- Thailand's Royal Barge Procession
Thailand's Royal Barge Procession ("th." กระบวนพยุหยาตราชลมารค; "RIT translit." Krabuan Phayuhayattra Chonlamak) is a ceremony of both
religiousand royal significance which has been taking place for nearly 700 years. The exquisitely crafted Royal Barges are a blend of craftsmanship and traditional Thai art. The Royal Barge Procession takes place rarely, typically coinciding with only the most significant culturaland religious events. During the reign of King Bhumibol Adulyadej spanning over 60 years the Procession has only occurred 16 times.
The Royal Barge Procession, in the present, consists of 52
barges(51 historical Barges, and the Royal Barge the Narai Song Suban King Rama IX, built in 1994 and the only Barge built during King Bhumibol's reign) and is manned by 2,082 oarsmen. The Procession proceeds down the Chao Phraya River, from the Wasukri Royal Landing Place in Khet Dusit, Bangkok, passes the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, the The Grand Palace, Wat Po( _th. วัดโพธิ์), and finally arrives at Wat Arun( _th. วัดอรุณ, "Temple of the Dawn").
Thailand's Royal Barge Procession most likely began during the Ayutthaya period, in the 14th century. Western visitors witnessed and wrote about the "immense procession with 200 boats" upon their arrival in Thailand in the 18th century. During the processions, the oarsmen were kept in rhythm by the beating of
drums, with accompanying music. This traditional boat song was written by Prince Dhamma Dibes of the late Ayutthaya period.
Burmainvaded Thailand, and amid the destruction hundreds of the barges were burned and destroyed. General Taksinrallied the Thais, and established the new capital at Thonburi. During his short 15 year reign, Taksin ordered the reconstruction of the barge fleet, and used a fleet of 115 barges to carry the holy image of Buddha to the new capital.
General Chakri succeeded General Taksin on the latter's death, and moved the capital to present-day Bangkok, across the Chao Phraya river from Thonburi. General Chakri, the first king of the
Chakri Dynasty, named King Buddha Yodfah, or Rama I, began the Royal Kathin Ceremony procession. The Kathin Ceremony is the presentation of robes Kathin Robes and making of merit in tribute to and support of the Buddhist Monks.
Soon after his accession to the throne in 1782, King Rama I ordered the construction of the Royal Barge Suphannahongse (also spelled Subanahongsa). The Royal Barge Suphannahongse was the principle Royal Barge for over 100 years.
Rama VI, in 1911, launched its successor, also named Suphannahongse.
Prince Nakhon Sawan, during the reign of
Rama V, regulated the formations, which became established as the standard "Major" and "Minor" formations still used today.
The Processions took place occasionally, until 1932, upon the dissolution of the absolute monarchy, and were not resumed until 1957, in celebration of the 25th century of the
Buddhist Era. In 1959, H.M. King Bhumipol Adulyadej revived the Royal Barge Procession for the Royal Kathin. [http://www.thailandmuseum.com/thaimuseum_eng/royalbarges/history.html History] , National Museum of Royal Barges, accessed 31-05-08.]
