Royal Crematorium artists cite King’s example of perseverance and unity

national October 09, 2017 01:00

By KUPLUTHAI PUNGKANON
THE NATION

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THE Bangkok Metropolitan Administration has cleared the area around Sanam Luang for the Royal funeral, allowing the public to clearly see the Royal Crematorium, or Phra Merumas, of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej.



The construction of the Royal Crematorium and supplementary structures covers two-thirds of the 75-rai (12-hectare) Sanam Luang grounds. In previous Royal Cremation ceremonies, such structures occupied only half of the area.

A large number of people, from professional artists to volunteers from across the country, have been involved in the creation of the Phra Merumas, saying they definitely would finish the task on time, but did not want to complete it fast – because the Royal Crematorium would represent a closure regarding their beloved late King. 

However, they agreed that the completed construction represented great perseverance and unity, qualities that the late king stressed to the Thai people on several occasions. 

The reigning monarch, King Rama X, assigned the Fine Arts Department to design and construct the Royal Crematorium, and arranged for merit-making and cremation ceremonies befitting the deceased’s honour and royal precedence.

 HM King Maha Vajiralongkorn appointed Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn as the president of the Royal Funeral Committee. 

Artist and architecture Korkiat Thongphud, from the department, presented his sketches along with those of others and said the Princess had commented that the chosen design looked beautiful and noted that each of the nine-spire-roofed pavilions (known as busaboks) was independent.

Korkiat recalled the night of October 13, 2016 and towards the dawn of the next day, when he came up with the idea of arranging the nine-spire-roofed pavilions in the form of an “X”, inspired by Phra Mahathat Chedi Pakdee Prakas in Prachuap Kiri Khan province. 

The pavilions rise from a base that is formed over three levels. The principal pavilion in the middle will be the centrepiece of the ceremony, with the pyre where the Royal Urn will be cremated behind fire screens.

The nine-tiered Great White Umbrella of State is placed at the top of the principal pavilion. There are stairs in the four directions. The western part of the Royal Crematorium faces the Royal Merit-Making Pavilion, or Phra Thinang Song Tham. 

The structure measures 50.49 metres from the base to the top. It is made of wood, with an inner steel structure. The square base measures 60 square metres.

“A busabok is a small elaborate pavilion throne ornately decorated, with a tiered roof topped by a spire, which can be large enough for the King to be seated inside or crafted in a miniature form to be located of holy sacred power, such as the busabok of the Emerald Buddha,” said Korkiat.

 “The busabok pavilion structure for the Royal Cremation has been in favour since King Rama V. The shape of the principal busabok of His Majesty King Bhumibol is similar to a busabok of Dusit Maha Prasat Throne Hall.” 

The Royal Crematorium is modelled after the mythical mountain, Sumeru, the centre of the universe in Buddhist cosmology.

In ancient Thai kingdoms, the concept of a divine king was firmly established and institutionalised, with influences from Hinduism and deism, while HM the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej (King IX) was also highly revered as a divine king.

To represent the concept, a “heavenly pond” is found in the four directions of the Royal Crematorium base and is decorated with auspicious animals including elephants, horses, cows and lions. Sculptures of mythical creatures believed to have existed in the Himmaphan, or Himavanta, Forest surround the base of Sumeru. 

The first level is surrounded with the ceremonial fence, or Rajawat. The figures of Thao Chatulokkaban, or the four guardians of the world, are found at the four corners. 

The second level consists of the Dismantling Halls, or Ho Plueang, where the Outer Royal Urn and the Sandalwood Royal Urn will be kept, as well as other items used in the Royal Cremation Ceremony. There are also six sculptures of Garuda, a mythical figure that is half bird, half human. 

The third level comprises the Monks’ Pavilion, or Sang, at the four corners of the Royal Crematorium, for monks who will chant scriptures. The magnificent Royal Crematorium is also decorated with eight standing celestial beings and another 32 celestial beings in a kneeling position. 

There are also sculptures of Khun Thongdang and Khun Jo Cho, King Bhumibol’s pet dogs, to be placed in the principal pavilion of the Royal Crematorium. The landscape at the ceremonial site has been arranged to pay tribute to the King’s initiatives.

“The overall creation of the Royal Crematorium, architecture and arts is a masterpiece of works that emerges from the love and faith in the late King who performed enormously for the country and taught all of us to persevere, to be patient and to be self-sufficient,” Korkiat said. “Great things can be accomplished with harmony and courage.”

 

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