Re­call­ing the Royal Cre­ma­tion



>> Yes­ter­day marked the se­cond an­niver­sary of King Bhu­mi­bol Adulyadej’s pass­ing away. Apart of love and lin­ger­ing sad­ness among Thais, what re­mains vivid in the col­lec­tive mem­ory is the im­age of the Royal Cre­ma­to­rium used for the Royal Cre­ma­tion.

Af­ter the cre­ma­tion was com­pleted in Oc­to­ber last year, the splen­did struc­tures were re­moved from the Sanam Luang ground. It has been royal pro­to­col to re­move such struc­tures.

Now, the Min­istry of Cul­ture plans to build a 800-mil­lion-baht Mu­seum of the Royal Cre­ma­tion of His Majesty Bhu­mi­bol Adulyadej to dis­play art pieces and ma­te­ri­als used to con­struct and dec­o­rate the Royal Cre­ma­to­rium.

Ac­cord­ing to the Of­fice of Ar­chi­tec­ture at Fine Arts Depart­ment (FAD), ar­chi­tec­tural de­signs for the new mu­seum are now 90% com­plete and con­struc­tion is ex­pected to be­gin in 2019 and fin­ish in 2020.

“When it’s ready to open its doors, this mu­seum will be­come one of the mustsee mu­se­ums in Thai­land,” Mr Alongkorn Karn­chanakuha, an ar­chi­tect of the mu­seum, told the Bangkok Post.

Un­der the plan, the mu­seum will be lo­cated in a 200-rai com­pound in Pathum Thani’s Klong 5 which also houses the Supreme Artist Mu­seum and the King Rama IX Ar­chive. The mu­seum will be built as a two-storey build­ing im­i­tat­ing the Songtham Pavil­ion, the Royal Cre­ma­to­rium.

The ground floor will tell the story of the Hindu-Bud­dhist ide­ol­ogy be­hind di­vine King­ship un­der which the King was be­lieved to be semi-di­vine, and where the cre­ma­to­rium sym­bol­ises Mouth Meru, the cen­tre of the uni­verse atop which lies the Home of the Gods, to which the King re­turns af­ter death.

The con­struc­tion of the Royal Cre­ma­to­rium and the Royal Funeral Char­i­ots used in King Bhu­mi­bol Adulyadej’s cre­ma­tion cer­e­mony from start to fin­ish will also be ex­plained in de­tail on the first floor. Mr Alongkorn said vis­i­tors will be able to see the tran­si­tion of Thai arts from Phra Prang-style pavil­ions in Ayut­thaya era to the bus­abok-style in Rat­tanakosin era. There will also be mod­els of the royal cre­ma­to­ri­ums from the Ayut­thaya pe­riod to the Rat­tanakosin pe­riod.

“The con­struc­tion of the Phra Meru­mat of­ten took months, if not years, to com­plete and they fea­tured the ex­quis­ite crafts­man­ship of the king­dom’s best ar­ti­sans, so it’s worth­while for younger peo­ple to learn about Thai tra­di­tional arts and ar­chi­tec­ture from them,” said Mr Alongkorn. On its se­cond floor, the mu­seum will dis­play the metic­u­lous crafts­man­ship of the monarch’s san­dal­wood Royal Urn (Phra Kot Chan) and san­dal­wood Royal Cof­fin (Phra Heep Chan).

De­signed by ar tist Som­porn Su­paluck-am­paiporn at the FAD, the Royal Urn and Cof­fin took over eight months of la­bo­ri­ous at­ten­tion to de­tail to com­plete. Both are made from fra­grant dead-stand­ing san­dal­wood trees taken from Kui Buri Na­tional Park in Prachuap Khiri Khan prov­ince.

“The san­dal­wood Royal Cof­fin fea­tures a to­tal of over 30,000 pieces of hand-carved wood as­sem­bled to­gether to cre­ate an ex­quis­ite de­sign, fea­tur­ing 24 pat­terns of in­ter­twined sprays adorn­ing 132 Garuda, Vishnu’s car­rier. The statue of Garuda, dec­o­rated with gold leaves, is placed on the third-layer base of the prin­ci­pal bus­abok,” Pi­chit Nim-ngarm, a se­nior artist from the Of­fice of Tra­di­tional Arts, said.

He added the san­dal­wood royal urn is com­posed of three in­ter­lock­ing parts — the base, body and the top — as­sem­bled from a to­tal of over 10,000 pieces of carved wood fea­tur­ing 46 tra­di­tional Thai flower pat­terns adorn­ing 64 Thep­panom deities. The de­sign of the top part is in­spired by the crown of the King fea­tur­ing three lay­ers of top­knot or­na­ments. “Peo­ple will be able to learn all of this at the new mu­seum,” Mr Pi­chit said.

Apart from the Royal Urn and Royal Cof­fin, 132 sculp­tures of Hindu deities and leg­endary crea­tures from the Himma­pan mytho­log­i­cal for­est and An­odard Pond used to dec­o­rate the Royal Cre­ma­to­rium will be dis­played on the se­cond floor.

The sculp­tures in­clude the main four deities — Shiva, In­dra, Brah­man and Narayana, as well as myth­i­cal crea­tures like Garuda (the half-hu­man, half-bird ser­vant of Narayana), naga (ser­pent), singha (lion) and kin­nari (half-hu­man, half-bird be­ings).

Sculp­tures of other aus­pi­cious an­i­mals like ele­phants, lions, horses and cows cre­ated to ac­com­pany the King into the af­ter­life will also be dis­played.

ITEMS OF LORE: The or­nate san­dal­wood outer cas­ing of the royal urn and some dec­o­ra­tive pieces used at the royal cre­ma­tion last Oc­to­ber were put on pub­lic dis­play at the Na­tional Mu­seum.

IN ME­MO­RIAL: A woman lays flow­ers to pay re­spect be­fore a por­trait of King Bhu­mi­bol Adulyadej out­side the wall of the Grand Palace as Thais na­tion­wide took part in events held in com­mem­o­ra­tion of their beloved King who passed away two years ago yes­ter­day.

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