In the reign of the present King, His Majesty Bhumibol Adulyadej, 16 royal barge processions have been conducted:
* The 25th Century Celebrations of the Buddhist Era - 14 May 1957
* Royal Barge Procession in the Bangkok Bicentennial Celebrations, 5 April 1982
* Royal Barge Procession for Royal Kathin Ceremony at Wat Arun, 20 October 1982
* Royal Barge Procession for Royal Kathin Ceremony at Wat Arun, 16 October 1987 (King's 60th Birthday)
* Royal Barge Procession for Royal Kathin Ceremony at Wat Arun, 7 November 1996 (King's 50th anniversary on the throne)
* Royal Barge Procession for Royal Kathin Ceremony at Wat Arun, 4 November 1999 (King's 6th cycle, 72 years old)
* Royal Barge Procession for APEC Meeting 20 October 2003 [http://video.aol.com/video-detail/the-royal-barge-procession-at-night-apec-2003/2527194345 (video)] [The only Major Sailing one to have taken place at night, with the river illuminated by submerged lights [http://video.aol.com/video-detail/the-royal-barge-procession-at-night-apec-2003/2527194345 (video)] ]
* King's 60th – Diamond Jubilee of King's accession to the throne. 12 June 2006 (52 barges) [http://video.aol.com/video-detail/the-royal-barge-procession/3709682826 (video)]
* Royal Barge Procession for Royal Kathin Ceremony at Wat Arun, 5 November 2007 (King's 80th Birthday) [http://video.aol.com/video-detail/the-royal-barge-procession-for-the-royal-kathin/1301763479 (video)]
Additional sailings (Royal Kathin)
* Royal Barge Procession for Royal Kathin Ceremony at Wat Arun 15 November 1959
* Royal Barge Procession for Royal Kathin Ceremony at Wat Arun, 2 November 1961
* Royal Barge Procession for Royal Kathin Ceremony at Wat Arun, 22 October 1962
* Royal Barge Procession for Royal Kathin Ceremony at Wat Arun, 15 November 1964
* Royal Barge Procession for Royal Kathin Ceremony at Wat Arun, 19 October 1965
* Royal Barge Procession for Royal Kathin Ceremony at Wat Arun, 27 October 1967
* Barge Procession to transport the Buddha Image, 12 April 1982
The Royal Barge Procession is conducted in one of two formations, the Major and the Minor. The Major formation, also known as the Major Battle Formation (Petch Phuang Major Battle Formation) dates from the time of
King Narai. This formation is used for the more significant events, such as The Royal Kathin Ceremony, movement of the sacred image of Buddha, or important occasions of state. The Petch Phuang Formation is arranged into five columns, with the Royal Barges in the center, and two rows of war barges on each side. In the Minor formation, there are three columns, the Royal Barges in the middle, and a single row on each side.
Major Barge Procession
Arranged in five rows.
* 1 pair of lead barges carrying high ranking officials with the position of permanent undersecretary.
* 1 pair of ancient Thai battle boats with cannons at the bow, carrying army conniellers.
* 2 pairs of plain outer barges
* 4 pairs of inner barges with decorated mastheads in the shape of the garuda, monkeys, and ogres.
* 1 outer drum boat, 1 inner drum boat, with 6 musicians playing the Java pipes and Indian drums.
* 1 inner, 1 outer boat for the Royal Police.
* The Ekachai Barge with covered throne for monks' robes, the Buddha image or flower arrangements complete with regalia.
* The Ekachai Hern Hao Barge and the Ekachai Lao Thong Barge, carrying musicians to lead the Royal Barge.
* The Royal Barge with covered throne and regalia
* Pavilion Barge for the King's change of robes
* Second Royal barge
* 1 pair of Police barges
* 2 pairs of Army barges
* 1 pair of plain rear barges
Minor Barge Procession
* 1 pair lead barges
* 1 pair attack barges
*7 pairs plain barges
* 4 pairs animal masthead barges
* 1 left drum boat, 1 right drum boat
* 2 police boats -- left and right
* The Ekachai Barge with covered throne for monks' robes, Buddha image or flower arrangement complete with regalia
* The Ekachai Hern Hao Barge with musicians and the Ekachai Lao Thong Barge
* The Royal Barge with appropriate regalia
* The Second Royal barge
* 1 pair police Barges
The Royal Barges
The Royal Barge Suphannahong ("means." the Golden Swan) was built in 1911 during the reign of
Rama VIwith a bow resembling a mythical swan, or Hong, adorned with gold lacquerand glass jewels, with a crystalline ball and tassle dangling from her mouth. This 46 meter craft was carved from a single trunk of teakwood, and was launched November 13, 1911. There is a golden pavilion on board to house the King and his Royal family. The World Ship Trust, in 1992, awarded the Royal Barge Suphannahong as a Maritime World Heritage. [http://www.worldshiptrust.org/awards.html Award Number 8, June 4th, 1992]
The original The Royal Barge Anantanakkharat ("means." Ananta, the King of Snake) was built during the reign of
Rama III(King Nangklao). It was used as the primary Royal Barge of Rama IV(King Mongkut). The current Anantanakkharat was built during the Reign of Rama VI(King Vajiravudh), and launched on April 14, 1914. The bow is carved into the 7-headed Nakkharat, the mystical snake-like creature, in gold lacquer and glass jewels.
