As excitement builds for the official coronation of His Majesty King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, behind the scenes, the mystical century-old process has already begun.
The ceremony on November 6 is the final, public ceremony, what is known as the outer aspect of Chi Nang-Sang Sum (strictly interpreted as Inner, Secret and Outer Coronation or more loosely as sacred and public coronation).
It is believed that the date for the traditional ceremony is November 1, in Punakha. The quiet, sacred ceremony takes place in the Machhen Zimchung, the abode of the machhen of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel.
According to Thimphu author Tshering Tashi, who has investigated the mystical coronation traditions for a forthcoming book, it is a profoundly private ceremony attended only by the King and the Je Khenpo. “The ceremony is deeply rooted in its ancient tradition. But beyond that, little is known,” said Tshering.
Tshering’s book reveals details from the official coronation programme for the Fourth King, which explains that it is at this ceremony that the new King receives the 5-coloured scarf of office. That is the true moment of his ascension as Druk Gyalpo.
“The actual moment of coronation will be when the King, takes from the altar of the inner chapel of the machhen the 5-coloured scarf of the King of Bhutan and dons it.” In addition to wearing the 5-coloured scarf, the King symbolically wears the namza.
The Chamberlain of the fourth King, Dorji Gyeltshen, oversaw the coronation in 1974 and is also overseeing His Majesty’s coronation this year. He explains, “The Je Khenpo conducts ancient rituals offering symbols of kingship to the King.”
After the sacred coronation ritual, a more public but still relatively closed religious ceremony is conducted in the kuenra of the Punakha Dzong with the royal family, government officials and the public of the neighbouring dzongkhags.
The public coronation is widely celebrated and usually held in the Tashichhodzong, Thimphu. On the morning it takes place, the King is escorted to the dzong in a grand ceremonial procession. Guests receive the King into the dzong where the official investiture ceremony begins in the Golden Throne room before the King joins his people to celebrate in the national stadium.
According to the wishes of King Jigme Khesar, the public coronation will be kept simple and intimate. His Majesty wished to minimise government expenditure and also ensure that he celebrates the centenary and coronation with the people of all dzongkhags. He will travel and country and join the people in celebrating our past and praying for an auspicious future.
As per the customary trait of the Kings, there will be no grand international representation and pageantry. Nevertheless, these landmarks in our history will remain indelibly etched in the hearts and minds of all the people.