Final Goodbye

The last week of October was a truly historic week. Most of Thailand shut down to pay final respects to the late King Bhumibol, who passed away at the age of 88 in October of 2016, an event that plunged the entire country into a full year of mourning. Last week hundreds of thousands of mourners flocked to the capital for the cremation and 5-day funeral ceremonies. A day-long grand procession of royal chariots and palanquins included the great victory chariot, a four-wheeled, 13-tonne vehicle that transported the monarch’s body to the crematorium, pulled by more than 200 men.

Earlier this month, our pastor, Niran Temsakul, organized a Christian memorial service to honor the late King. This was held outside of the largest mall in Chiang Mai. Many city officials, including the governor were present, as we prayed for the royal family and leaders of Thailand.

The elaborate ceremonies included a golden chariot pulled by soldiers and holding a ceremonial urn representing King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s remains. Built in 1795, this chariot is used to carry the urns of royal family members.

The death of King Bhumibol was met by deep grief and mourning by most Thai people, who revered him as a demi-god and as their father. Most Thais have worn black for the past year. Almost 20 million people participated in funeral ceremonies honoring him at temples and crematorium replicas across the country.

After a reign of seven decades, King Bhumibol’s death sparked a national outpouring of grief. Thai people braved tropical heat and torrential monsoon rains to secure street-side vantage points to witness the funeral. Those who were lucky enough to find a spot cried and prostrated themselves as the Royal Urn passed.

The world’s longest reigning monarch was cremated in an elaborate gold crematorium which took a year to build. The funeral pyre was designed by Thailand’s top architects and artists and stood 50 meters tall. Its structure of nine gilded spires was adorned with images from mythology and the life of the King.

The ashes and relics of the late King have been enshrined at two royal temples and at Thailand’s Grand Palace. King Bhumibol was genuinely respected for his development projects, personal modesty and as a symbol of stability in a nation. Now a new era begins, with his son King Maha Vajiralongkorn.