The Royal Barge Anekkhachatphuchong ("means." the Varieties of Snake) is the oldest of the four Royal barges, being the actual barge built during the reign of
Rama V(King Chulalongkorn). While no mystical figure is readily visible on the bow, numerous small ornamental Naga figures are carved into the bow.
The Royal Barge Narai Song Suban Ratchakan Thi Kao or The Royal Barge Narai Song Suban HM King Rama IX ("means." God Narayana on his carrier,
Garuda) is the only barge built during the reign of Bhumipol Adulyadej, who laid the keel in 1994, it was built under commission by the Royal Thai Navyand the Thai Department of Fine Arts and was launched May 6, 1996to coincide with the celebration of Bhumibol Adulyadej's Fiftieth Anniversary of his accession to the throne.
The name of the four Royal Barges is composed to be in a consistent rhyme: "Suphannahong", "Narai Song Suban", "Anantanakkharat" and "Anekkachaphuchong".
The Other Barges
Escort barges consist of five different classes of barges, totalling 12 barges. The bow is decorated with either painting or figurehead of a mythical creature.
Ekachai Class Barges are the two barges with gold painting of horned creature that is half-
nagahalf- dragon, Ekachai Hern How and Ekachai Lao Thong. They might be used to tow Suphannahongse in case of strong current. Unlike other escort barges, Ekachai class barges are not equipped with cannon. The two barges can be distinguished by the slightly different pattern.
Krut Class Barges are the two barges with
garudafigureheads with nagas caught on their wings and feet. The garuda on Krut Hern Het is red while the one on Krut Tret Traichak is pink.
Krabi Class Barges consist of four barges with
Vanarafigureheads, Pali Rang Thawip, Sukrip Khrong Mueang, Krabi Ran Ron Rap, and Krabi Prap Mueang Man. The bow of Pali Rang Thawip depicts Vali, the elder brother of Sugrivaon Sukrip Khrong Mueang. Rulers of KishkindhaKingdom, both have crowns on their head with the body color green and red respectively. Krabi Ran Ron Rap and Krabi Prap Mueang Man feature uncrowned warriors of vanara Nilaphat(black body) and Hanuman(white body), respectively.
Asura Class Barges consists of two barges with half-bird, half-ogre figureheads. The bow on Asura Vayuphak has indigo body in purple coat while Asura Paksi has green body in purple (front) and green (back) coat.
Suea Class Barges are the barges with painting of tiger, Suea Thayan Chon and Suea Kamron Sin. The name of the barges are clearly written on the bow.
Lesser escort barges
The largest number of barges in the fleet is the Lesser Escorts and Attendants such as Ruea Dang, Ruea Saeng, Police barges and Drum barges. They have no figurehead and no cannon.
The current fleet of barges were restored during the reigh of King Bhumibol Adulyadej. They were damaged during World War II bombing. The dock that stored the barge, located in
Bangkok Noidistrict, were then turned into National Museum of Royal Barge. Only eight important barges, including all four Royal Barges, are displayed in the museum due to space reason. [ [http://www.thailandmuseum.com/thaimuseum_eng/royalbarges/exhibition.html Exhibition] , National Museum of Royal Barge, accessed 31-05-08.] The remaining are kept in the dock next to Wasukri Pier. All are stored out of water to avoid deterioration. Only for Royal Barge Procession that the barges are returned to water for rehearsals and the actual sailing.
60th Anniversary Celebrations of Bhumibol Adulyadej's Accession
Notes and references
*"Royal Barges" (Thai Language); Government Public Relations Department, Office of the Prime Minister; ISBN 974-7858-92-4
* [http://www.navy.mi.th/civil/apec2003/technical_descrption._.htm Technical Description of Royal Ceremonial Barges] , Royal Thai Navy (accessed November 12, 2007).
* [http://www.geocities.com/RainForest/7153/suwan.htm Royal Kathin Ceremony]
* [http://www.geocities.com/siamsmile365/royalbarge/royalbargeprocession.htm Royal Barge Procession Photos] (Java-enhanced photos of the APEC 2003 Royal Barge Procession).
* [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IpSNN64bxuM Royal Barge Procession Video] ( Dress rehearsal for the Royal Barge Procession on the JAO PHRAYA river, Bangkok, Thailand, 7th October, 1999).
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