Millions in Thailand attend cremation of top Buddhist leader

Millions in Thailand attend cremation of top Buddhist leader
PHOTO: The Nation/ANN

Millions of Thais wore black yesterday to bid final farewell to His Holiness Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara, the late Supreme Patriarch of Thailand.

Thousands of them also followed a historic funeral procession for His Holiness in the morning.

The elaborate procession started at 8am to bring the golden mortuary urn of the late monk out of Wat Bovoranives Vihara, where His Holiness had stayed during his lifetime, to Wat Thepsirintharawas for the royally sponsored cremation ceremony.

The 456-metre-long funeral procession, beautifully decorated according to Thai tradition, moved over a 3.6km stretch and reached the destination at around 10am.

His Holiness Somdet Phramaharatchamangkhlachan, who carried out the duties of the Supreme Patriarch, joined the procession chanting a prayer. Also in the parade were soldiers and officials from various government agencies.

Along the route were people, young and old, who showed up to pay their last respects to the late monk. Many of these people held high the late monk's pictures.

The mortuary urn of the late Supreme Patriarch is of a special class, which is normally reserved for high-level royals. HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej has upgraded the urn class for His Holiness twice, making the late monk the country's first Supreme Patriarch to have received such an honour.

His Holiness is the 19th Supreme Patriarch of the Rattanakosin Period, and also the longest-living person in the post.

When he passed away on October 24, 2013, he was 100 years old.

He used to be the adviser and guardian of the present monarch when the latter was ordained as a monk in 1956, and also HRH Crown Prince Mahavajiralongkorn, who was ordained in 1978.

The Crown Prince yesterday represented the King in carrying out several rituals related to the funeral and the cremation of His Holiness.

At 4.30pm, the Crown Prince presented monastic fans to senior monks who performed funeral prayer rituals at the Wat Thepsirintharawas, and attended the merit-making ritual. He also granted a fire for the cremation.

Also attending the rituals were HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, HRH Princess Somsavali, HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha, HRH Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana, and Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya.

At 8 pm, the Crown Prince chaired the actual cremation ceremony, which was also attended by other members of the Royal family, senior monks and Cabinet members.

At Wat Bovoranives Vihara, Buddhists formed a long line to lay wooden flowers - dokmai chan - for the late Supreme Patriarch's cremation. The temple allowed people to do so between 12.30pm and 3.30pm as well as between 6pm and 7pm.

Arpa Tiyayon, a 69-year-old resident of Lamphun province, said she and her friends travelled to Bangkok by air to pay tribute to the late Supreme Patriarch.

"I come here out of love and respect," Arpa said.

"No one escapes death. We are aware of this fact. But even if he is not here physically anymore, he is in our hearts".

She said she was impressed with His Holiness' beautiful manners and simple living.

Across the country, people from all walks of life headed to temples in their hometowns to lay dokmai chan in remembrance of the great monk.

Most temples started the dokmai-chan rituals after 4.30pm.

In Nakhon Ratchasima's Muang district, Suttajinda Voravihara staged a big ritual and prepared vast space for interested members of the public. Big LED screens were also installed to let participants see what was happening in Bangkok too.

This morning, His Holiness' ashes and bones will be collected and transferred from the crematorium to Tamnak Phetch, Wat Bovoranives Vihara.

Tomorrow, members of the public will be able to pay respect to His Holiness' ashes and bones between 8am and 2pm.

Arpa said she would pay respect to the late monk's cremains at Wat Bovoranives Vihara before heading back to Lamphun.

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