To commemorate the auspicious occasion of HM King Bhumibol’s 84th birthday on December 5, 2011, the Royal Thai Navy will be organizing a Royal Kathin Barge Procession on 22 October 2011 to mark the visit of members of the royal family to a royal temple to present offerings of saffron kathin robes, food and other necessities, to the monks.
One of the grandest spectacles in the Kingdom of Thailand, the Royal Barge Procession on the Chao Phraya – the ‘River of Kings’ – is an ancient tradition that was revived by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej in 1959.*The water-borne royal kathin procession on October 22 will consist of a flotilla of 52 traditional-style barges arranged in five columns, based on a battle formation from ancient times. This is made up of four major royal barges — Suphannahongse, Narai Song Suban H.M. King Rama IX, Anantanagaraj and Anekchatbhuchongse, ten barges with animal figureheads and 38 smaller vessels. The five-column flotilla stretches 1,280 metres in length and 110 across. A total of 2,200 sailors from various units within the Royal Thai Navy will serve as oarsmen.
This breathtaking water-borne procession is reserved for nationally auspicious occasions and has been held only sixteen times during His Majesty’s reign.
Officially known as the Praratcha Phithi Phra Yuha Yatra Cholamak (Royal Waterway Procession), the water-borne procession involves barges carrying the deeply revered Buddha image (Phra Buddha Sihing) and members of the royal family to present robes to the monks at Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) to mark Awk Phansa, the end of the three-month Buddhist rains’ retreat in October. During the rainy season, Buddhist monks traditionally return to their temples for what is often called Buddhist lent.
The royal barges of Thailand are the last of their kind in the world. The last time that a royal barge procession was organized was on 12 June 2006 for the diamond jubilee celebrations to mark the 60th anniversary of HM King Bhumibol’s accession to the throne.
Throughout his long reign, HM King Bhumibol has devoted special attention to the preservation of the arts and culture of Thailand. On viewing the ruins of Ayutthaya, His Majesty once remarked: “Ancient ruins always do honour to a nation. The Royal Barges in the Rattanakosin Period: A Precious Heritage.
The Royal Barge Museum
Located: Tour zone Thonburi
approx 5kms West of Siam Centre
On the banks of the Bangkok Noi Canal off the Chao Phraya River, is a huge boathouse that displays eight royal barges that are the product of the finest Thai craftsmanship.
Start your tour of the museum by viewing the four-part video clip which will give you an overview of the history of the royal barges.
Price: approx 100bt admission
open: 9am to 5pm
Tour options: D.I.Y., combine in a Canal tour or use A.P.A.C. (see details at the end of this section.
Access: Incorporate the visit in a Canal tour or if going direct use the local River ferry to River Pier (N12) Saphan Phra Pinklao Pier and a breif walk
Photos of barges below, more in web album, donation (photos) welcome
There are various types of barges and the designs depend on the function of the vessel. The actual royal barges are the vessels for the monarchs. There are four such Royal Barges in the museum:
The Suphannahongsa or golden swan, the personal barge of the King is by far the most majestic. This royal barge, which was carved out of a single teak tree trunk, was completed in 1911.
The majestic Suphannahongsa
The Narai Song Suban H M King Rama IX is the latest addition to the royal fleet. This Royal Barge was launched on 05 April 1996 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of His Majesty King Bhumibol Ayulyadej's accession to the throne.
Narai Song Suban HM King Rama IX
The making of a royal barge is best illustrated by the construction of the Narai Song Suban H M King Rama IX in 1994. The Anekchatphuchong was first constructed during the reign of King Rama IV. The current version on display at the museum was launched in 1914.
The fourth royal barge is the Anantanakharat with its seven-headed Naga sprouting from the bow.
These four Royal Barges on display at the Royal Barge Museum are beautifully adorned with the intricate carvings on the hulls which are elaborately painted.The barges are in berths and raised above the water level in the dock with the mythical figureheads on the bow towering above the visitor.The other four barges on display at the museum are escort vessels:
The Ekachai class barge with the horn of a mythical dragon on the bow.
The Krabi class barge with Hanuman the Monkey God astride the bow.
The Krut or Garuda class barge with a garuda in flight on the bow.
Krut or Garuda
The Asura Vayupak class barge with the half bird and half ogre on the bow.
With the exception of the Ekachai class escorts all the other escort barges have a cannon at the bow. The hulls of the escort barges are lacquered in black and gold.
Dating back to the Ayutthaya Period, the Royal Barge Procession used to involve as many as 200 longboats in an elaborate procession undertaken by King Narai the Great to accompany diplomatic delegation sent by King Louis XIV of France. During this period, the royal barges were used in battles, religious occasions, boat races as well as royal ceremonies. Unfortunately, these early barges were burnt to dust after Ayutthaya fell and was ransacked by the Burmese.
After King Rama I ascended the throne and established a new capital in Bangkok, he revived the centuries-old tradition and ordered constructions of new barges. Among the most elaborate and significant is the Suppanahong, with the ‘golden swan’ as the figurehead. This majestic 50-metre long vessel, carved from a single piece of teak, is considered the personal barge of the King.
The arrival of motorised boats after King Rama IV’s reign, and the absence of war, has limited the role of the royal barges to purely ceremonial purposes, particularly the Royal Kathin procession at the end of every Buddhist Lent. World War II and a period of political turmoil during King Rama VII’s reign had disrupted the royal barges’ service, until King Rama IX (King Bhumibhol) initiated the restoration of war-damaged vessels and resumed the annual Royal Krathin procession.
The the types of royal barges for details on the barges and crew.
There are two other locations where the barges are kept, the Royal Thai Navy Royal Barge dock near the Arun Amarin Bridge and the Royal Motorboat Dock at the Vasukri Pier.The majestic splendor of the Royal Barges can only be fully appreciated when viewed in the Royal Barge Procession during which up to 50 barges are assembled in a regal flotilla to sail down the Chao Phraya River.
One such procession was the Royal Barge Procession at the APEC closing ceremony in 2003. The grandest procession was Royal Barge Procession 2006 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the reign of His majesty the King.
For the latest Royal Barge Procession on 5 November 2007, please see the Royal Barge Procession 2007 to celebrate the 80th birthday of HM King Bhumipol Adulyadej. The Royal Barge Museum by the Bangkok Noi is a legacy of Kings for generations to come.
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