Bhutan holds elaborate naming ceremony for new crown prince

Bhutan's new crown prince was bestowed with a name Saturday at a solemn religious ceremony at a majestic 17th century palace that houses the relics of a famous Buddhist master.

The 2 1/2-month-old son of King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck and Queen Jetsun Pema was given the name Jigme Namgyal Wangchuck at the ceremony.

Kinley Dorji, the government's information secretary, said the naming ceremony was held to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the day that Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, a revered Tibetan Buddhist master, arrived in Bhutan.

Dorji said the relics of this revered Buddhist master were preserved at the Punakha palace, where the naming ceremony was held. "The prince has symbolically received his name from Zhabdrung Rinpoche," Dorji said.

Bhutan's king and queen prayed at a Buddhist monastery in the capital, Thimphu, before driving to Punakha, where the ceremony took place.

The Oxford-educated Wangchuck, who is now 35, married commoner Jetsun Pema, 25, in an elaborate Buddhist ceremony in 2011.

On Saturday, Wangchuck carried the baby prince, draped in a yellow blanket, as he walked the short distance alongside his wife to the Punakha Dzong complex, followed by Buddhist monks in maroon robes and musicians playing pipes.

The royal couple showed off the queen's baby bump in a picture released in January. The child, the couple's first, was delivered Feb. 5 by a medical team at Lingkana Palace in Thimphu.

The young couple made news in Bhutan while they were dating, when Wangchuck displayed open affection for his wife-to-be by publicly holding hands and even planting kisses on her cheek, something rare in conservative Bhutan, particularly among royalty.

Wangchuck ascended Bhutan's throne in November 2008, when his father, King Jigme Singhye Wangchuck, abdicated in his favor.

By that time, the older Wangchuck had also guided the remote Himalayan kingdom toward democracy. In March that same year, the kingdom held its first democratic election and voted in a new parliament that can constitutionally impeach the king.

Bhutan first began opening up to the world in the 1960s. Foreigners and the international media were first admitted in 1974, and the Internet and television finally arrived in 1999.