HUNDREDS of thousand of people are expected to attend the royally sponsored cremation of the much-revered monk Luang Phor Koon Parisuttho in Khon Kaen on Tuesday, said Charnchai Panthongviriyakul, dean of medicine at Khon Kaen University.
Tens of thousands paid their respects on Monday at a temporary crematorium at Buddhamonton Isan on the grounds of Wat Nong Waeng.
The crowding caused severe traffic congestion, resulting in a 17-kilometre drive from the university’s Golden Jubilee Convention Hall to the temple taking two hours.
The late monk’s body has been among the remains of 647 Khru Yai (people who donated their bodies for research) being honoured with Abhidhamma prayers at the Convention Hall since last Monday.
Royally sponsored cremations are arranged for 144 of the Khru Yai, including Luang Phor Koon, on January 29. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is expected to attend and present a Maha Bangsukul robe.
Dr Charnchai said teachers and students hosted a merit-making ceremony on Monday morning at which 150 monks were given breakfast and alms, while relatives of the 647 Khru Yai ritually presented robes to 10 monks.
Then at another ceremony, Phra Kru Sathitwaraporn presented the late monk’s walking stick, with which he famously tapped on people’s heads as a unique form of blessing.
The cane will be kept at the Luang Phor Koon memorial site, a Bua Liam chedi to be built atop the location of his cremation.
In the afternoon, Charnchai said, elaborately carved banana stalks and fresh flowers were placed in the temporary crematorium, which is a papier-mache structure shaped like a Husadilingu – the mythical half-bird, half-elephant of the legendary Himmavanta Forest.
Next, 450 staff members and students of the university’s medical school who were involved in study of and research on the late monk’s body, rehearsed a ritual in which they will “apologise” to him.
A “Husadilingu-slaying” ritual and dances that will precede the |cremation were also rehearsed.
on Monday evening was to include a rehearsal of carrying the late monk’s coffin to the temporary crematorium, using a box of the same dimensions and weight.
The temporary crematorium, which has been described as a “one-of-a-kind masterpiece”, is 22.6 metres tall and 16 metres wide, including a platform |decorated with 32 statues of mythical animals.
It is painted white to signify Luang Phor Koon’s simplicity, humility, purity and graciousness.
The cremation site has three zones. In the innermost, the Husadilingu-shaped crematorium occupies an octagonal platform ringed with the animal statues.
Mourners have been circumambulating around the crematorium and laying funeral flowers in the next zone. The outer area has tents and access for reporters and photographers.
Luang Phor Koon, abbot of Wat Bai Rai in Nakhon Ratchasima’s Dan Khun Thot district, was one of the country’s most revered monks. He died at age 92 on May 16, 2015, and, in accordance with his written will, his body was donated for medical research to Khon Kaen University.
He also requested that his body be cremated and the ashes scattered on the Mekong River at Nong Khai to avoid his mortal remains becoming a “burden to others”, to ensure no one took advantage of them, and to |prevent conflict among his disciples.