These are some of the photos Vince took at the funeral procession and cremation of the Abbot of Wat Pha Khao in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
The Abbot passed away 27 months ago and this is not unusual that a person of this high ranking in society would have what westerners would consider a delay in final rites. There were many ceremonies held for him during the 27 months after his death.
Public cremations are generally reserved for persons of high status. We were privileged to be able to attend and document this event.
We want to thank our friend Surasak for helping us to see into and learn about Thai and Lanna culture. The following is the research and information he has given to us about this event.
The Abbot at Wat Pha Khao was born June 15, 1924 and ordained as novice monk in 1936 at the age 12 from which he remained enrobed throughout his life.
He was appointed Abbot at Wat Pha Khao in 1971 by the royal bestowment, His name was changed to '' Pra Kru Monkon Ratano Pas '' in 1996. His demise was August 15. 2012 at age 88.
The elaborate funeral was due to his 68 years in monkhood, the royal high rank bestowed in 1996 and the Lanna custom.
By an ancient Lanna code, the mythical creature ''Has-a-dee- link '' as the bearer of the coffin is strictly reserved for the royal and high ranking monk funerals. Has-a-dee-link is depicted as having the head of an elephant and the body of a phoenix. The coffin is either born atop or enshrined within the wooden and paper sculpture. Such iconography implies a sacred transport to the afterlife.”
Above and below are various musical instruments for later in the day at the cremation grounds.
Followers take up positions along the rope that they will be pulling the Elephant through the streets to the cremation grounds.
Starting the procession
Happy smiling faces. It is a joyous day of celebration.
The top is too tall to go under the electrical wires crossing the street. So there are people with bamboo poles to raise the wires out of the way.
The cremation grounds. The coffin has been moved from the elephant to the temple in the center.
Monks from many Wats around Chiang Mai pay their respects
Of those paying respects this is the only monk that went up by himself....I can only surmise he is very important indeed.
Everyone placing the wooden roses at the temple
Musical instrument that was played throughout the ceremony
Hundreds of thin wooden roses were placed on the temple as people paid their respects
Our friend Suraksak helping an elderly woman up the stairs
A nice Thai man helping a not so elderly woman up the stairs
A flame was brought from the Royal Palace in Bangkok to light this flame that would then travel to the Lanna Prince figure you will see in the tree below
The bottle rockets and mortars were only 20 feet away.
The Lanna Prince figure in the tree waiting to light the flame on the temple
One of many fireworks along with lively music was the beginning of the pyre
First flame inside the casket area
The cloth above is imbued with smoke from the cremation. Followers are hoping to get a small piece of this sacred cloth to put on their alters at home.
There is smoke behind the elephant but it was not burned
After hours of shooting and filming all of our batteries were used up. I wish I had one more shot because as we were walking out of the grounds a motor cycle ice cream cart complete with music was happily dishing out treats to adults and children alike!
Below is the video of the celebration