Thailand is preparing to bid a grand final farewell for the late king Bhumibol Adulyadej, as officials said that an ‘uncountable’ number of people including architects, artisans, craftsmen and volunteers are working day and night to build ‘heaven’ on earth.
The Thai word used for death of a monarch means going to heaven, therefore the Royal Crematorium was built to symbolise the place where the revered king’s soul is now residing.
King Bhumibol died last October aged 88 and his body was laid in-state in a gold hall at the palace.
The royal funeral that will take place starting October 25 will be a mix of Buddhist religious ceremonies and Hindu Brahmin rituals.
For most Thais, this would be their first experience of a royal funeral for a monarch.
Builders have been working for months on a royal crematorium that was built from scratch on a field in front of the palace. Soldiers have frequently rehearsed their roles in carrying the royal urn to a chariot and pacing their marches for a royal that would be televised nationwide.
The funeral will be steeped in ancient Thai traditions as well as the pomp and circumstance that befits a monarch, said Tongthong, but it will also be a very modern funeral with higher participation from the public than for previous Thai kings.
Many Thais have joined as volunteers to make sandalwood flowers which will be handed out to the public to offer to the king on the cremation day. In Thai tradition, it is believed that the fragrance of sandalwood will lead the soul of the deceased to heaven.
King Bhumibol, who reigned over the country for 70 years, was widely seen as a father figure and regarded as the nation’s moral compass during decades of political turbulence including several coups, bloody street protests and a region-wide 1997/98 financial crisis.
He was succeeded in December by his only son, King Maha Vajiralongkorn, known as Rama X, who has since overseen a shake-up at the palace to give himself greater authority. A quarter of a million people are expected to attend the cremation, according to the government.