and predecessor had certain difficulties in explaning to the people in this Himalayan kingdom why a little more democracy would be good for them. First of all, he called parliamentary elections.

Wearing the raven crown

But this day is once more a great day for the monarchy. The biggest celebrations in the history of the tiny kingdom are scheduled to last for three whole days. The crown has already been handed down to the 28-year-old new king by his father.

He had to re-adjust the new headgear for a couple of times - which would be more reminiscent of a felt cap to outsiders, with a raven’s head on top. But the audience thought it suited him quite well: "The moment we saw him with the raven crown, we simply had tears in our eyes!" says a monk who participated in the ceremony in the mostly Buddhist country.

Gross National Happiness

And of course he thinks the young monarch will be an excellent ruler. Who, just like his father, will strive to pursue a concept that Bhutan has developed side by side with the Gross National Product: GNH – gross national happiness.

For a long time, the citizens of this small Himalayan kingdom, squeezed in between India and China, defined gross national happiness as being screened off from the harmful influence of the outside world: TV and internet were only introduced in 1999. And the first mobile phone arrived in Bhutan in 2003. But for the day of coronation, the mobile phone network in the capital Thimphu was simply switched off – possibly for security reasons.

  • Date 06.11.2008
  • Author DW staff 06/11/08
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  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/LrvS
  • Date 06.11.2008
  • Author DW staff 06/11/08
  • Print Print this page
  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/LrvS