Preparations enter final phase for Thailand's royal cremation ceremony

Thai official artists paint deity sculptures which will adorn the elaborate complex of the royal crematorium for late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej's funeral ceremony.
Thai official artists paint deity sculptures which will adorn the elaborate complex of the royal crematorium for late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej's funeral ceremony. PHOTO: EPA

BANGKOK  (BERNAMA)  For five days beginning Oct 25 next month, millions of grieving Thais will bid final farewell to their beloved late King Bhumibol Adulyadej in a Royal Cremation Ceremony.

The late King, aged 89, who was affecionately referred to as the "People's King" for his tireless efforts in bringing development to his subjects and ensuring their welfare, died at Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok on Oct 13 last year, after 70 years of reign at the throne. 

Since his passing, the remains of King Bhumibol has been lying-in-state at Dusit Maha Prasat Throne Hall within the majestic white-walled, Grand Palace, where tens of thousands of people continue to pay their respects each day.

His  body will be cremated at the Royal Crematorium located in Sanam Luang, near the Grand Palace on Oct 26.     

As the date for the historic ceremony is fast approaching, officials have been stepping up their final preparations to ensure the elaborate event, which will be steeped in Buddhist practices and royal traditions, proceeds smoothly according to plan.

"We want everything to be perfect and in accordance with the traditions. Although worried, we will do the best,  as this is (Royal Cremation Ceremony) for the late King," said Supawan Nongkut from the Bangkok National Museum to a group of visiting local and foreign journalists recently.

The journalists were given a rare access on various works undertaken at the Bangkok National Museum in preparation for the Royal Cremation Ceremony, an event considered of great importance for Thai history.

At the museum's Royal Chariot Building, workers and volunteers were busy putting finishing touches on the restoration works of the Royal Chariot or "Ratcharot", a vehicle of the king who held divine status in the past.

Two types of Royal Chariots will be used during the Royal Cremation Ceremony,  the Great Victory Royal Chariot or "Phra Maha Phichai Ratcharot" and the Small Royal Chariot or "Ratcharot Noi".

Weighing 13.7 tonnes, 11.2m in height and 18m long,  the Great Victory Royal Chariot was built in 1795 during the reign of King Rama I and will be the most significant royal chariot in the coming Royal Cremation Ceremony.

 

"A total of 222 soldiers will pull the Great Victory Royal Chariot," she said, adding that the group of soldiers had to undergo special tests on their strength and endurance before being chosen to pull the Great Victory Royal Chariots carrying the Royal Urn.

At the grounds of Sanam Luang, construction of the Royal Crematorium where the Royal Urn is placed for the cremation, has nearly completed along with other supplementary buildings and pavilions inside as well outside of the ground.

The Royal Crematorium, with structures measuring 50.49m in height from base to the top was designed by the government's Fine Arts Department and modelled after the imaginary Mount Sumeru, the centre of the universe in Buddhist cosmology.

"Construction of the Royal Crematorium is an elaborate and delicate task and requires a great deal of skills," said one of the department's officials, adding that there are many details that needed to be adhered to in accordance to the ancient royal traditions.

The Royal Crematorium will also be decorated with hundreds of sculptures of celestial beings and mystical animals related to Buddhist practices.

The last Royal Cremation Ceremony took place in April 2012 for Her Royal Highness Princess Bejaratana, the only daughter of King Vajiravudh (Rama VI).