Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Thousands pay last respects to beloved royal

Their Majesties the King and Queen yesterday joined thousands of mourners from all over the country and a worldwide television audience in bidding farewell to Her Royal Highness Princess Bejaratana Rajasuda.
His Majesty the King sets ablaze a sandalwood flower before laying it under the royal urn housing the remains of Her Royal Highness Princess Bejaratana Rajasuda. PALACE PHOTO
The late princess, who passed away at the age of 85 on July 27, 2011, was cremated at Sanam Luang after a day of ceremony including three processions joined by HRH Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn and HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.
The day began at 7am with the first procession, which carried the royal urn from Dusit Maha Prasat Throne Hall to the front of Wat Phra Chetupon, or Wat Pho, atop the royal golden palanquin. There, the urn was transferred to the royal chariot.
In the second procession, the chariot carried the urn to Sanam Luang along Sanam Chai Road.
Finally, the urn was returned to the golden palanquin at Sanam Luang for the third and final procession _ three 260m laps of the phra meru, or royal funeral pyre.
At the moment the urn was installed in the pyre, heavy rainfall descended on the streets which had stayed dry throughout the processions.
The symbolic royal cremation took place later at 4.30pm following the arrival of Their Majesties the King and Queen. It was attended by members of the royal family, the diplomatic corps, courtiers and high-ranking members of the government and the armed forces.
Fifty senior monks conducted prayers in the Song Dhamma Pavilion, west of the phra meru.
Their Majesties the King and Queen then ascended the phra meru to preside over the symbolic royal cremation against the sound of a 21-gun salute.
They placed sandalwood flowers under the royal urn, which was installed on a stand decorated with flowers and intricately carved kluay tanee banana tree stalks by master craftsmen from Phetchaburi province.
The royal cremation proper took place at 10pm, again presided over by Their Majesties the King and Queen.
Following the tradition of old, a Ramayana masked dance performance took place during the cremation, telling the story of Nang Loy, which was penned by King Vajiravudh. More than 50 dancers from the Fine Arts Department took part in the performance, which lasted almost two hours.
Dance and music performances stretched through the night at three public stages around Sanam Luang.
The grand spectacle of the cremation ceremony was eight months in the making under the responsibility of the Fine Arts Department and Religious Affairs Department with a budget of 218.1 million baht.
The farewell to Princess Bejaratana followed in the proud tradition of past royal funerals.
The magnificent royal chariot which carried the urn from Wat Pho to Sanam Luang was built in 1795 during the reign of King Rama I. It has transported the royal urns of five Chakri kings (from King Rama I to King Rama V) as well as high-ranking members of the royal family, most recently HRH The Princess Mother in 1996 and HRH Princess Galyani Vadhana in 2009.
The beautifully crafted phra meru, which stands 35.59m tall, took three months to build and symbolises Phra Sumeru mountain, the abode of the gods in Hindu belief. Its completion was marked last Friday by the raising of the royal seven-tiered umbrella of rank.
The pyre, designed by national artist Air Marshal Arvuth Ngernchuklin, is surrounded by images of deities, while the surrounding gardens represent the Himmavanta forest, filled with mythical creatures.
Crimson marigolds _ the princess's favourite flower _ created a bright carpet around the phra meru.
Thousands of people travelled from all around the country to witness the royal ceremony and to pay their last respects to the princess, the only child of King Vajiravudh.
National television broadcast the three processions live through the morning and then the ceremonial cremation in the late afternoon.
More than 170 countries around the world also broadcast footage of the event.
At 8am today, HRH Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn will preside over the ceremony to collect the royal relics and ashes, which will then be returned to the Grand Palace for merit-making ceremonies.
Tomorrow, the royal relics will be placed in the Royal Mausoleum at Wat Ratchabophit.
The phra meru will be opened for public viewing from tomorrow until next Tuesday.
The chariot procession carrying the golden urn of Her Royal Highness Princess Bejaratana Rajasuda heads to the phra meru, or the royal pyre, in Sanam Luang prior to the royal cremation ceremony yesterday. APICHART JINAKUL
A senior monk, on behalf of the Supreme Patriarch, escorts the royal urn containing the late princess. PATIPAT JANTHONG
The royal chariot carries the urn of HRH Princess Bejaratana Rajasuda from Wat Phra Chetupon, or Wat Pho, to Sanam Luang. SOMCHAI POOMLARD
A palace official in ceremonial costume accompanies the royal chariot transporting the urn to Sanam Luang. APICHART JINAKUL
CLOCKWISEFROM FARLEFT Students train their camerasontheprocession escorting Her Royal Highness Princess Bejaratana Rajasuda’surn toSanamLuang yesterday. THITI WANNAMONTHA
Officials in traditional dress pay their respects to the royal remains as the procession passes. SOMCHAIPOOMLARD
Soldiers saluteasthe royal urn ofHRHPrincess Bejaratana Rajasuda heads from the Grand Palace to the nearby cremation site atSanamLuang yesterday. PATIPAT JANTHONG
People take photos as the procession carrying the urn ofHRHPrincess Bejaratana Rajasuda heads to the royal funeral pyre atSanamLuang. KOSOLNAKCHOL
 People dressed in black lay funeral flowersontrays at the cremation ofHRH Princess Bejaratana RajasudaatSanamLuang yesterday. PATIPAT JANTHONG
His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn and Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn attend a ceremony during which the royal urn for Her Royal Highness Princess Bejaratana Rajasuda is moved from the Grand Palace to the crematorium site at Sanam Luang yesterday. PALACE PHOTO
People line up in front of the Supreme Court compound as the royal chariot passes. PHRAKRIT JUNTAWONG
Mourners line up in front of the royal pyre at Sanam Luang to lay sandalwood flowers to bid their final farewell to the late Princess Bejaratana Rajasuda. PALACE PHOTO