Thimphu: Bhutan's newly married Royal Couple waded through a sea of people during their 11-hour journey on Friday from the ancient city of Punakha to capital Thimphu, covering most of the 71 km distance by foot, as people lined up along the road to give them a rousing reception. (Agencies)
31-year-old Oxford-educated King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and his Indian-educated Queen Jetsun Pema got down from their car every five minutes and walked along with their subjects who had gathered to catch a glimpse of them.
After a simple yet spectacular wedding ceremony in a stunning 17th century monastic fortress in Punakha on Thursday, the couple emerged from their Palace at 7.30 AM and were seen off to the capital by Je Khenpo, the chief Buddhists priest.
The King, adored by his subjects for his simplistic nature, mingled freely with the people, hugging and kissing many of those who queued up on either side of the hilly terrain road from Punakha.
Wangchuck, who had to skip his lunch to make time for the people, humbly accepted gifts from them and even stopped at times to speak to them.
His return to the capital with his wife was so awaited that people had lined up along the road for over five hours.
"Many a times, the King got down from his vehicle and walked along with the people. He likes spending time with people," Kinley Dorji, Secretary Ministry of Information and Communication said.
"Most of the journey is being covered by foot. People are lined up across the way. He did not want to drive past them. That is why he took so much of time," he said.
The journey from Punakha to Thimphu, which usually takes three hours by car, took more than 11 hours for the Royal Couple.
When the royal convoy came near to them, the Bhutanese cheered and welcomed the King and the Queen with folded hands.
Once the Royal Couple reciprocated their gestures, the people jostled with each other to present a white scarf, considered as a mark of respect, to them. At least 25,000 people were present in Thimphu alone to greet the couple.
Bhutanese national flags, scarves of five colours and pictures of a handsome Wangchuck and an elegant Pema holding each other's hand adorn roads, homes, hotels and government offices across the capital.
The celebrations will be held at a spectacular stadium here on Saturday where audience would be treated to traditional songs and dances.
Congress Party General-Secretary Rahul Gandhi, a special invitee of Wangchuck, will also attend the celebrations.
"Thousands of people lined up during the journey to welcome the King. It is an historical occasion," Dorje Wangchuk, Director of the Royal Office of Media said.
This is not the first time that King Wangchuck is being accorded a rousing reception by the people. A similar kind of frenzy was witnessed during his journey from the capital to Punakha after Wangchuck was coronated as the fifth king of the tiny Himalayan Kingdom in November 2008.
The Wangchuck dynasty, which has been ruling Bhutan for the past 100 years, is much revered by the people of the Kingdom.
Thimphu: Bhutan's newly married Royal Couple waded through a sea of people during their 11-hour journey on Friday from the ancient city of Punakha to capital Thimphu, covering most of the 71 km distance by foot, as people lined up along the road to give them a rousing reception.