Grand farewell fit for the Late King of Thailand
On October 26th, Bangkok played host to a fitting ceremony which gave a final farewell to the Late King of Thailand, King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
Brahmin priests, drummers and soldiers in ceremonial uniforms led a solemn but color-splashed procession through Bangkok’s historic heart today as Thailand bade farewell to King Bhumibol Adulyadej, whose death left the nation without its chief unifying figure.
Some 300,000 black-clad mourners packed the streets, some weeping and prostrating themselves on the ground as a golden chariot carrying the royal urn snaked through the city in blazing heat.
The golden spires of a spectacular $90 million cremation site, purpose built for the funeral, were bathed in sunshine as Bhumibol’s son, King Maha Vajiralongkorn, joined Buddhist monks for the day of processions, pageantry and ritual.
Brahmin priests untied their ponytails in an outpouring of grief before the royal urn was moved to a gun carriage to circle the funeral pyre three times ahead of the evening cremation.
Vajiralongkorn will light the golden pyre at 10:00pm this evening as his father, Rama IX of the Chakri dynasty, is laid to rest.
The ceremony will be attended by a “Who’s Who” of Thai power — royals, generals and establishment figures — as well as scores of foreign dignitaries.
The lavish event gives the public a chance to say a final goodbye to a monarch known as “father of the nation” who was crowned in 1950 and towered over decades of Thai history, before his death last October at age 88.
Bhumibol’s intimate connection with his subjects was on ready display Thursday.
“He was perfect. He helped the country and Thai people so much. Seventy million Thai people are united in their love for him,” said 65-year-old Wacharadej Tangboonlabkun, who like most Thais knew no other monarch before Bhumibol’s death.
Ahead of the processions, palace aides shuffled on their knees in the presence of the new king, as monks in orange robes chanted Buddhist prayers.
The new king, who wore full military regalia as he joined the procession, will be crowned after his father is laid to rest.
Aged just 18 when he ascended the throne, the US-born Bhumibol became the fulcrum of the monarchy.
The crown flourished with heavy US backing as Washington sought a bulwark against the spread of Communism across Southeast Asia.
Thais have donned black for much of the last year in a remarkable outpouring of grief, which officially ends on October 30.
They are expected to return to colourful clothes at the conclusion of the mourning period, which celebrates the king’s ascent to Mount Meru, the centre of the universe in Buddhist, Hindu and Jain cosmology.