BANGKOK: After a year-long mourning period, the moment has come for grieving Thais to bid their final farewell to their beloved late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, in one of the most elaborate royal funeral ceremonies in Thai history.
The late King Bhumibol, affectionately called the “People’s King”, passed away at age 89 on Oct 13, last year after seven decades of reign at the throne, plunging the nation into sadness and grief.
Following months of planning and an approximately three billion Baht (about US$90.31 million) budget, the royal cremation ceremony will finally begin this evening with Buddhist rites in preparation for the moving of the royal urn from the Grand Palace to the Sanam Luang ceremonial grounds tomorrow morning.
The actual cremation will take place tomorrow night at the Royal Crematorium or Phra Meru Mas in Sanam Luang which was constructed based on ‘Mount Meru’, the mythic centre of the universe in traditional Buddhist, Hindu and Jainist religious cosmology.
The historic royal cremation ceremony will last for five days until Sunday, but tomorrow’s event will undoubtedly be the most important, involving the procession of a special carriage carrying the royal urn from the Grand Palace to the Sanam Luang ceremonial grounds.
The day (Thursday) will end with the actual cremation of the late king, signalling his ascension to heaven, according to Buddhist belief.
Security will be tight as more than 40 foreign leaders and members of royal families have confirmed their attendance at the royal cremation ceremony, with Malaysia to be represented by the Sultan of Perak (Ruler of Perak), Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah and Raja Permaisuri of Perak, Tuanku Zara Salim.
More than a quarter million Thais are expected to pack roads near the Grand Palace and Sanam Luang ceremonial grounds to witness the ceremony on Thursday, which has been declared a public holiday in Thailand.
For Thais, the royal cremation ceremony beginning today will enable them to finally say goodbye to their revered monarch, who presided over Thailand’s transformation into a modern Southeast Asian nation.
Despite a year has passed since his death, many Thais still mourn the late King Bhumibol’s demise and has held tightly to his teachings as it helps in keeping alive their memory of him.
“Since King Bhumibol’s passing, I have tried to do the good deeds dedicated to him, such as ceasing drinking alcohol during a 100-day period following his demise,” Ananya Moonpen, a 35-year-old private sector employee in Bangkok, told Bernama today.
Ananya who did not mind standing in a long line under the scorching sun or torrential rain to pay her last respects to the late king, was hopeful that King Bhumibol’s philosophies and initiatives would be remembered and practised by his people.
“His teachings should live forever in people’s minds,” she said.
Freelance writer, Apiradee Treerutkuarkul, 37, said, the late king’s sufficiency economy philosophy which encouraged Thais to live sustainably would still be the guiding light for the people, even long after his death.
“Although the king may have passed to another realm, his timeless royal advice on sufficiency economy will be the guiding principle to help all Thais like me navigate towards a safe destination. This is the most important royal legacy for us all,” she said.