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Thailand's King Crowns Himself After Surprise Wedding

BANGKOK, Thailand -- King "Maha" Vajiralongkorn crowns himself monarch
on Saturday (May 4) during a three-day multimillion-dollar coronation
steeped in ancient Hindu and Buddhist rituals confirming he is Rama X,
10th in the Chakri dynasty after his father died in 2016.

In a surprise on Wednesday (May 1), Vajiralongkorn married his consort
Suthida Tidjai, a general who commanded his bodyguards, and announced
she was now Queen Suthida Vajiralongkorn na Ayudhya in Thailand's
constitutional monarchy.

The coup-installed military-led government expects dissidents and
politicians to show respect during the coronation's May 4-6 ceremonies
and silence their confrontations over the disputed results of last
month's elections.

Thousands of people are expected to line Bangkok's sweltering streets
on Sunday (May 5) when Vajiralongkorn is carried on a palanquin
followed by officials and a band during a four-mile, post-coronation
procession from the Grand Palace past Buddhist temples.

The king meets foreign diplomats and government officials on Monday
(May 6) which he declared a public holiday.

Many of Saturday's coronation rites, rituals and iconography date back
hundreds of years. Others have been recast or invented.

Vajiralongkorn, 66, became king shortly after his father King Bhumibol
Adulyadej died aged 88 on October 13, 2016. Saturday's coronation is a

If no major changes are made, here are the expected key events:

Vajiralongkorn will receive a name plate and seals made of gold
brought in a solemn procession from Bangkok's Temple of the Emerald

This slab and seals are etched with Vajiralongkorn's horoscope, royal
name, and the name of Thailand's Buddhist supreme patriarch,
confirming the king has the influential clergy's support.

Royal astrologers can use the slab's astrological details to predict
activities relating to Vajiralongkorn.

During Saturday's coronation, he undergoes several washing and
anointing rites which mix Hinduism's Brahman and breakaway Buddhist
purification traditions.

During one ritual, he wears a white robe with his right shoulder bare
and sits under a device shaped like a lotus that gently showers holy
water onto him.

Ablution rites also allow the supreme patriarch, the chief court
astrologer, and other officials to pour holy water onto his hands from
blessed vases.

Vajiralongkorn then changes into regal attire including a heavy gold
embroidered robe and ascends his Octagonal Throne to receive holy
water presented by a Brahman priest and various officials.

The water was recently combined from auspicious sites in Thailand. In
ancient India, royal Hindu rituals required consecrated water from
India's five holiest rivers, including the Ganges.

Brahmans then present a royal nine-tiered umbrella to Vajiralongkorn,
symbolizing his sovereignty.

Ancient kings often appeared with umbrellas instead of crowns. People
believed the umbrellas housed wise spirits who advised any king
sitting underneath and also guarded him.

Similar umbrellas protected shrines and other religious sites in
ancient India, Java and Cambodia, and were later reinforced with wood
until transforming into the world's first pagodas.

Departing his Octagonal Throne, King Vajiralongkorn then sits on a
gilded figwood Noble Throne under his new umbrella.

A Brahman priest representing the Hindu god Shiva will declare the
"Opening of Kailash's portals," inviting Shiva to enter the king's
body from Mount Kailash.

Mount Kailash in northwest Tibet is said to be Shiva's mythical Mount Meru home.

The priest then gives the king exquisite royal regalia including the
Sword of Victory, Royal Fan and Fly Whisk, Royal Staff, Royal
Slippers, and Great Crown of Victory.

These pieces were created mostly from gold during the reign of King
Rama I who began the Chakri dynasty in 1782.

Unlike coronations elsewhere in which a monarch is crowned by a
religious or other official, Vajiralongkorn will crown himself by
lifting the headpiece with both hands and placing it upon his head.

The gem-encrusted crown weighs 16 pounds, rises in circular layers,
peaks in an elongated spire and publicly appears only on coronation

At the crown's top is a diamond purchased in India during the mid-19th
century, capped by a tiny umbrella sheltering the glistening stone.

The crown's circular shape symbolizes Mount Meru indicating the king
is enthroned at the center of Hinduism's and Buddhism's celestial

The "devaraja" or divine king then speaks for the first time as a
crowned monarch to gathered Brahman and Buddhist clergy and other

He recites the royal Oath of Allegiance invoking Buddhism's Tenfold
Practice of Ten Duties of Kingship.

These duties include generosity, moral behavior, self-sacrifice,
honesty, gentleness, austerity, non-violence, tolerance, public
welfare, and freedom from hatred.

While nearby Buddhist clergy chant blessings, troops outside the
palace fire a multi-gun salute.

More than 40,000 Buddhist temples throughout Thailand then ring bells
and gongs announcing and blessing the monarch.

He later appears wearing his crown and sits on his elevated Golden
Hibiscus Throne to greet invitees.

Afterwards, he rides outdoors atop an opulent palanquin carried by
more than 300 men in a procession to the Chapel Royal of the Emerald
Buddha to indicate he will protect Buddhism, a religion shared by 95
percent of Thailand's population.

Brahman priests, speaking Sanskrit, Pali and Thai, preside over many
of Saturday's coronation rituals to project a sacred status onto the
monarch, who is presented as an incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu.

Around 1200 B.C. in India, monarchs began using Hindu regalia to
emphasize their godly powers.

During the first kingdom of Siam's 13th century Sukhothai era, Hindu
regalia appeared in the coronation of King Dhammaraja I, who bore the
title "maha" or "great," which King "Maha" Vajiralongkorn adopted.


Richard S. Ehrlich is a Bangkok-based journalist from San Francisco,
California, reporting news from Asia since 1978 and winner of Columbia
University's Foreign Correspondent's Award. He co-authored three
non-fiction books about Thailand, including "'Hello My Big Big Honey!'
Love Letters to Bangkok Bar Girls and Their Revealing Interviews," "60
Stories of Royal Lineage," and "Chronicle of Thailand: Headline News
Since 1946." Mr. Ehrlich also contributed to the chapter "Ceremonies
and Regalia" in a book published in English and Thai titled, "King
Bhumibol Adulyadej, A Life's Work: Thailand's Monarchy in
Perspective." Mr. Ehrlich's newest book, "Sheila Carfenders, Doctor
Mask & President Akimbo" portrays a 22-year-old American female mental
patient who is abducted to Asia by her abusive San Francisco

His online sites are:

© Scoop Media

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