Maha Vajiralongkorn was officially crowned as king of Thailand on Saturday in a spectacular yet centuries-old coronation ceremony held at the Grand Palace in Bangkok. The island country is estimated to spend more than $30 million in the three-day ceremony, which is being held after almost seventy years. The last time such a ceremony took place was in 1950 for King Adulyadej, also known as Rama IX.
Vajiralongkorn, who is the tenth monarch of the reigning Chakri dynasty, ascended the throne after the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej in 2016 and has since been dispatching his duties as a king. Vajiralongkorn, also called Rama X, had requested for time to mourn the death of his father before he acceded to the throne.
Watch | Thai crown prince formally proclaimed king
In the ceremony, the crown is placed on the head of the king by the chief Brahmin, a Hindu priest. The crown is approximately 26 inches high, weighs 7.3 kg and is decked with diamonds set in gold enamel. Several pieces of royal regalia is presented to him as a sign of power, including the Royal Sword of Victory and the Royal Fan and Fly Whisk.
As per an AP report, prominent intellectual and social critic Sulak Sivaraksa said that Vajiralongkorn personally does not like ceremonies but since it had to be performed as per tradition, he wanted it to be executed “properly”.
On Sunday, there will be a 7-km royal procession, in which the king will again be carried on his palanquin to visit four important temples and allow the public to pay their respects to him. On Monday, the king will greet the public from the balcony of the Grand Palace and then hold a reception for the diplomatic corps.
Hindu and Buddhist traditions in the ceremony
The ceremony is an interesting mix of Hindu and Buddhist traditions. On Saturday, the proceedings began with the Royal Purification ceremony, in which water from several holy rivers and ponds was poured on the king while music from drums, conch shells and other instruments echoed in the halls. The monarch was also given an artillery salute.
The Royal Anointment Ceremony comes next, where he is given the legitimacy of being a fully sovereign king. The king sits on an octagonal throne representing the cardinal points of a compass and water is poured on the king’s hand by dignitaries seated at each point. There is a ninth dignitary representing heaven. The rites conclude with the king being presented with a nine-tiered white umbrella of the state, symbolizing his full consecration.Later, the king holds an audience with members of the royal family, the Privy Council, and the Cabinet, among other senior officials. Here, the officials and dignitaries pledge their allegiance to king and country. The king also promises to work with them for the nation’s benefit.
Role of Monarchy in Thailand
Thai kings are regarded as almost divine and are seen as a unifying presence in the country. Kings are protected by the world’s strictest lese majeste laws, which makes criticism of them and other top royals punishable by up to 15 years in prison. With the absolute rule by kings ending in 1932, it ushered in a constitutional monarchy.
Since he acceded to the throne two years ago, Vajiralongkorn has tightened control over royal institutions and has increased his influence in the country’s administration. Vajiralongkorn has now acquired the right to intervene in government affairs in times of political crisis.
The island nation has been struggling with political instability as it rotates between elected governments and military rule. Vajiralongkorn has inherited a nation in political turmoil.