The day the nation stopped
Thais here and abroad watch royal funeral ceremonies with respectful attention.
THE ROYAL CREMATION of the much-revered HM late King Bhumibol Adulyadej (King Rama IX) took place late last night in a solemn ceremony that saw the nation come to a practical standstill.
All eyes in Thailand were on the Royal Crematorium as the late monarch’s only son, HM King Maha Vajiralongkorn, walked up the stairs to light the fire on the Royal Pyre for the actual cremation.
Millions of Thais were glued to their televisions to watch the moment, many with tears running down their faces. Millions of other Thais, meanwhile, gathered around venues where they could pay their last tributes to the “Father of the Land”.
As alternatives to the grand Royal Crematorium at Sanam Luang ceremonial ground in Bangkok, 85 replicas of the grand structure were erected throughout Thailand so people could offer sandalwood flowers to the late King. Hundreds of temples across the country had also prepared for mourners who chose to pay their respects to the late King at their sites.
Everywhere in Thailand, people were dressed in black from head to toe yesterday out of respect for the late King.
Official venues associated with the Royal Cremation Ceremony were overcrowded, with long lines of mourners stretching several kilometres. Rain or shine, they did not waver, underlining their love for the late monarch.
“When I placed a sandalwood flower for him, I really could not hold back my tears,” said Ketmanee Karayram, 40. “Officials at the Royal Crematorium replica also had tears in their eyes.” Ketmanee was among the crowds at the replica at the Memorial Bridge in Bangkok.
Reigning over Thailand from 1946 until his passing on October 13 last year, King Rama IX was devoted to his people with many thinking of him like a father figure.
For Thais across the world, the Royal Cremation Ceremony had significance because they hoped the paternal figure would receive a proper farewell and divine departure.
Influenced by centuries-old beliefs about divine kings, many Thais believe King Rama IX will reside in Heaven following the Royal Cremation. Standing more than 50 metres tall, the Royal Crematorium at the Sanam Luang ceremonial ground represents Mount Sumeru. Thai mythology suggests that Heaven sits atop this mountain.
Ancient Thai beliefs portray a king as a reincarnation of a god. When he departs, concluding his mission on Earth, he is said to return to his heavenly dwelling on Mount Sumeru.
The Royal Cremation Ceremony for King Rama IX started on Wednesday with a royal merit-making ritual inside the Dusit Maha Prasat Throne Hall in the Grand Palace. Yesterday morning, the current monarch HM King Maha Vajiralongkorn arrived at the throne hall to pay respects to his late father and grant permission for the Royal Urn to be transferred out of the hall.
Officials then carefully placed the Royal Urn on the Palanquin with Three Poles. Carried by 60 officials, the palanquin joined the first royal procession that moved from the Thewapirom Gate on Maharat Road to the area in front of Chutuphon Temple.
Marching behind the Royal Urn in the procession were HM King Maha Vajiralongkorn, his younger sister HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, and his daughters HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha and HRH Princess Sirivannavari Nari-ratana.
As the royal procession moved past, black-clad people prostrated themselves to show respect.
The huge crowds were completely silent. Nothing was heard along the way except for the music played in accompaniment with the royal procession.
Sitting on Maharat Road, 59-year-old Duangporn Antiwaranont said, “Upon seeing the Royal Urn, I prayed in my heart that the late King knows that I intend to be his loyal subject in every life.”
Before the second procession started, the Royal Urn was moved from the Palanquin with Three Poles to the Great Victory Chariot. With a force of 2,406 soldiers, the second procession headed towards the Royal Crematorium at Sanam Luang.
For the third procession, the Royal Urn was transferred to the Royal Gun Carriage. The third procession circled around the Royal Crematorium thrice in a counter-clockwise direction. Then the Royal Urn was elevated by a conveyor to the Royal Crematorium.
Gun salutes continued throughout the respectful ceremony.
The current King went up to the Royal Crematorium to pay respects to his late father one more time, before he left the ceremonial grounds to return later in the evening.
The evening ritual began when the King arrived at the Royal Merit-Making Pavilion. Also present were HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, HRH Princess Chulabhorn Valayalaksana, HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha and HRH Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana, Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya, HRH Princess Somsavali, HRH Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti, HRH Princess Siribha Chudhabhorn, HRH Princess Adityadorn Kitigun and several other Royal Family members.
During this ritual, His Holiness the Supreme Patriarch Ariyavongsagatanana delivered a sermon before the King headed to the Royal Crematorium to stage a symbolic Royal Cremation.
Other Royal Family members followed as did dignitaries – including royals – from more than 40 countries across the world reflecting the respect for the last King not only in Thailand but abroad.
After the evening ritual ended, HM King Maha Vajiralongkorn left the area to return later in the night to perform the actual cremation.