Wed, December 08, 2021

in-focus

Evolution of a vivid, enduring ritual


The coronation ceremony is highly influenced by Indian precepts, with evidence suggesting the rites began taking their present form in the 13th century, during the Sukhothai Period.

What we will see this weekend, though, is a variant of what became common in the Ayutthaya Period, 1350 to 1767.
“After founding the Chakri Dynasty and making Bangkok the capital in 1782, King Rama I re-examined the coronation records from the late Ayutthaya period, resulting in a revised procedure and the prototype for the rites of accession ever since,” explained Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam.

Evolution of a vivid, enduring ritual

King Bhumibol (Rama IX) on the throne enshrined with the nine-tiered umbrella, grants an audience to the royal family members and state officials on May 5, 1950.

The key rites are the purification bath and anointing with sacred water. Siamese and Thai monarchs have always been revered as divine or at least semi-divine, in accord with Hindu tradition.
Venerable Brahmanist texts stipulate that the water used to bathe and anoint monarchs must come from the Pancha Maha Natee, the collective name for India’s five main rivers – the Ganga (Ganges), Mahi, Yamuna, Aciravati and Sarabhu. 
All of these rivers flow from Mount Kailash, which Hindus regard as the physical embodiment of mythical Mount Sumeru, epicentre of the universe and abode of the god Shiva.

Evolution of a vivid, enduring ritual

King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit grant a public audience from a balcony of the Suddhaisavarya Prasad Throne Hall at the Grand Palace on May 7, 1950.

 

Professor MR Suriyavudh Suksvasti, an art historian and head of a sub-committee in charge of disseminating information about this weekend’s coronation, said the five rivers of Siam recognised as corresponding to India’s in the late Ayutthaya period were collectively called Bencha Suttha Khongkha. 
“During the Ban Phlu Luang Dynasty from 1688-1767 – the last kings of Ayutthaya – it was decreed that water should also be drawn from four sacred ponds in Suphan Buri, because those kings hailed from Suphan Buri,” he said.
The last time Thais witnessed the purification, anointing and investiture of a monarch was during the coronation of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX) on May 5, 1950. 

Evolution of a vivid, enduring ritual

On May 5, 1950, King Bhumibol dressed in white garment, waits within a pavilion in the Grand Palace ready to participate in the purification bathing ceremony.

Dressed all in white, he underwent the purification bath sitting on a wooden bench inside a specially erected pavilion next to the Chakrapat Biman Royal Residence of the Grand Palace. 
The sacred water flowed from a canopied showerhead, while the Supreme Patriarch poured water of benediction over his hands.
“King Rama IV, who was a monk for 27 years before ascending the throne, added Buddhist chanting and consecration of the holy water to the Hindu customs of the purification bath,” Suriyavudh said. “He was also the first monarch to crown himself with the Great Crown of Victory offered him by the chief Brahmin. There was no record of previous kings doing this.”

Evolution of a vivid, enduring ritual

Anointing water is presented to King Bhumibol from the eight cardinal directions of the compass. 

King Bhumibol next changed into regal vestments for the anointing rite in the Baisal Daksin Throne Hall. For this he sat on the octagonal Atha Disa Udumbara Raja Asana Throne, intricately carved of fig wood. 
The anointing water was presented to him from the eight cardinal directions of the compass, representing the breadth of the Kingdom, as he turned in a clockwise manner to receive each one, starting from the east. 

Evolution of a vivid, enduring ritual

The chief Brahmin offers King Bhumibol the Great Crown of Victory.

The chief Brahmin then presented him with the Nophapadol Maha Saweta Chatra – the white, nine-tiered parasol and the most important symbol of the supreme sovereign.
Moving to another throne called Bhadrapitha, King Bhumibol was crowned and invested beneath the nine-tiered umbrella. Here the chief Brahmin gave him the royal golden plaques, seal of state, regalia, the royal utensils and the weapons of sovereignty. 
The monarch then placed the Great Crown of Victory, known as the Phra Maha Phichai Mongkut, on his own head. This is the second-most important item of the royal regalia. 

Evolution of a vivid, enduring ritual

After giving his first royal command, King Bhumibol pours water as an offering to the Goddess of the Earth to ratify his responsibility to rule the kingdom. 

At this moment King Bhumibol uttered perhaps his best-remembered words: “We will reign with righteousness for the benefit and happiness of the Siamese people.”

Keepsakes for the ages

Available for free download is a set of four books - “The Royal Coronation Ceremony” in Thai and English version, and two more in Thai  “Knowledge on the Royal Coronation Ceremony” and  “A Collection of Articles about the Royal Coronation Ceremony”.

All are published by the Culture Ministry and available at www.m-culture.go.th.

 

Published : April 29, 2019

By : The Nation