Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Bhutan's Queen Mother on Elvis, Buddhism
Margherita Stancati (Wall Street Journal, online.wsj.com)
Bhutanese author and conservationist the Queen Mother, Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, keeps a grip on the secluded nation's rich traditions while embracing the future.
Bhutan, the tiny, secluded Himalayan Buddhist country nestled between China and India, has long been known as the "Forbidden Kingdom."
First-time visitors could be forgiven for thinking that Bhutan's roughly 700,000 people, including its royals, were living in a time warp. After all, the Internet arrived here before television -- and that was in the late 1990s.
Men typically wear medieval-looking robes, known as gho, and women don a kira, the female equivalent. In their free time, the country's elite regularly gather for archery tournaments, Bhutan's national and widely practiced sport.
So outsiders would be justified to expect the members of its much-revered royal family to be as inaccessible as the country may appear. Meet Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, and you'll soon realize you couldn't be further from the truth.
True, Queen Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck is a real conservationist when it comes to her country's Himalayan culture and Buddhist heritage. But she is also well-traveled, a literary enthusiast and loves Elvis Presley.
Queen Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck is one of four sisters who married Jigme Singye Wangchuck, Bhutan's former king, who abdicated in favor of his eldest son a few years ago.
Today, the queen mother, a youthful 55-year old, embodies her country's efforts to reap the benefits of modernity while protecting its traditions.
Queen Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, who was schooled in India's region of Darjeeling, is the patron of Thimphu's Mountain Echoes literary festival that brings together Indian and Bhutanese writers.
An accomplished author herself, in Treasures of the Thunder Dragon: A Portrait of Bhutan she retraces the country's recent history... More