NEWS

Thailand Unveils Design of Funeral Pyre for Thai King Symbolizing Mount Meru

By Craig Lewis
Buddhistdoor Global | 2016-11-29 |
A collage of pictures of Thailand's late king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, at an exhibition held in his honor in Bangkok. Photo by Athit Perawongmetha. From reuters.comA collage of pictures of Thailand's late king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, at an exhibition held in his honor in Bangkok. Photo by Athit Perawongmetha. From reuters.com

The Thai government yesterday unveiled its design for a royal funeral pyre for the king of Thailand, who passed away in October, symbolizing Mount Meru (also known as Mount Sumeru—the prefix “su” meaning excellent or wonderful), the allegorical center of the universe in Buddhist, as well as Hindu and Jain, cosmology. Construction of the pyre, which is based on designs used since the beginning of the Rattanakosin era in 1782, is scheduled to begin on 10 January and is expected to be completed by September next year.

“The royal crematorium will stand tall at 50.49 meters,” Anan Chuchote, director general of the Fine Arts Department under Thailand’s Ministry of Culture, said on Monday. “The design for the royal crematorium is based on Buddhist cosmology and the beliefs that a king is semi-divine.” (The Nation)

The main building will be crowned with a seven-tiered roof and spire, and surrounded by eight pavilions representing the mountains surrounding Mount Meru, Anan said, noting that the design also included ponds at the pyre’s four corners featuring models of wind turbines developed by the Chai Pattana Foundation, of which the king was honorary president. The pavilions would be decorated with sculptures of mythical creatures, such as naga, kinnara, and garuda, from the Himavanta (Thai: Himmaphan), a legendary forest surrounding the base of Mount Meru, he said.

Anan added that a royal urn, made of agarwood, had also been designed.

The Fine Arts Department revealed the design of the royal pyre. From khaosodenglish.comThe Fine Arts Department revealed the design of the royal pyre. From khaosodenglish.com

King Bhumibol Adulyadej (9 June 1946–13 October 2016) passed away at Bangkok's Sririraj Hospital at 08:52 GMT (15:52 Bangkok time) on 13 October at the age of 88, after many years of ill health, marking the end of a 70-year reign. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the head of Thailand’s military government, announced a year-long period of national mourning for the king who was revered by Thais as a unifying figure in a country that has struggled through decades of political instability and social upheaval punctuated by numerous military coups.

Deputy prime minister Thanasak Patimaprakorn said a committee had been formed, which he would chair, to oversee construction of the royal funeral pyre in a public area in front of Bangkok's Grand Palace. He noted that buildings would be built around the crematorium to accommodate several thousand people, along with an exhibition highlighting some of the civil projects initiated by the king, and his “sufficiency economy” philosophy based on sustainability and moderation.

“[The] building is expected to be completed before September 2017, but it depends on the weather,” Thanasak said, adding that as many as 8,000 people would take part in the cremation ceremony to be held in 2018. (Straits Times)

An artist's representation of the planned site in front of Bangkok's Grand Place. From pattaymail.comAn artist's representation of the planned site in front of Bangkok's Grand Place. From pattaymail.com

King Bhumibol Adulyadej, also known as Rama IX as the ninth monarch of the Chakri dynasty, was the world's longest-serving head of state and the longest-reigning monarch in Thai history, having ascended the throne in 1946 and reigned for more than 70 years. The king is widely loved and respected in Thailand, however his passing comes at a time of political upheaval. His only living son, Maha Vajiralongkorn, the crown prince, is set to be formally invited by parliament to assume the throne in the next few days, although he does not enjoy the same level of public approval as his late father. The kingdom’s strict lèse majesté laws, which prohibit defamation of the royal family, mean criticism of the royal family is forbidden and public discussion of the line of succession is heavily curtailed.

See more

Construction of funeral pyre for King set for Jan 10 (Bangkok Post)
Royal crematorium to symbolise Mount Sumeru (The Nation)
Thailand to begin building funeral pyre for late King Bhumibol Adulyadej next year (The Straits Times)
Fine Arts Department unveils design of Royal funeral pyre (Pattaya Mail)

ROYAL CREMATORIUM DESIGN UNVEILED (PHOTOS) (Khaosod English)

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