Crowds began gathering in Bangkok on Wednesday for the official beginning of the funeral of Thailand’s revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej, also known as Rama IX, with a budget of $90 million set aside for the ceremony.
The lavish five-day event, which runs until Sunday, opened with rows of Buddhist monks in orange robes chanting prayers. A funeral procession and cremation ceremony are scheduled for Thursday.
About 250,000 Thais are expected to attend the cremation ceremony, which will be led by the new King Maha Vajiralongkorn.
King Bhumibol, 88, who ruled for more than seven decades, was widely regarded as the nation’s moral compass during periods of intermittent political unrest.
Since his death on 13 October last year, the country has observed a year of official mourning, with many Thais wearing black.
Thousands of artisans have been involved in the building of a funeral pyre within a cremation complex of gold pavilions.
Here are details of the cremation:
• The king’s cremation will take place on Thursday, which has been declared a public holiday, when many businesses have announced they will be shut all day or close at midday.
• A budget of 3 billion baht ($90 million) has been set aside for the funeral, which will be attended by dozens of heads of state, including King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck of Bhutan and Japan’s Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko.
• Many hotels near the cremation area have been booked out by mourners.
• The site of the royal cremation includes nine spire-roofed Thai pavilions to honor the late king, who was also known as Rama IX.
• The site took nearly a year to complete and was built from scratch. It features sculptures of mythical creatures and auspicious animals such as lions and elephants.
• The cremation will make use of sandalwood flowers whose fragrance ancient Thais believed would lead the soul of the dead to heaven.
• Those unable to attend the funeral will be able to visit 85 miniature replicas of the site across Thailand.
• New King Maha Vajiralongkorn formally ascended the throne last year but his coronation will take place after his father’s funeral. The king’s cremation will take place on Thursday, which has been declared a public holiday, when many businesses have announced they will be shut all day or close at midday.