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The funeral proceedings to bid farewell to HRH Princess Bejaratana Rajasuda have begun with thousands taking part. The princess was the only child of former king, Rama VI, and a cousin of Thailand’s present monarch, HM Bhumibol Adulayadej (Rama IX). The princess died last July at the age of 85. When such prominent people pass away in Thailand it isn’t unusual for the cremation to take place a long time after the actual death. This allows time for appropriate arrangements to be made, an auspicious date and time to be chosen and for the various merit-making ceremonies which, in Buddhist belief, help the deceased in their next life. Since her death, the princess has been lying in state at the Dusit Maha Prasart Throne Hall which is located within the Grand Palace compound in Bangkok. The last major royal funeral ceremony in Thailand was for the king’s sister, HRH Princess Galyani Vadhana, which took place in November 2008.

The day will begin at 7am when the royal urn is carried from Dusit Maha Prasart Hall atop the royal golden palanquin to an area in front of Wat Phra Chetupon, or Wat Pho.

There, the urn will be transferred to the Phra Maha Pichai Ratcharot, or royal chariot, for the one-and-a-half-hour procession to Sanam Luang.

The chariot was built from gilded teak wood during the reign of King Rama I, and was used for the funeral of Her Royal Highness The Princess Mother and Her Royal Highness Princess Galyani Vadhana. It weighs around 13 tonnes and requires 216 men to pull.

The chariot will set off along Sanam Chai Road towards Ratchadamnoen Avenue.

When it arrives at Sanam Luang, the urn will be returned to the palanquin for the third and final procession.

The palanquin will circumnavigate the phra meru, or royal funeral pyre, three times, with each lap covering 260 metres, before the urn is placed on the pyre.

Members of the public wishing to pay their respects may leave paper and sandalwood flowers for the cremation at 4pm at five points around Sanam Luang and at 46 temples in Bangkok.

The ceremonial cremation will go ahead at 4:30pm, followed by the more private official cremation at 10pm and a programme of cultural events for the public through the night.

The funeral is the culmination of about eight months of work by the Fine Arts Department and Religious Affairs Department, which allocated a budget of 218.1 million baht for the preparations and ceremony.

Princess Bejaratana was the only child of King Vajiravudh, Rama VI, and Phra Nang Chao (Queen) Suvadhana.

Her royal father, seriously ill at the time, passed away just one day after the princess was born, and it was her grandmother, Queen Savang Vadhana, who took the baby princess under her wing.

The princess spent much of her formative years in the United Kingdom after the 1932 revolution which toppled the absolute monarchy and led to the abdication of her uncle, King Prajadhipok. By the time she returned to Thailand in 1959, her cousin, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, was on the throne.

She spent the rest of her life at Ruenrudi Villa, working on behalf of various charitable organisations and projects that were established and initiated by her royal father as well as her grandmother, Queen Savang Vadhana, with her mother constantly by her side.