Continuing our series on International Funeral Traditions we take a look at the rituals from Thailand. Thai Funerals generally follow the Buddhist Funerary rites. Depending on the culture and religion, the practice may also vary. The ritual consists of a bathing ceremony, chanting and prayers from Buddhist Monks and finally, the cremation of the body. Cremation is common throughout the country.
The Bathing Ceremony is the first ritual that takes place. It is thought that by bathing the body after death, mourners are cleansing the soul before its journey to heaven. Guests to the ceremony will, one by one, pour water infused with lustral water over the palm of the deceased. The grooming then commences. The hair of the deceased is combed and they are then dressed for the coffin. This ritual is seen as intimate and provides an opportunity for each guest to have one last goodbye with the deceased. Family members feel as though they have been involved in ensuring a peaceful journey resulting in the ceremony itself feeling more intimate.
Cremation is a generally accepted part of Thai Funerals, this includes Royal Thai Funerals also. Historically, this ceremony was a celebratory event. Today however, the event of cleansing and chanting will last for five days prior to cremation. The process is held at the closest crematorium and then the ashes are obtained by family. For people in high office either in government, armed forces or royalty affairs are significantly more elaborate.
As expected, a funeral held for a member of Thailand’s royal family is a spectacular affair. Unsurprisingly, no cost is spared. A royal cremation takes place in a phra merumat (royal crematorium) in the royal fields of Bangkok. Hindu symbolism – a long standing feature of the monarchy, is also heavily ‘referenced’ in a Thai Royal Funeral. Mimicking a Thai Funeral, the bathing ceremony will commence however shortly after, the body will be on display within a Kot and Buddhist rites will be spoken every three hours for as long as requested by the family. These rituals are traditionally private affairs however the cremation ceremony has long been a public spectacle – an elaborate event where for royalty, the event could last for fourteen days. The processions will bring the body to the Merumat for cremation and then return the ashes and remains to the palace. Find out here about the King of Thailand’s funeral that took place last year.
Government Officials’ Funerals
Government officials and those in the armed forces are highly revered in Thailand and their funeral services are therefore meticulously planned and filled with tradition. The body ‘lies in state’ from 2 weeks to 5 – 7 months, the lie in state for senior officials can increase to from 6 – 8 months to even two years. A ceremonial ribbon is attached to the urn and Monks read their Buddhist Rites to bless the body 4 times a day. The body is then ready for cremation. For government officials and those in the armed forces, once the 100 day mark for state funerals is reached, cremation can commence.
Like many traditions, Thailand have their own way of honouring those who have died, particularly those who have helped the country strive. Traditions change and adapt to an evolving culture and within Thailand, many have held on to old traditions out of respect but have also made it their own.
We encourage anyone planning their own funeral or organising a send off for a loved one, to plan it according to their own family traditions and preferences to make it truly unique. Talk to our team 0203 937 7707 or visit our new directory to connect with inspirational businesses.