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THE ROYAL BARGE PROCESSION

Joined by speakers from:Bangkok, Thailand November 4, 1999.

His Majesty the King of Thailand Bhumibol Adulyadej today presided over the ceremonial presenting of the Annual "Kathin" Robes to the monks' congregation at Bangkok's Wat Arun Rajavararam (The Temple of Dawn). The procession was last presented in 1996 on occasion of the King's Fiftieth Year of accession to the throne.

Featuring 52 exotic paddlecraft, the Royal Barge Procession preceding the ceremony is one of Asia's most colorful, exotic and reverent spectacles. The tightly choreographed procession navigated three kilometers of the Chao Phaya River in the complex 90 meter wide "Major" formation - five rows of barges stretching 1, 110 meters manned by 2, 082 paddlers, navigators and officers.

The presentation of the Kathin robes takes place on ok pansa, or the end of the monsoon season's Buddhist Rains Retreat. The presentation takes place on wan ok pansa, the first day after the Rains Retreat. The procession began under overcast skies at 3:30PM from Vassukri Royal Landing and proceeded traversed the Chao Phaya past Wat Phra Keo (The Temple of the Emerald Buddha), the Grand Palace and Wat Po, arriving at Wat Arun Landing in under an hour. The barges returned upriver at dusk, so many of these photos were shot in extremely low-light conditions

Any Royal Barge procession exemplifies the grandeur and splendor of traditional Thai arts and culture, but this year's procession was especially organized for the 72nd Birthday Anniversary of His Majesty the King (the Sixth 12-year cycle). In addition to the 51 historical Royal Barges, the formation included the brand new Narai Song Suban, King Rama IX.

The new "Secondary" barge preceded the Suphanahongse with King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit and the other "Secondary Barge, the Anekchatbhuchong. The Anantanagaraj barge followed two rows behind the Suphanahongse, carrying the Royal Kathin Robes.

Each boat, including the 46-meter Subanahongsa, is formed from a single teak tree. Of particular interest is the reverence that traditional Buddhists have for the trees selected for use as a Royal barge. Once selected, prayers of apology were delivered to the living tree, explanation its future and status as a Royal barge. Once cut, the tree is considered to be continuing its life as a boat for royal use.

These telephotos were shot from the Royal Navy Headquarters Pavilion directly on the Chao Phaya River.



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