Thailands King Maha Vajiralongkorn was officially crowned two weeks ago in an elaborate centuries-old royal tradition that last happened seven decades ago.
The coronation represents a renewal of the monarchys power after the October 2016 death of Vajiralongkorns revered father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej. It also comes amid more than a decade of political strife, including a 2014 military coup and a contentious election less than two months ago.
The 66-year-old Vajiralongkorn has served as king for more than two years since he assumed the throne. On Saturday, he took the crown from the chief Brahmin, a Hindu priest who has played a guiding part in the mixed Buddhist-Hindu ceremony, during a televised ritual from the Grand Palace.
The 200-year-old, 7.3-kilogram (16-pound) heavy crown was handed to the king, known as Rama X, as part of the third and final rite of the coronation ceremony, the presentation of royal regalia.
The right moment
This ceremony is significant to Thailand because the monarchy is a very important institution of our country and is the soul of our nation, said Naowarat Buakluan, a 41-year-old civil servant. If you ask why the ceremony is being held this year when his majesty has already ascended the throne, its because this is the right moment. Previously we Thais were mourning the loss of our beloved late king.
Vajiralongkorn has tightened control over royal institutions and what amounts to political privileges. He surprised the countrys ruling junta when, to ensure his royal powers, he requested changes to a new constitution that had already been approved in a referendum. They acquiesced. The powers he acquired centralize royal authority in his hands and make explicit his right to intervene in government affairs, especially in times of political crisis.
Vajiralongkorn, said Sulak, doesnt like ceremony himself, personally, but when it is performed he wants it to be proper. When his father was cremated in 2017, Vajiralongkorn insisted that everything had to be done properly.
Likewise the coronation has to be done properly and he doesnt mind the expense, but it has to be done properly, Sulak said.
High point of coronation
A book on the history of Thai coronations vividly described the high point of what was just one of the ceremonies in preparation for Bhumibols 1950 coronation.
When the auspicious time arrived, the royal astrologer hit the Gong of Victory, the scribe and the royal augur began inscribing on the Royal Golden Plaques the official title of the King and the Kings Horoscope. At the same moment, the artisan also began to engrave the Royal Seal of State. During the whole period, monks were chanting auspicious prayer, Brahmins were blowing conch shells, while the royal officers of the Thai musical ensemble played their instruments.
After the coronation, the king will receive members of the royal family, the Privy Council and Cabinet, among other senior officials, who will pay their respects. Afterward he will visit the Temple of the Emerald Buddha to announce he is the royal defender of Buddhism. The days events end with a ceremony of the Assumption of the Royal Residence, a symbolic palace housewarming.
On Sunday, there will be a 7-kilometer (4.3-mile) royal procession involving 343 men, some of them carrying the king through old Bangkok in an ornately decorated palanquin, allowing Thais to pay homage to their new king.
Monday will see the king greet the public from the balcony of the Grand Palace in the late afternoon and then hold a reception for the diplomatic corps.