THE CREMATORIUM for the late, much-revered northeastern monk Luang Phor Koon Parisuttho will be a one-of-a-kind masterpiece, says the man who designed it.
Niyom Wongpongkham, dean of fine and applied arts at Khon Kaen University (KKU), said many artists were collaborating on the crematorium, aiming to showcase Thai-Lao art, traditions and culture.
The royally sponsored cremation ceremony for the late abbot of Wat Ban Rai in Nakhon Ratchasima’s Dan Khun Thot district will be held on January 29 at Buddhamonton Isan, a religious venue within Wat Nong Waeng in Muang Khon Kaen. Upwards of 1 million people are expected to attend, Niyom said.
The crematorium, 22.6 metres tall and 16 wide including a platform adorned with statues of mythical animals, is intended to reflect Luang Phor Koon’s simplicity, humility, purity and graciousness, said Niyom.
The late monk’s coffin will be placed inside a casing of white papier-mache shaped like a Husadilingu, the legendary half-bird, half-elephant of the Himmavanta Forest of Buddhist lore. In Lanna Buddhist mythology, a Husadilingu is summoned to transport the souls of high-ranking monks of great virtue to Heaven.
A gold-painted 1.5-by-2.8-by-1.6-metre cremation chamber will occupy the centre of the structure, beneath the same Husadilingu, which has four tusks rather than two, as is the custom at Wat Ban Rai for depicting elephants staute withe four tusks.
The Naga statue on the crematorium will also depart from its usual fierce appearance as the guardian of entranceways. Instead, it will show its teeth in a smile, in reference to the late monk’s celebrated kindness, Niyom said.
The Husadilingu will be moved on January 8 from the Bung Sithan area in front of KKU where it’s being crafted to Wat Nong Waeng.
Thirty-two sculptures of other mythical animals associated with sacred Mount Sumeru and the Anodat Pond started being moved to the temple yesterday, a task expected to take two days to complete.
The crematorium structure will be finished at Buddhamonton Isan by January 15, Niyom said.
After the rites, the ashes of Luang Phor Koon will be scattered on the Mekong River in Nong Khai, as he requested in his will.
Niyom said at least a million wooden funeral flowers in the shape of roses and canna blossoms would be used in the cremation, one of several that KKU is sponsoring for its donors at various temples from January 22-30.
Luang Phor Koon was among the country’s most revered monks and had a vast national following. He died at age 92 on May 16, 2015.
In his will signed in June 2000, he donated his body for medical research at KKU, but specified that what remained should be cremated to avoid leaving a “burden to others” and to ensure no one takes advantage of his mortal remains or them causing conflict among his disciples.