Mourners at Sanam Luang mark symbolic significance of seventh day
Tradition dominates grieving process.
YESTERDAY was the seventh day since His Majesty’s passing, yet the number of black-clad mourners heading to Sanam Luang to say goodbye was still in the tens of thousands. However, yesterday they were coming for a specific purpose.
After closely observing and speaking to dozens of mourners over the past seven days, since the moment of the nation’s tragic loss, I noticed that the mourners were bustling around more than solely grieving in silence.
Compared to other days, yesterday at Sanam Luang saw a bigger crowd as more people arrived to pay their respects and make merit for the late King.
According to traditional Thai belief, the souls of the dead are confused about whether they are alive or dead during the first seven days. These souls are believed to keep returning to where they used to live. As part of the mourning period, the relatives and others make merit in tribute to the late person on third, seventh and 100th day after passing. Many people still adhere to this tradition today.
“This is the seventh day since the King died. Thais have long believed that over the first seven days, the dead person’s soul and spirit keeps revisiting the world,” Sangiam Noimak, 58, said.
Sangiam, from Samut Prakan province, had taken yesterday off work to join others in making merit in memory of His Majesty.
“I came here today. I believe that the King will see me if I keep coming here for the first seven days. Though I’m nobody, my Father [the beloved monarch] will know that I’m here for him,” she said.
Mourner Nirut Watcharapichat, from Nakhon Ratchasima province, said he had come yesterday to mark the seventh day since His Majesty’s demise, adding that he also intended to join the prayer rituals.
“In the morning, I donated Bt2,000 in tribute to the King. My friends and I also planned to hand out a chocolate drink to mourners lining up in front of the Grand Palace from 4am to 6am,” Nirut, 69, said.
The previous seven days have been slightly different.
On Thursday, the day of His Majesty’s passing, a couple of thousand people, dressed in pink or yellow, had gathered outside Siriraj Hospital to pray for the ailing King’s recovery.
At around 7pm, the Royal Household Bureau officially announced His Majesty’s death, which was met by screams of grief and loud prayers for a miracle. The crowd camped out at the hospital that night to stay close to the passing King.
On Friday, hundreds of thousands of black-clad mourners queued up all day at Sanam Luang and along the route of the procession transferring His Majesty’s body from the hospital to the Grand Palace. Tears rolled down many people’s cheeks as the procession quietly passed by. Earlier on Friday, people were allowed to perform bathing rites in front of a portrait of the King.
On Saturday, thousands of black-clad mourners flocked to Grand Palace’s Sala Sahathai Samakhone Pavilion to sign the condolence book in remembrance of the King. The authorities have set up a centre to facilitate the people and are providing free food and drinks. Good Samaritans were also at hand to help out.
On Sunday, the King and the Queen of Bhutan arrived to pay respects to the late King at the Grand Palace.
Hundreds of thousands people formed a one kilometre-long queue and endured five hours of heavy rain just to catch sight of the royal couple and to sign the condolence booth.
Many service booths were set up including free mobile-charging stations and free Wi-Fi booths.
Apart from mourning people, good Samaritans and officials constantly making their way in and out of Sanam Luang on Sunday, Silpakorn University students came up with a stunning mural illustrating His Majesty’s activities.
Over the seven days, Bangkokians have had both rain and scorching sun. Many, especially the aged and very young, fell sick, though hundreds of |volunteer doctors and nurses were |also on standby to treat and assist people.
Volunteer nurses, staff members from rescue foundations and soldiers walked down the long line of mourners to hand out ammonia-soaked cotton to prevent fainting. Despite their grief, people did get excited when they caught sight of celebrities and famous stars who had come to pay respect.
It appears each day of mourning |is different, as there is always |something unique and unforgettable happening.