Thailand to Stage Royal Barge Procession

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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  revived by King Bhumibol Adulyadej in 1959. This breathtaking waterborne procession is reserved for nationally auspicious occasions and has been held only 16 times during the king’s reign.

To commemorate the occasion of HM Bhumibol’s 84th birthday on Dec. 5, 2011, the Royal Thai Navy will be organizing a Royal Kathin Barge Procession on Oct. 22. During the ritual, barges carry the deeply revered Buddha image and members of the royal family will present saffron kathin robes, food and other necessities to the monks at Wat Arun, (the Temple of Dawn) to mark the end of the 3-month Buddhist rains’ retreat in October—during the rainy season, Buddhist monks traditionally return to their temples for  Buddhist lent.

The waterborne Royal Kathin Barge procession on Oct. 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 (the last of their kind in the world), 10 barges with animal figureheads and 38 smaller vessels. The 5-column flotilla stretches approximately 4,200 ft. in length and 360 ft. across. A total of 2,200 sailors from various units within the Royal Thai Navy will serve as oarsmen.

The last time that a royal barge procession was organized was on June 12, 2006, for the diamond jubilee celebrations to mark the 60th anniversary of King Bhumibol’s accession to the throne.

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