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A northern #Thailand funeral. Photos and commentary on the rituals and #customs. 3 of 4

30/01/2015

More photos of the cortege on the way to the crematorium. A distance of about 2 kilometers.

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It was getting hot with the sun’s rays beating down on the ptocession. In Thailand, umbrellas are often used more as protection from the sun than the rain.

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The “spire” of the castle or palace catafalque is two metres high. Electricity supply wires have to be raised to allow it through and sometimes the spire must be pulled down with a white string to allow the main structure to pass under.

 

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At the crematorium incense sticks were given to all the mourners. As they approach the casket they wai and lay them on an ornamental tray which will be placed in the coffin before the burn. In some communities each mourner  throws the stick directly onto the flames.

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Before releasing two large balloons into the skies they are filled by fanning air into them. Gas is then inserted and a flame torch is used to ignite them. You can see the wide diameter gun being inserted into the base of the balloon. Once airborne the balloons emit loud fireworks to scare off evil spirits.

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Once the balloons fly into the distance the next stage of the ceremony begins. A yellow band is laid on a table with one end attached to the coffin. All those present are given a numbered card. 1 and 2 for close family, 3 and 4 for extended family, 5 for civic leaders, and so on. Mourners are called up in groups. You can imagine that, with several hundred people, that sort of organisation is essential. Each person is then given a new monk’s robe to lay on the table as an act of merit. The significance of the yellow saffron band attached to the coffin is that it shows that this merit is being transferred to the deceased.

Each person receives the robe from the family, makes a wai when it is received, lays the robe on the band of cloth, wais again, and  then returns to his or her seat.

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You notice she has taken off her shoes before placing the robe on the saffron band. Actually, few people did that.

 

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Whenever the table is full, a group of monks comes to receive the merit gifts and offers a prayer of thanks before returning to the sala (shown in the background).

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