By THE NATION
The ceremony took place at Phra Tamnak Suan Kularb School in Nakhon Pathom province, and was held to appease the natural spirit of all fresh items, instruments as well as artisans and master carvers.
Before she left the ceremony, the Princess asked artists and carvers if there was a lot of work to complete ahead of the Royal Cremation next Thursday, according to Boonchai Thongcharoenbuagnarm, an artist who attended the ceremony.
The Royal Household ordered 108 Tanee banana trees (Musa balbisiana Colla) from Angthong, Chantaburi, Nonthaburi and Phetchaburi provinces a few days ago for carvers from across the Kingdom to make the decoration of the pyre.
The Tanee banana tree is good for carving as it contains enough water to enable it to stay fresh for days. Traditionally, Thais believe there is a spirit inside the plant.
While flowers, fruit and vegetables were also used for the decoration, the leaf sheaf of a banana tree is unusual as it needs skilled carvers to make the art pieces.
It is not easy to use leaves and the stalks of banana trees to be carved for decoration on the pyre. The Princess has preserved the wisdom and knowledge of carving from master Wichian Premchan for decades.
Dating back to 1996, master Wichian is the last person who carved banana stalks for the Royal Cremation of HRH Princess Sri Nagarindra, the Princess Mother of King Rama IX.
HRH Princess Sirindhorn ordered master Wichian, who was then 70 years old, to impart his knowledge and skill to only four students in the royal craftsman school.
Carver Suan Nudlah, 54 said it is an honour to have a chance to carve banana stalks for the cremation of the revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Suan has experience in this work as he also carved for the cremation of late HRH Princess Galyani Vadhana, the late sister of King Rama IX and HRH Princess Petcharat Rajsuda, the daughter of King Rama VI.
A resident of southern Songkhla province, Suan said he learned banana stalk carving from local wisdom but would not use such a technique this time. “As the art pieces would be dedicated to the King, I will use the technique determined by the Royal Household,” he said. “The pattern we are using this time is also designed specially by royal designers for King Rama IX.”
Another carver, Wiriya Susuth, 47, from Phetchaburi province said he learned the banana stalk carving technique from his father since he was young and has experience in serving at three royal cremations – for HRH the Princess Sri Nagarindra the Princess Mother, Princess Galyani Vadhana and HRH Princess Petcharat Rajsuda.
“I would do my best to perform the job for our beloved King,” he said.