Though Thailand has been a constitutional monarchy since 1932, the country's king is considered the spiritual protector of its people and culture. For seventy years, that role had been fulfilled by King Bhumibol Adulyadej. When the beloved monarch passed away in October 2016, his second child, and only male heir, crown prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, ascended to the throne. However, in respect to the highly-revered former king, the country observed a three-year mourning period, postponing the new monarch's coronation ceremony until early May 2019.
The elaborate three-day event, the first of its kind witnessed by most Thai residents, included a mix of Buddhist and Hindu Brahmin rituals. It began on May 4, 2019, with a royal purification ceremony at the Grand Palace's shrine. The new king, dressed in white, was sprinkled with holy water collected from all of Thailand's 76 provinces. Following the cleansing, the monarch, wearing a bejeweled golden robe, was presented with the Royal Nine-Tiered Umbrella by high-ranking members of Thailand's government. Crafted using white silk and gold thread, the sacred Thai regalia is believed to give the new king a connection to heaven, instantly elevating him to the status of a living god.The 66-year-old spiritual ruler was also bestowed with other royal symbolic items, including the Royal Sword of Victory, the Royal Fan, and the Fly Whisk.
With the religious ceremonies completed, King Vajiralongkorn sat on his gold throne and donned the “Great Crown of Victory." Measuring 26 inches (66 centimeters) high and weighing an astounding 16 pounds (7.3 kilograms), the 237-year-old crown, which dates back to 1782, is crafted from gold and decorated with hundreds of diamonds. In a live broadcast to the nation, the monarch told Thai residents, "I shall continue, preserve, and build upon the royal legacy and shall reign with righteousness for the benefit and happiness of the people forever."
On May 5, 2019, King Vajiralongkorn, now officially called Rama X — since he is the 10th monarch of the Chakri dynasty — took to the streets of Bangkok seated on a gold palanquin carried by 16 men to visit three Buddhist temples. In addition to paying homage to the deities, the four-mile-long trek also allowed the monarch to greet the over 200,000 locals who had gathered along the path to catch a glimpse of their new spiritual leader. Dressed in yellow, the color associated with King Vajiralongkorn , they chanted "Long live the King" as the procession slowly made its way, first to Wat Bovoranives Vihara, where the monarch had spent 15 days ordained as a Buddhist monk in 1978, and then to the other two temples. “I feel like I have to be here to show the world just how much we worship the king,” said Donnapha Kadbupha, a 34-year-old local, who had arrived eight hours earlier to secure a prime viewing spot.
On the third and final day of the ceremony, May 6, 2019, King Vajiralongkorn and his new wife, Queen Suthida — a former deputy head of security who the monarch married two days before the coronation — addressed citizens from the balcony of Bangkok's Grand Palace. Wearing his symbolic yellow, the king told the thousands of eagerly-awaiting residents, "The Queen and I are very pleased and delighted to see all the citizens together to express goodwill for my coronation. May the unity in expressing your goodwill to me today be a good start for everyone, every party to unify your duties for the prosperity of our country."
Later that day, the monarch met with several foreign ambassadors and other dignitaries. The extravagant multi-day celebration, which cost the country $31 million, ended at dusk with a ten-minute drone show. The 300 autonomous air vehicles delighted crowds by morphing into several formations, including the Thai flag, congratulatory messages, and, for the grand finale, an image of King Vajiralongkorn's face.
Prior to ascending to the throne, King Vajiralongkorn was educated at military academies in the UK and Australia. The air force pilot, who participated in the 1970s counterinsurgency action against the Communist Party of Thailand, is the only Thai royal to have fought in combat. The ruler has seven children from his previous three marriages, many of whom were present at the coronation ceremony. With a personal net worth of $30 billion, most of which has been inherited, the new Thai king is believed to be the world's richest monarch!
Resources: CNN.com, straittimes.com, news,com,au, bbc.com