The Chhoetse Penlop
As the sun rose, its brilliant rays lighting every nook & corner of the kingdom, thous&s of people gathered on October 31, the 18th day of the ninth month of the Bhutanese calendar, near Trongsa Dzong to celebrate the investiture ceremony of His Royal Highness Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, Bhutan’s 16th Chhoetse Penlop.
Dressed in their best Ghos & Kiras people from all parts of the country, young & old, farmers & students, businessmen & officials, gathered for the ceremony. Roads leading to the Trongsa dzong was crowded before dawn with men, women, & children carrying incense, butter lamps & flags.
At about 10 am the Chhoetse Penlop was received at the Thruepang Palace in Trongsa by the Home Minister, Lyonpo Jigmi Y Thinley, Dzongkhag officials, clergy & the people’s representatives. Joined by thous&s of well-wishers, the Chhoetse Penlop was escorted to the Trongsa Dzong in a traditional chipdrel ceremony that, in colour, sound, & splendour revived the ancient tradition. Monks lined the roof of the 460-year old Trongsa Dzong to perform the serda ceremony.
After being received at the Dzong’s lower courtyard by the monks of the Chhoetse Rabdey, the Chhoetse Penlop proceeded to the upper courtyard where the Marchang ceremony was held. The Chhoetse Penlop then offered nyendhar & prayers to the Guru Tshengyed Thongdroel (the eight manifestation of Guru Rimpochey) which was unfurled to mark the occasion. The Chhoetse Penlop climbed on to the podium, just as his great ancestors did over the years, as monks & lams offered prayers for Bhutan’s future King to shoulder the sacred responsibility of leading his country in the 21st century.
Those who witnessed the ceremony told Kuensel that they felt truly blessed to be a part of the event. It was an overwhelming experience that would be told & re-told to their children & gr&children.
After offering nyendhar & prayers in the goenkhangs of Palden Lhamo & Goenpo (the shrine of Bhutan’s protecting deity, Mahakali & Mahakala) the Chhoetse Penlop proceeded to Zimchungnang (the inner sanctum) where the tendrel ceremony was performed by the 67th Je Khenpo, His Holiness Nyizer Trulku, in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuck, Her Majesty Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck, & Their Royal Highnesses the princes & princesses.
His Holiness Nyizer Trulku then offered the tashi ze-gye (eight auspicious objects which represented events in Lord Buddha’s life), Gyalsey Naduen (seven treasures of a universal King) & Nye Wai Rinchen Naduen (seven secondary jewels of a universal King). Following that the representatives of the clergy, Dzongkhag administration, & the people of Mangdue Tshozhi offered the Mendrel Ku-Sung-Thuk-Ten which represented the universe & symbolised the expression of ultimate appreciation to the Chhoetse Penlop.
The royal family then offered Thridhar followed by Lam Netens of the central & eastern religious institutions, government officials, armed forces, & dignitaries.
The investiture ceremony was especially significant because it re-enacts an important moment in Bhutanese history. It symbolises the prayers that the peace, stability & prosperity the Bhutanese are enjoying today will continue into the future.
By afternoon, more than five thous& people packed the courtyards of the Dzong to offer the tashi khaddar & their respects, love & prayers to the Chhoetse Penlop. Starting from the inside of the Dzong, the Chhoetse Penlop met & shook h&s with each & every person who had come to wish him. For many people, who had walked for days to attend the event, the gesture was the most precious moment of their lives.
“The way he holds a child or the h&s of an old woman… & the way he has something nice & thoughtful to say to all who came to see him was beyond any one’s expectations,” said 80-year old Leki Wangmo of Dozhong goenpa in Trongsa. “Today the future King held my h&s & thanked me for coming & even asked where I was from. I couldn’t help crying with joy.”
“I won’t live long enough to see his reign but I feel the future of the country is safe & secure in the h&s of our Chhoetse Penlop,” she told Kuensel, in a voice etched with emotions.
Foreign observers, including tourists, remarked that the Chhoetse Penlop was clearly in touch with his roots.
“It’s very rare to observe such affection from a Crown Prince to his people,” said a photographer from France. “In other countries a Crown Prince is far removed from his people. A Crown Prince who loves his people can only be a good King.”
On November 1, the next day, the Chhoetse Penlop visited & offered prayers to the 25 lhakhangs housed inside Trongsa Dzong. Continuing the celebrations, he hosted a tokha (lunch) for the public of Mangdue Tshozhi. It was followed by games & other entertainment programmes. The Chhoetse Penlop mingled with the people, sharing the lunch & taking part in the games.
“What struck me most was how humble the Chhoetse Penlop is,” said Pelden Singye, 83, of Trongsa village. “He is truly a people’s prince. I am happy for my gr&children for they will have a great King.”
Bago, 79, had come for the celebration from Punakha & told Kuensel that he had the good fortune of seeing the Chhoetse Penlop’s royal ancestors, starting from the second King. As mule tracks developed into vehicle roads, darkness turned into electricity, herbs into modern medicine, Bago said he had seen progress literally take shape before his eyes. Bhutanese people were blessed to be in a country where they enjoyed the fruits of good leadership.
“I am sure that our Chhoetse Penlop will be like the rays of the sun & the light of the moon as our present King is to his people,” he said. “I pray for the long life of the Chhoetse Penlop & may Druk Yul shine with prosperity & happiness under his leadership.”