Chiang Khong - Funeral For a Highly Respected Monk

DavidFL

Administrator
Staff member
Jan 16, 2003
12,330
2,717
113
67
Chiang Khong
www.thegtrider.com
The long serving abbot of Chiang Khong's Wat Luang, the oldest temple in Chiang Khong died recently and a huge cremation was prepared for him beside the Mekong River.

1611084366082.png


1611084346397.png


Monks came from all over the country for the cremation at the old Tha Pha Tan port, downtown central Chiang Khong.
Ignorant I was, and I was astounded by the preparations and the high esteem the abbot was held in - I never knew. Phra Khru Sathit Thamanan.

1611085649477.png


1611085392423.png


A once in a lifetime experience to witness I thought so I made sure I stayed in Chiang Khong for the big night. A night time cremation!
The night = 17 January 2021.

More to come.
 
Last edited:

DavidFL

Administrator
Staff member
Jan 16, 2003
12,330
2,717
113
67
Chiang Khong
www.thegtrider.com
On the day hundreds of people came to pay their respect & witness the cremation.
One of the workers building the funerary structure said the cremation was costing 300,000 baht!

I was somewhat ignorant of the history & significance of the event.
Some post cremation research has turned up some nice info.

The structure is called a Nok Hatsadiling "bird with characteristics of an elephant"

1611135608593.png


In the case of high-ranking monks in Northern Thailand, cremation edifices borrow from royal funerary imagery and depict the mythical nok hatsadiling (elephant headed bird) with a prasat (palace) on its back. The structure itself and the overall event hold great meaning for everyone involved. As the prasat is burned with the body in the funeral pyre, the animal is believed to safely guide the spirit to heaven.

1611137480657.png


The pinnacle and the architectural space around the corpse represent both Mount Meru and a palace—physical entities that refer to heaven. Local terms for“Meru” and “palace” are synonymous with the cremation structure, further solidifying the connection.

The transition from one birth cycle to the next after death is full of uncertainty for the living and the dead. Care of the dead is a central component of Buddhism and one that has contributed to the religion’s development and continued success in Southeast Asia.
Funerals simultaneously provide the living with assurance that the deceased has moved successfully into the next cycle and confirm the well-being of the surviving community.


1611137780192.png


Historical records describe the use of nok hatsadiling in royal cremations as far back as five hundred years ago. As the people of Northern Thailand refocus on the specific cultural traditions of Lanna, the nok hatsadiling has gained increased attention as well.

The nok hatsadiling plays an important role in descriptions about the founding of Hariphunchai, the Mon city-state that predated Lanna in Northern Thailand (circa 750–1292).
Hariphunchai influenced the development of Lanna, both politically and religiously, and Northern Thai chronicles describe the origin of the earlier
kingdom in several ways. One popular version tells about the hermit Suthep who founded a city named Hariphunchai at a location with rich soil. After Suthep determined that the city should be shaped like a sea shell, a nok hatsadiling flew to the ocean, picked up a shell, returned to Hariphunchai, and dropped it where the Buddha had predicted his religion would prosper.
In this story, the nok hatsadiling’s presence symbolizes the establishment of a new kingdom and thus a new order of things.
The significance of the kingdom of Hariphunchai as the religious foundation for Lanna is important and might explain the popularity of the nok hatsadiling in Northern Thai funerals—namely, the bird associated with the founding of the first northern kingdom continues to bless the region with its presence and assist the elite during times of transformation.

Historical accounts tell of the use of prasat–nok hatsadiling in royal funerals during the Lanna Kingdom. Specifically, the Yonok chronicles describe the structure as central to the funeral of Phra Nang Visuddhidevi, the queen of Lanna, in 1578. Housing the coffin of the dead queen, the prasat–nok hatsadiling was pulled by an elephant to the cremation ground.

In contemporary Northern Thailand, the prasat–nok hatsadiling edifice is reserved for the most senior monks. It is not merely a remnant from the past but an art form that draws from the past and continues in the present.
Its popularity reflects growing and changing sentiments of modernity and regional identity within Thai culture.Construction of a prasat–nok hatsadiling is an expensive undertaking for a community.
In Northern Thailand in recent years, increasing numbers of these elaborate structures have been built and burned for monks’ cremations. The months from December through February comprise an auspicious season and feature the largest number of monks’ funerals. Culminating in February, this “funeral season” takes place far from the Buddhist rains retreat (a three-month period extending from July until early October), after the rice has been harvested, and without a threat of rain, the traditional time of the Lanna calendar for high-ranking funerals.
During these months, the prasat–nok hatsadiling structures are built and burned each year. Special funeral artists create the structures and take responsibility for their construction and destruction at the cremation site. Great pride is taken in the building and incorporation of the mythical birds, as they not only signify an important monk’s death, they are highlighted as a honored local tradition.


1611138161649.png


1611138281422.png


Source: Onward toward Heaven: Burning the Nok Hatsadiling by Rebecca S. Hall

More to come..
 
Last edited:

DavidFL

Administrator
Staff member
Jan 16, 2003
12,330
2,717
113
67
Chiang Khong
www.thegtrider.com
The show got underway around 6.30PM.
1611147990937.png


The crowds had camped out on the riverside promenade much earlier.
1611147547322.png


1611147784234.png


The start

Fireworks were the order of the night for an amazing send off


After the pyre had burned down another series of fireworks lit up the sky.
1611150545148.png


1611150592225.png


And that was the show over. An amazing experience.
3 days later the river foreshore is back to normal.
1611150852401.png


For more amazing images & some drone VDO check out Dr Sommai's facebook page.



 

Jurgen

Moderator
Oct 23, 2009
671
106
43
www.chopard.org
Sathu, sathu, sathu ...really a unique experience, particularly on such a scale and with that gorgeous backdrop. Great pictures and media for the commoners like me who were not able to participate. Thank you for uploading and writing an enlightening text.
 

ianyonok

Ol'Timer
Dec 9, 2008
1,006
636
113
Amazing. A very special occasion to experience. Well covered in your post, David.