Today marks the 61st anniversary of the coronation of King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX), the world’s longest reigning monarch and ninth king of the Chakri dynasty. King Bhumibol – known as “The Great” – was crowned on May 5, 1950 in an elaborate ceremony that was said to outshine all previous coronations in Thailand. Every year, on May 5, the Thai people celebrate Coronation Day (Wan Chatramongkhol) in honour of their beloved king.
At the beginning of the Rattanakosin era, the first king of the Chakri dynasty, King Phra Buddha Yodfa (Rama I) moved the capital of Siam from Thonburi to the east bank of the Chao Phraya River and named it Krung Thep (City of Angels). As he set about constructing the new capital, he also made numerous reformations; one of which was the coronation ceremony of the king. According to Rama I’s inauguration protocol, any king not undergoing the coronation ceremony would not be able to assume the term “Phrabat” in front of the King’s title of “Somdej Phrajaoyuhua”.
Up until the reign of King Mongkut (Rama IV), the accession to the throne of the Siamese sovereign was not publicly celebrated. Instead, a private ceremony was held in which court officials would present the royal title and articles of royal use to the king. After Rama IV ascended to the throne on April 6, 1851, he issued an edict saying that the coronation of the king should be a joyous occasion and publicly celebrated, as was the case in all other countries ruled by a sovereign.
Under the present reign of Rama IX, Coronation day is celebrated over a three-day period, starting on May 3. The first day is dedicated to the previous kings of the Chakri Dynasty and a Buddhist ceremony is held at Amarindra Vinichai Hall in the Grand Palace, in which a high monk reads scriptures and delivers a sermon. Later on the first day, flags of honour are unfurled to distinguish various military units. On the second day, Buddhist and Brahman prayers are chanted to announce the coming auspicious day. The celebrations culminate on May 5, when the king traditionally makes offerings to Buddhist monks and leads a procession three times around the Grand Palace.