By; James Robert Haft
The Royal Barge Procession scheduled to take place on Thursday, 24 October has been postponed to Thursday, 12 December 2019 because of the Chao Phraya river’s extremely strong currents.
This water-borne parade is the third part and culmination of the the Royal Coronation Ceremony, which began in April with the preparation of the sacred waters, golden tablet and Royal Seal of State, which was followed by the crowning and investiture of HM King Maha Vajiralongkorn Phra Vajiraklaochaoyuhua that were conducted between May 2 to 6.
The journey down the Chao Phraya River will commence at 3.30 pm when Their Majesties the King and Queen will embark on the Royal Barge Suphannahong at the Wasukri Pier in Dusit district. The flotilla will include 52 barges and boats, including the four Royal barges: the Suphannahong, or Golden Swan; the Anantanakkharat, or multi-headed Naga; the Anekkachatphutchong, or innumerable Naga figures; and the Narai Song Suban King Rama IX. They will be paddled by 2,200 Royal Navy oarsmen who will sing rhythmic rowing songs to help maintain their cadence.
This ancient fluvial ceremony dates back to the Ayutthya period and was mentioned in a literary piece written by Chao Phraya Phrakang Hon at the end of the 19th century during the reign of King Chulalongkorn. In his work, Lilit Phayuha Yattra Phetphuang, he described similar processions held after Ok Phansa, the end of Buddhist Lent, or the Rainy Season Retreat, when kathin ceremonies, the offering of saffron robes to monks, are held.
HM the King’s late father, King Bumiphol Adujyadej, revived the tradition in 1960 and would hold a Royal Kathin Ceremony at Wat Arun. The last procession was held in 2012, but the late king did not preside over it because of his ill health.
This Royal Barge procession, which will not include a Krathin ceremony at Wat Arun, should take approximately 45 minutes to complete and will pass six Buddhist temples: Wat Rachathiwat Ratchaworawihan, Wat Thewarat Kunchorn Worawiharn, Wat Sam Phraya, Wat Bowon Mongkhon, Wat Karuhabodee, and Wat Rakhang Kositaram. Each will hold a Buddhist chanting ceremony that will commence as the Royal Barge approaches the temple and conclude once the procession has passed.
A number of viewing locations have been arranged for the public along both sides of the Chao Phraya River, including six official sites that can accommodate up to 10,700 persons.
1. Santichai Prakan Park (for 1,500 people)
2. Thammasart University (for 1,800 people)
3. Nagaraphirom Park (for 2,300 people)
4. Siriraj Hospital (for 100 people)
5. King Bhumibol’s 72nd Birthday Anniversary Park (for 1,000 people)
6. Under the Rama VIII Bridge, Thon Buri (for 4,000 people)
The Royal Barge Procession is a majestic sight to behold. It is rare, regal and resplendent. If you have any chance to view it, even on television, be sure to make the effort. Updates to the event will be provided as they announced by the Royal Household.