Thimphu (Bhutan) (AFP) – Thousands of Bhutanese dressed in traditional clothes and carrying their children flocked to monasteries on the weekend to commemorate the death of Ngawang Namgyal, credited with unifying the remote Himalayan nation.
Bhutan holds a national holiday every year to honour the Tibetan Buddhist lama, who is said to have brought together the region’s various warring fiefdoms for the first time before his death in 1651.
At the small Simtokha Dzong monastery near the capital Thimphu, young, maroon-robed monks unfurled a giant, colourful tapestry depicting Namgyal on Saturday.
Inside in the monastery, which Namgyal built in 1629, about 60 monks seated on cushions chanted during a prayer ceremony that included bells, flutes, drums, traditional trumpets and horns.
Mothers with children strapped to their backs and the elderly gathered from early morning to pay their respects and receive blessings from the monks.
Most of the women wore traditional and brightly coloured Kira or ankle-length dresses and the men Gho, a knee-length robe, along with scarves.
Many donated money or brought food offerings in this deeply religious country.
Britain’s Prince William and his wife Kate met with Bhutan’s king and queen during a two-day visit to the kingdom that ended on Friday.
Bhutan, famously the last country to get television, is home to just 750,000 people.
It held its first elections in 2008 and is known for pursuing a unique economic development model of “Gross National Happiness”, which aims to balance spiritual and material wealth.