FIT FOR A KING

Chariots, statues, dancers: A preview of Thailand’s lavish $90 million royal funeral next week

Starting Oct. 25, Thailand will hold a royal funeral over five days for its beloved late king Bhumibol Adulyadej, following a year of mourning.

Bhumibol, who died at the age of 88 on Oct. 13 last year, was the world’s longest-reigning monarch. Born in the US and raised in Switzerland, Bhumibol was regarded by Thais as a unifying figure amid multiple military coups and protests over the decades.

epa06274990 A Thai woman takes a photograph of portraits of the late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej on display in front of a shopping center in Bangkok, Thailand, 19 October 2017. The royal cremation of King Bhumibol is scheduled on 26 October 2017, and the funeral will consist of five days of rites. King Bhumibol died at the age of 88 in Siriraj hospital on 13 October 2016 after 70 years on the throne.  EPA-EFE/NARONG SANGNAK
Portraits of the late king on display in front of a shopping center in Bangkok this week. (EPA-EFE/Narong Sangnak)

For months, the country has been preparing to bid a ceremonial farewell the late king, whose body has been lying in state in a coffin that has been blessed by chanting monks. He will be cremated on Thursday (Oct. 26), which Thailand is marking as a national holiday this year. Hotels near the cremation site have been fully booked during the funeral period, Reuters reported.

Artisans have been building a royal crematorium consisting of a series of golden pavilions in the center of the Sanam Luang public square near Bangkok’s Grand Palace. The main funeral pyre is meant to represent Mount Meru, the center of the Hindu universe. The royal pyre is decorated with paintings of mythical creatures and a pair of statues of the king’s favorite dogs.

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Different areas of the royal crematorium, replicas of which are being constructed nationwide. (Screengrab/www.kingrama9.net)

The funeral will reportedly cost around $90 million, with the pyre alone estimated to cost 1 billion baht ($30 million). A public relations committee for the cremation has details on the crematorium and on the processions.

A Thai laborer work on the elaborate complex of the royal crematorium for the late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej's funeral ceremony at Sanam Luang, near the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, 12 October 2017. The royal cremation of King Bhumibol Adulyadej is scheduled on 26 October 2017, which has been declared a national public holiday for 2017, the peak of more than a year of official mourning. The funeral will consist of five-day rites from 25 to 29 October. King Bhumibol died at the age of 88 in Siriraj hospital on 13 October 2016, after 70 years on the throne.
The funeral pyre under construction this month. (EPA-EFE/Narong Sangnak)

His body will be placed in the central pavilion, which is 165 feet high, and cremated around 10pm. His remains will then be collected and placed at the Dusit Maha Prasat Throne Hall of the Grand Palace. Local officials expect around 250,000 people to attend the ceremony, which will include performances of masked drama, puppet shows, featuring stories from the epic Ramayana, and ceremonial music.

Traditional dancers stand next to the Great Victory Royal Chariot that will carry the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej's body in a giant ornate urn to the cremation site, in Bangkok, Thailand, September 21, 2017. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha          SEARCH "THAI CREMATORIUM" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.  TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Traditional dancers will take part in the ceremonies. (Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha)
Thai army officers work on a platform next to the Great Victory Royal Chariot or Phra Maha Phichai Ratcharot, which will be used to carry the body and the royal urn of the late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej in the royal cremation ceremony, at the National Museum in Bangkok, Thailand, 13 September 2017 (issued 14 September 2017). The royal cremation of King Bhumibol is scheduled for 26 October 2017, and the funeral will consist of a five-day rites ceremony. King Bhumibol died at the age of 88 in Siriraj hospital on 13 October 2016 after 70 years on the throne.  EPA-EFE/RUNGROJ YONGRIT
The Great Victory Royal Chariot that will be used to carry the body and the royal urn of Bhumibol for the cremation ceremony. In all, six processions are scheduled over several days, according to the public relations committee for the royal cremation. (EPA-EFE/Rungroj Yongrit)
Thai army officers pull the Great Victory Royal Chariot or Phra Maha Phichai Ratcharot, which will be used to carry the body and the royal urn of the late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej, during a training exercise in the area of the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, 15 October 2017. The royal cremation of King Bhumibol is scheduled on 26 October 2017, and the funeral will consist of five days of rites. King Bhumibol died at the age of 88 in Siriraj hospital on 13 October 2016 after 70 years on the throne.  EPA-EFE/DIEGO AZUBEL
Thai army officers pull the Great Victory Royal Chariot during a training exercise for the funeral. (EPA-EFE/Diego Azubel)
Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha (C) attends a training exercise with officers pulling the royal funeral chariot vehicle, which will be used in the procession for the royal funeral pyre of the late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej's cremation ceremony, in the area of the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, 15 October 2017. The royal cremation of King Bhumibol is scheduled on 26 October 2017, and the funeral will consist of five days of rites. King Bhumibol died at the age of 88 in Siriraj hospital on 13 October 2016 after 70 years on the throne.  EPA-EFE/DIEGO AZUBEL
Thailand’s prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha (center) attended a rehearsal. (EPA-EFE/Diego Azubel)
Thailand King Mourning
Thai mourners in front of a portrait of the late king outside the Grand Palace in October. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)
An artist works on a deity sculpture which will decorate the funeral pyre of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, near the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, September 8, 2017. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha          SEARCH "THAI CREMATORIUM" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
An artist worked in September on a detail of a deity sculpture that will decorate the funeral pyre. (REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha)
A Thai mourner pay respects to the late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej outside the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, 11 October 2017. Millions of Thais will bid their final farewell to late King Bhumibol Adulyadej in an elaborate Royal Cremation ceremony on 26 October 2017, which has been declared a national public holiday for 2017, the peak of more than a year of official mourning. The funeral will consist of five-day rites from 25 to 29 October. King Bhumibol died at the age of 88 in Siriraj hospital on 13 October 2016, after 70 years on the throne.  EPA-EFE/NARONG SANGNAK
A Thai mourner burst into tears as she paid her respect in October. (EPA-EFE/Narong Sangnak)

Bhumibol’s son, King Maha Vajiralongkorn, is expected to have his coronation around the end of 2017, but no official date has been set yet.

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