King Bhumibol′s funeral ceremony marks end of year-long mourning in Thailand | News | DW | 26.10.2017
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King Bhumibol's funeral ceremony marks end of year-long mourning in Thailand

An elaborate and expensive cremation was held for King Bhumibol, who died at the age of 88 in October 2016. A quarter of a million people are believed to have witnessed the funeral ceremonies.

A year of official mourning for Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej came to end on Sunday following an elaborate five-day cremation ceremony.

Bhumibol's son and heir 65-year-old King Maha Vajiralongkorn and his younger sister, Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, carried their late father's ashes from the Grand Palace to two major temples in Bangkok where they will be stored, in accordance with Thai royal traditions.

Tens of thousands of black-clad mourners paid their last respects to King Bhumibol as the convoy led by a ceremonial cavalry unit with soldiers went past.

Mourners gathered at dawn in Bangkok for the royal cremation

Mourners gathered at dawn in Bangkok for the royal cremation

Lavish cremation

On Thursday, day two of the funeral, the ceremonial urn carrying the remains of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 88, was transported from the throne hall to an ornate crematorium.

The somber procession included thousands of troops, a gold palanquin (a boxlike structure in which a person is carried on the shoulders of servants using poles), a gilded chariot and a royal gun carriage.

Shortly before midnight Thursday, smoke began to rise from the crematorium, indicating that the late king's cremation had taken place. 

The royal carriage will transport the late king's remains through Bangkok

The royal carriage was used to transport the late king's remains through Bangkok

End of an era

Earlier, organizers unveiled a 164 foot (49 meter) high funeral pyre and pavilion, which took 10 months to build and has been decorated with nine spires, a large white umbrella and statues of the late king's favorite pet dogs. There were six processions before the king's coffin was brought to the crematorium, which was built at Sanam Luang, alongside the royal palace. 

On Thursday evening, King Bhumibol's subjects expressed their devotion in central Bangkok as they witnessed what they believed to be the divine monarch's return to the mythical Mount Meru, the spiritual heart of the Buddhist kingdom. More than 10 million sandalwood flowers were folded for the ceremony, as the scent is believed to guide souls to the afterworld.

King Bhumibol was the ninth monarch of the Chakri dynasty established in what was Siam in 1782. Thai monarchs enjoy semi-divine status.

In more than seven decades on the throne, King Bhumibol oversaw Thailand's change to a modern, globalized economy with the monarchy as its central institution. Some 16 royal families and 26 "distinguished representatives" are due to attend the central ceremony in Sanam Luang, including the UK's Prince Andrew, Spain's Queen Sofia and former German president Christian Wulff.

The funeral processions and ceremonies were broadcast on every Thai television channel, many of which adjusted their color schemes to a funereal black and white.

On Friday, the king's ashes were transported to the Grand Palace.

New king to inherit

King Bhumibol's 65-year-old son, King Maha Vajiralongkorn, who lighted the funeral pyre, is expected to be officially coronated after the elaborate $90 million (€77 million) cremation. The last royal funeral was in 1950 for the late king's elder brother.

Criticism of royalty is a serious offense in Thailand and since the country returned to military rule three years ago, the army has presented itself as the foremost guardian of the Thai monarchy. The military government has encouraged people to buy marigolds to express their loyalty to the late monarch who was born on a Monday, a day associated with the color yellow in Thai astrology and tradition.

ap, bik, jm/rc (dpa, Reuters)

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