Crowds flock to final rehearsal
LAST PRACTICE OF PROCESSIONS ENSURES ALL IS IN READINESS FOR THIS WEEK’S ROYAL CREMATION OF KING RAMA IX
TENS of thousands of mourners in funeral attire queued in extremely long lines before the first light of dawn yesterday to witness the historic final dress rehearsal of the grand procession to bid farewell to His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn presided over the spectacular processions. She joined the first, second and third processions for the transfer of the Royal Urn from Dusit Maha Prasat Throne Hall to the Royal Crematorium at Sanam Luang ceremonial ground on Saturday.
The three processions cover about 2.5 kilometres and took around three hours, with the participants walking slowly, step by step. This is the second time Princess Sirindhorn has participated in the rehearsals. After the first rehearsal last Sunday, she suggested adjustments to the music to be played during the processions. Yesterday, the sound was improved.
Her Royal Highness Princess Soamsawali joined the third procession while royal descendants including ML Pridiyathorn Devakula took part in the second procession.
In traditional Thai belief, the grand processions represent a state funeral that symbolises the journey of the divine King. The royal chariots are beautifully decorated as if they are walking in the clouds to heaven.
The ceremony has been arranged into six processions with the involvement of 5,613 people clad in colourful traditional uniforms. The grand procession of honour, called Rew Khabuan or Procession in Formation, will take place over three days on October 26, 27, and 29.
The dress rehearsal was also attended by Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha and his cabinet members, including General Thanasak Patimaprakorn, Ormsin Chivapruck, Wissanu Krea-ngam and others.
The first sound of a cannon at 7.23am signalled the beginning of the final rehearsal, even though a huge crowd was still waiting outside of the ceremonial area. It was reported that some people had camped out since Friday night, even though the official gates only opened at 5am. Delays were blamed partially on the presence of only a relatively small number of security machines despite the large crowd.
Some members of the public were a little disappointed at not seeing the palace bearers in their traditional costumes during the final rehearsal. The organising committee decided to hold back their use due to yesterday’s rain forecast.
Nonetheless, nothing could stop the crowd expressing their love for the monarch. After the first procession began, those who were waiting for the next phase were listening to the late King’s music compositions, “Ratcha Wallop (Royal Guards March)”, “Love at Sundown” and “Nearly Dawn”. The crowd was already in tears.
Chanpen Nimnual, 54, from Pattaya, said she intended to bid farewell to the late King at every opportunity until the last day of the funeral ceremonies. She said she often went to pray for His Majesty when he was in Siriraj Hospital. She had already been to the previous two rehearsals and would come again on October 26.
“For the past 20 years on every New Year, I would pray for His Majesty and write my well wishes for him,” she says.
In the majestic funeral rites, the first procession will see the Royal Urn on the Palaquin with Three Poles, built in the reign of King Rama II and weighing 700 kilograms, shifted by 60 strong men. The Royal Urn will be preceded by the Supreme Patriarch, who did not attend the rehearsal yesterday.
The Supreme Patriach will read the Holy Doctrine or Abhidhamma. He will sit on the Lotus Petal Palanquin or “Phra Saliang Klip Bua” leading the procession of honour when the Royal Urn is transferred from Dusit Maha Prasad Throne Hall in the Grand Palace through the West gate to the Great Victory Chariot in front of Wat Phra Chetuphon.
At the Great Victory Chariot, Monchai Nilnalumon, the late King’s driver, will wait for the arrival of the Royal Urn on the Palaquin with Three Poles. In his last duty for His Majesty King Bhumibol, he will hold a pan made of peacocks’ tails in front of the great chariot.
Supporting the Royal Urn, both on Palaquin with Three Poles and the Great Victory Chariot, will be two well-respected doctors – Dr Prasit Watanapa, dean of Faculty of Medicine at Siriraj Hospital, and Dr Pradit Panchavinnin, director of Siriraj Piyamahakarun Hospital. Dr Prasit said in his last interview that their hands would represent the hands of all 68 million Thais in supporting the Royal Urn. “Please know that we represent you. Our hands are like your hands,” he noted.
As is the custom of a state funeral, in the third procession the Royal Urn will be transferred to the Royal Gun-Carriage or “Rajarot Puen Yai”, which is used in the Royal Cremation of a King who held a military position as the supreme commander. The Royal Gun Carriage last appeared 67 years ago during the royal cremation of King Ananda Mahidol (King Rama VIII) in 1950. It is a significant royal chariot to be used to carry the Royal Urn on three-counter clockwise circuits round the Royal Crematorium.
Ultimately, as in the final rehearsal yesterday, the fourth procession will start at 8am. It will see the transfer of the Royal Relics and Royal Ashes from the Royal Crematorium to the Grand Palace and the Temple of Emerald Buddha. The fifth and sixth processions will be at 5pm. Her Royal Highness Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana will attend the rehearsal on horse, transferring the Royal Ashes from the Temple of the Emerald Buddha to Wat Rajabopidh and Wat Bovoranives. The public will be allowed to view the ceremony en route.