BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand on Friday held a nationwide Buddhist almsgiving ceremony to mark the passage of a year since the death of its revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej, a father figure to the nation during a reign that spanned seven decades.
As many as 199 Buddhist monks in orange robes participated in the event at Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok, the capital, where the king spent most of his twilight years being treated for various ailments before his death last year on Oct. 13.
The monks filed past hundreds of Thais clad in mourning black, receiving packages of biscuits and bottled water, among other items, in large brass alms bowls, as a way of amassing merit for the “people’s king”, who helped shape the Southeast Asian nation in the decades after World War Two.
“We’ll remember his goodness and follow his every footstep,” said one of the mourners, Laksana Lueprasert, 65, her voice breaking as she said the feeling of loss would never fade from her heart.
“He is gone, but we still keep him in our thoughts to this day,” said Manee Chawalitnate, 58.
At Bangkok’s Government House, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha led government officials and media in a similar ceremony that observed 89 seconds of silence, to mark the king’s age if he had lived until his birthday on Dec. 5.
Rows of monks prayed amid portraits of the king bordered with yellow marigold flowers. The nationwide ceremony precedes a royal cremation function on Oct. 26 at the Grand Palace, where Thais will bid the king a final farewell.
Though steeped in ancient traditions, the funeral, which will run five days, will allow greater participation by the public than those of previous kings.
Artisans have spent 10 months working in Bangkok’s ancient quarter to build an elaborate cremation site fashioned after a vision of heaven.
King Maha Vajiralongkorn, or Rama X, succeeded his father and has overseen sweeping changes to the royal household, including the running of palace finances.
Reporting by Juarawee Kittisilpa and Aukkarapon Niyomyat; Writing by Patpicha Tanakasempipat; Editing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Clarence Fernandez