Sunday, 8 December 2013

Welcome to Bhutan, Glimpses of a Coronation

Pageantry for Bhutan Coronation ©Solange Hando

Five years ago, on November 6th, I was privileged to attend the Coronation of the new King of Bhutan, then just 28 and the world's youngest reigning monarch. It was an amazing five day event, high in colour and celebrations, held for the people and by the people.
Young and old, they had come from all over the country, by any means possible, and I even met a group of nuns from central Bhutan who had drawn lots to hitch a ride on the back of a truck.

The event was held in the usually sleepy capital Thimphu where the handsome king was crowned by his father on the auspicious date chosen by the monks. That afternoon, his Majesty met the people gathered in the stadium, greeting everyone individually, blessing children and handing out coronation medals.

The New King of Bhutan on Coronation Day ©Solange Hando

Temple, town and stadium were all draped in banners and flags while the red carpet had been lovingly decorated with coloured rice in the shape of flowers and other auspicious symbols.    

Rice Decorations for Royal Celebrations ©Solange Hando

The following days flashed like a dream, a head-spinning kaleidoscope of colours and sounds filled with pageantry, music, dance and raucous games for all to enjoy, including a strong man contest and a pillow fight when the loser fell in a tub of water. The king loved it all.
It had been the royal wish that costs should be kept to a minimum so the entertainment was provided by schoolchildren and local communities. Here are a couple of pretty girls waiting for their turn to dance for the king.

Coronation Dancers Waiting to Perform ©Solange Hando

The crowds were all laughter and smile as they filed into the stadium soon after dawn, country and city folks, dignitaries, monks, children and a handful of visitors who had managed to secure an invitation. I was a guest of  and commissioned by Druk Air in-flight magazine to report on the celebrations.
So here I am, on one of the most memorable days in my life, making friends with young spectators.

Making Friends with Young Monks at the Coronation ©Solange Hando

Archery is Bhutan's national sport so on the final day, a competition was in order. The teams included various dignitaries, members of the royal family and of course the king himself, seen here (centre) performing the customary victory dance.

Archery Contest at the Coronation ©Solange Hando

I hope you enjoyed these few snaps of Bhutan. For me, this is a country like no other and I hope to tell you more in the coming blogs.


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