BANGKOK -- Thailand’s newly crowned King Maha Vajiralongkorn will greet his subjects on Sunday in a royal procession, a day after completing ornate rituals to become the country’s first new divine monarch in nearly seven decades.
The grand procession will cover 7 km (4 miles) in a route from the Grand Palace to three royal temples, where he will pay homage to each temple’s main Buddha images, and back.
The coronation of King Vajiralongkorn, 66, takes place from Saturday to Monday after a period of official mourning for his revered father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died in October 2016 having reigned for 70 years.
His coronation comes amid the uncertainty of an unresolved election battle between the current military junta chief and a “democratic front” trying to push the army out of politics.
Saturday’s rituals took place within the walls of the Grand Palace complex, which also encloses the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.
On Sunday morning, the king will grant new ranks and titles to members of the royal family. Later in the afternoon, the monarch will appear in public for the first time since his elaborate crowning.
One of the many official titles King Vajiralongkorn will take is Rama X, or the 10th king of the Chakri dynasty founded in 1782.
Although most coronation ceremonies for Thai kings follow Hindu Brahmin traditions, some Buddhist elements were added by the monarch’s great-great grandfather King Mongkut, or Rama IV, because he spent 27 years in monkhood before inheriting the throne, scholars said.
“Because King Mongkut was a monk, he ordered that the procession should visit important Buddhist temples so the new monarch can provide alms to monks,” said Tongthong Chandransu, an expert on Thai royal rituals.
It was also during King Mongkut’s coronation that foreigners were invited to witness coronation ceremonies for the first time, scholars said. This will take place on Monday evening, the final day of King Vajiralongkorn’s coronation.
Reign with righteousness
On Saturday, the king sat on a golden throne under a nine-tiered umbrella to receive royal regalia including a gold-enameled, diamond-tipped crown in ceremonies that mixed glittering pomp with solemn religious rites.
The monarch was joined by new Queen Suthida after a surprise announcement three days before the coronation that the thrice-divorced monarch had married for a fourth time.
Saturday’s rituals, which were about transforming him into a “Devaraja”, or a divine embodiment of the gods, saw him purified and anointed with consecrated waters from 117 sources. The king also received and wore five articles of the royal regalia from the chief Brahmin, signifying full kingship.
“I shall continue, preserve, and build upon the royal legacy and shall reign with righteousness for the benefit and happiness of the people forever,” the king said in his first royal command, after placing the Great Crown of Victory weighing 7.3 kg (16 lb) upon his head.
The king also proclaimed himself the Royal Patron of Buddhism, and spent the night with his queen in the royal residence in the Grand Palace, as previous kings have done.
During 18 months of his reign so far, King Vajiralongkorn has moved to consolidate the authority of the monarchy, including taking more direct control of the crown’s vast wealth with the help of Thailand’s military government.
Thailand ended absolute rule by its kings in 1932, but the monarchy remains highly revered as the divine symbol and protector of the country and Buddhist religion.