Tuesday 20 March 2018

Thailand grieves in elaborate final goodbye to King Bhumibol

The symbolic urn is transported during the funeral procession of late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej in Bangkok (AP)
The symbolic urn is transported during the funeral procession of late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej in Bangkok (AP)
Royal officials walk in front of the Grand Palace during the Royal Funeral in Bangkok, Thailand (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Black-clad Thais have said farewell to their king and long-time father figure on Bangkok's streets and at viewing areas around the nation.

The ceremony capped a year of mourning with funeral ceremonies steeped in centuries of tradition.

Three processions involving the royal family, thousands of troops, a golden palanquin, a gilded chariot and a royal gun carriage transported a ceremonial urn representing King Bhumibol Adulyadej's remains from the Dusit Maha Prasad Throne Hall to a spectacular, newly built crematorium.

The urn, placed under a nine-tiered white umbrella and accompanied by a palace official, was hoisted into the main chamber of the golden-spired crematorium as monks chanted, traditional instruments wailed and artillery fired in the distance.

New King Maha Vajiralongkorn then climbed the red-carpeted steps to light candles and incense in honour of his father.

The ceremony was watched in person by tens of thousands of tearful mourners dressed in black and millions more around the kingdom in broadcasts aired live on most Thai TV stations and shown at designated viewing areas across the country.

The funeral for Bhumibol takes place over five days and began on Wednesday with his son, King Maha Vajiralongkorn, performing Buddhist merit-making rites before chanting monks and officials in immaculate white uniforms.

Bhumibol's cremation is scheduled for late Thursday evening within the special crematorium built over a year and representing mystical Mount Meru, where Buddhist and Hindu gods are believed to dwell.

Thai officials provided a schedule for all funeral events but the country's televisions stations showed live performances of classical masked dances and traditional puppet shows at the time the cremation was scheduled.

Deceased Thai royals have traditionally been kept upright in urns during official mourning, but Bhumibol, who spent much of his early life in the West, opted to be put in a coffin, with the royal urn placed next to it for devotional purposes.

The urn was at the centre of Thursday's processions, including one led by Vajiralongkorn, Bhumibol's only son, in which the golden container was placed upon the Great Victory Chariot.

Built in 1795 and made of gilded and lacquered carved wood, the chariot has been used to carry the urns of royal family members dating to the start of the Chakri dynasty.

As the chariot, pulled by hundreds of men in traditional red uniforms, passed the mourners lining the parade route, they prostrated themselves, pressing their folded hands and head on the ground in a show of reverence.

Bhumibol's death at the age of 88 on October 13 last year, after a reign of seven decades, sparked a national outpouring of grief. Millions of Thais visited the throne hall at Bangkok's Grand Palace to pay respects.


Press Association

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