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Thailand officially bid farewell to its beloved King Bhumibol on Sunday. On the final day of an elaborate 5-day funeral ceremony, his ashes and bones were brought to their final resting place. A year of mourning in Thailand now comes to an end and ushers in the era of King Maha Vajiralongkorn. Here’s a closer look at King Bhumibol’s funeral that just concluded in Bangkok.
When King Bhumibol died on October 16th of last year, he was the world’s longest-serving head of state. Having spent 70 years as king, he’s also the longest-serving monarch in Thai history. As the 9th monarch of the Chakri Dynasty, he’s often referred to as Rama IX. He was loved and revered by his people, who have spent the past year wearing black and mourning his passing. It’s said that over 12 million people have visited his coffin in the past year. For such an important figure, only a grand funeral would suffice. Preparations have been ongoing for the last year, with a massive budget of $90 million set aside for the funeral.
Since last October, thousands of top artisans from all over Thailand have been working at creating an epic crematorium for their beloved king. The golden crematorium had three tiers and nine spires in honor of his place in the line of Chakri Kings. It was meant to represent Mount Meru, the center of the universe according to Hinduism and the place where royals return to after death.
To bring his body to the crematorium, there was a huge procession of chariots. A few hundred men were needed to pull the gilded royal chariot containing the king’s body. While the body was transferred to the funeral pyre, monks chanted scriptures in the nearby pavilions. There were also four “heavenly ponds” surrounding it, containing sculptures of auspicious animals and mythical creatures. In another nearby pavilion, King Rama X attended merit-making ceremonies with other members of the royal family.
After the cremation, there was a ceremony to collect the relics and ashes from the crematorium. They were then transferred temporarily to Dusit Maha Prasat Throne Hall and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. After a merit-making ceremony, they were then moved to the Chakri Maha Prasad Throne Hall, which is also located inside the Grand Palace. Here, his son was joined by senior monks for another ceremony. The golden urn of Rama IX then joined those of his ancestors.
As for the ashes of the late king, they were brought to two different temples – Wat Rajabopidh and Wat Bovoranives. The former was built by his grandfather, King Chulalongkorn and also contains the ashes of his father, Prince Mahidol. The latter is where King Bhumibol entered the monkhood back in 1956 following the death of his grandmother.
All across the country, people have been making flowers out of shaved sandalwood and placing them at temples and replica crematoriums. It’s believed that the fragrance of these can help lead the souls of the deceased to heaven. According to the government, over a quarter of the country’s population participated in such ceremonies.
There was a lot more going on in preparation for the funeral than just making flowers. All across Bangkok, jazz music composed by the late king played in public areas. Television stations even altered their color so as not to broadcast images that were too positive and upbeat in the days leading up to the ceremony. People in Thailand have been wearing black for a year to mourn his loss, but bright clothes made a comeback today as the mourning period officially came to an end.
Now that the funeral processions have come to an end, Thailand gears up for the coronation ceremony of King Bhumibol’s successor in December. One thing’s for sure – King Rama X has some big shoes to fill, as his father is known as the “father of all Thais.” While the official mourning period may have finished, it’s clear that the Thai people will miss their beloved king for a long time to come. As for what the future holds for Thailand, we’ll just have to wait and see.