By The Nation
His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn sat atop the Royal Palanquin on Sunday afternoon for an elaborate post-coronation procession, observing a tradition dating back several centuries.
In the Liab Phra Nakhon procession a day after his coronation, the new monarch was carried to three historically significant temples along a seven-kilometre route in the old city.
At each temple, the King paid respects to the principal Buddha statues and the cremated remains of previous kings and queens, while at the same time giving the public a chance to greet him.
A procession like this – usually by land but sometimes along waterways – was first recorded in the 13th century, during the Sukhothai Era. Most monarchs of the current Chakri Dynasty have observed the tradition following their coronations.
King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s Royal Land Procession began at 5pm yesterday at the Grand Palace with Brahmin priests blowing conch shells to signal the moment.
Sitting atop the Phra Ratchayan Phuttan Thong – the Golden Cotton-rose Royal Palanquin – His Majesty wore a brimmed hat and golden traditional garments with a long history of their own and held a sword on his lap.
Her Majesty Queen Suthida and Her Royal Highness Princess Bajra Kitiyabha walked alongside, to the left and right of the palanquin, respectively.
Carrying the ornate palanquin were 16 men, with others ready to replace them in shifts them during the long, hot march.
The procession left the Abhorn Bimok Pavilion of the Grand Palace and passed through the Vises Jayasri Gate onto Na Phra Lan Road.
It continued along Rajdamnoen Nai Road, Rajdamnoen Klang Road and Tanao Road to Wat Bovoranives, where the King dismounted to pay homage to the temple’s main Buddha statue.
Thousands of citizens from around the country were massed on the pavements waving the national flag and yellow flags bearing the King’s emblem.
They shouted, “Long live the King” as the procession passed by. Most people wore yellow – the colour of His Majesty’s birthday, a Monday.
Many in the crowd began gathering in the old precincts of Bangkok early in the morning, keen to have good views of the King as he was carried by.
The procession featured 1,286 participants in all, mostly dressed in traditional attire. These included court officials wearing all red or all green and royal guards in red and black suits or in white and blue garb. Leading the procession was a marching band performing songs composed by the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
Members of the Royal Family – including HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn and Her Royal Highness Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana – stood and bowed in respect to the King as his procession passed their roadside pavilion.
Also taking part in the procession were Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha and several other Cabinet members.
After its first stop at Wat Bovoranives, the procession followed Phra Sumen Road and returned to Rajdamnoen Road through the Rattanakosin Exhibition Hall. It continued along Atsadang Road and Bamrung Mueang Road before arriving at Wat Rajabopidh near the Giant Swing, where His Majesty again paid homage.
The next leg followed Fueang Nakhon Road and Charoen Krung Road to Wat Phra Chetuphon (Wat Pho), where again the central Buddha image was honoured.
The procession followed Thai Wang Road to return the King to the Grand Palace, re-entering through the Vises Jayasri Gate.
The entire procession was estimated to last about six hours.
After dark, the procession passed along buildings decorated with lights and crowds of flag-waving people clad in yellow.
Wat Bovoranives Vihara, the name sometimes shortened to Wat Bovoranives or even Wat Bovorn, is where the ashes of Kings Rama VI and Rama IX are enshrined. King Rama X spent his monkhood in 1978 at this temple.
Wat Rajabopidh Sathitmahasimaram, also known as Wat Rajabopidh, was built in 1869 to enshrine the relics and ashes of other members of the House of Chakri, including those of King Prajadhipok (Rama VII) and his Queen Rambhai Barni.
Wat Phra Chetuphon, built in the late 17th century and popularly called Wat Pho, underwent a major renovation during the reign of King Rama I. It was subsequently formally designated as the temple that commemorates the First Reign.