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Thailand’s royal cremation: rites, rituals, religion

Bangkok came to a virtual standstill on October 26 as an elaborate funeral procession got under way in the morning, marking the final journey of the late monarch, HM King Bhumibol Aduyadej



Bangkok came to a virtual standstill on October 26 as an elaborate funeral procession got under way in the morning, marking the final journey of the late monarch, HM King Bhumibol Aduyadej.

The impressive cremation site, built over a nine-month period at Sanam Luang, was a celebration of Thailand’s decorative arts. Nimble-fingered artisans, guided by designers at the Fine Arts Department, had conjured up mythic scenes of heaven.

This mix of Buddhist and Hindu elements exemplified a defining feature of the Thai monarchy, one of the last remaining in Asia that continues to exude an Oriental touch.

Beyond the solemnity of the occasion, the spectacular funeral rites provided a window into ancient court crafts and rituals revitalized during the last reign. Those who witnessed this end of an epoch got a rare chance to view the towering, gilded Great Victory Royal Chariot, carrying the symbolic Golden Urn, as it slowly progressed in a carefully choreographed procession.

The Phra Maha Phichai Ratcharot, as the chariot is called in Thai, was built in 1795 during the first reign in the Chakri dynasty, and is housed nearby at the National Museum.

To provide insights and explain the intricate details that go into planning and carrying out a royal funeral, the FCCT has the pleasure of hosting two experts on royal rituals and customs:

MR Chakrarot Chitrabongs, a grandson of Prince Naris, described as “the Great Craftsman of Siam.” MR Chakrarot is a former permanent secretary of the ministry of culture, and has written extensively on Thai culture. An architect by training, he was involved in the design and decoration for the royal cremation ceremonies of Princess Mother in 1996, and Princess Galayani Vadhana in 2008. 

Professor Tongthong Chandransu is a former dean of Chulalongkorn University’s law school who has had an abiding interest in the Thai monarch. For his master’s thesis, he focused on the royal prerogative of the Thai monarch. He has published extensively and is well-known as an expert on royal ceremonies.

7pm, Wednesday, 1 November
Members free; non-members 450 baht; Thai journalists and students with valid ID 150 baht. Buffet 250 baht

Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand
Penthouse, Maneeya Center Building
518/5 Ploenchit Road (connected to the BTS Skytrain Chitlom station)
Patumwan, Bangkok 10330
Tel.: 02-652-0580
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