IF THE Royal Crematorium representing Phra Sumeru Mountain, the sacred cosmological mountain of Buddhist cosmology, embodies the very highest of Thai arts and architecture, then the landscaping of the ceremonial ground at Sanam Luang can only be described as a Thai masterpiece.
Designed by the award-winning Nong Nooch Tropical Garden in Pattaya, the ground is covered with more than 100,000 marigolds and other yellow flowers interspersed with pops of white.
The landscaping is based on two colours: white symbolising purity and yellow representing the late King’s day of birth.
Indeed, under its direction, more than 300,000 marigolds were planted in both Bangkok and Chon Buri from August onwards to ensure the flowers would bloom and retain their golden glory until the ceremony came to an end.
The design emphasises simplicity to reflect the sufficiency philosophy while maintaining the seriousness and dignity of this sad event. The landscaping is based on two colours: white symbolising purity and yellow representing the late King’s day of birth.
“We designed the landscaped gardens for the cremations of Her Royal Highness Princess Bejaratana Rajasuda and His Holiness Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara, the Supreme Patriarch, and we are extremely honoured to be invited to do the job again,” says Kampon Tansacha, managing director of Nong Nooch Tropical Garden.
“We give the yellow two interpretations – the first refers to the colour for Monday, the day on which the King was born, and the second to the yellow shirts worn by Thais everywhere on days when he would give a special audience, turning the crowds into a sea of yellow.
“This time, we will all be wearing black so we will use these marigolds as a substitute for the people as we send our beloved monarch to heaven.
“Most space is devoted to pavilions and several activities, so there’s not much space for gardening. We’ve had to put the marigolds in pots around the ceremonial site.”
The landscape design emphasises simplicity and sufficiency while maintaining dignity.
Despite that lack of space, 70,000 marigolds are already blooming alongside another 30,000 other species of flowers, plants and bushes. Among them are the white Phitsanulok ixoras, yellow lotuses, sai yod thong (Chinese bangan, curtain fig and glossy fig), cha nab thong and khoi phum (Streblus asper or Siamese rough bush). The garden is being tended to daily by a team of experienced gardeners.
“We brought all the plants to Sanam Luang on October 8 but the heavy rains damaged some of the marigolds, so we are constantly replacing them. The marigolds are planted in sand because it absorbs water very well, making it perfect for the rainy season,” Kampon says.
The landscaped garden is already 99-per-cent complete and boasts several kinds of local plants and flowers, which can be found in the Royal Palace and temples.
“We select the plants with which the late King Bhumibol would be familiar. We have also prepared beautiful pots of yellow ground orchids and bonsai to decorate Phra Thinang Song Tham [the Royal Merit-Making Pavilion],” Kampon says.
The entrance to the ceremonial site has a showcase of a dike and rice field in the shape of the Thai numeral nine, along with vetiver grass, Chaipattana aerators, a weir, and such royal initiatives as the Kaem Ling (“Monkey Cheek”) floodcontrol project.
A dyke and rice field in the shape of the Thai numeral nine, along with vetiver grass, Chaipattana aerators, a weir, and such royal initiatives as the kaem ling (“monkey cheek”) flood-control project, have been recreated at the entrance to the ceremonial site.
Designed by Phorntham Thamwimol of the Office of Architecture, Department of Fine Arts, this area illustrates the late King’s genius in water resource management and is the first time that the royal cremation ground of Sanam Luang has been adjusted in this way.
“His Majesty paid a great deal of attention to water, which is the heart of agriculture. This is why we chose to plant an actual rice paddy and combine it with other royal initiatives to demonstrate how King Bhumibol helped his people,” Phorntham says.
“Four ponds with yellow lotuses have been planted here along with Mahajanaka mango, vetiver and various shrubs and trees clipped into ornamental shapes to create coherent layers.”
The base of the crematorium simulates the Anodard Pond (Heavenly Pond), inspired by the mural at Wat Suthat Theppawararam.
Like the royal crematorium, the ceremonial site imitates heaven but at the foot of Phra Sumeru Mountain. From here, the visitor can only see the old city of Rattanakosin and the Phra Si Ratana Chedi pagoda, adjacent to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, where some relics of the late King Bhumibol will be installed.
“There is an invisible axis intersect, one running from the spire of the Phra Si Ratana Chedi pagoda, adjacent to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, and the other from the middle of the Phra Ubosot in Wat Mahathat Yuwaratrang- sarit,” Phorntham says.
The landscape around the Royal Crematorium is decorated with white tiles and gold walls to represent the four continents: Uttarakuru Thawip in the north, Purvavideha in the east, Jambu Thawip in the south, and Aparagodaniya in the west.
Four ponds with yellow lotuses have been created around the ceremonial ground.
The base of the crematorium simulates the Anodard Pond (Heavenly Pond), inspired by the mural painting of Wat Suthat Theppawararam. It is home to auspicious animals such as 10 species of elephants in the north, four breeds of horses in the west, four types of Singha (lion) in the east, and seven types of cows in the south. There are also sculptures of mythical creatures from the Himmaphan Forest.
“The base of the royal crematorium is decorated with the Himmaphan Forest in line with Thai beliefs. We chose to represent the Anodard Pond to relate to water and the design is different from the royal crematoria of Her Royal Highness the Princess Mother and Her Royal Highness Princess Galyani Vadhana, which were adorned with stones and grass,” Phorntham says.
“The ground level pools have a water circulation system at each of the corners and we have used technology to create lighting effects for day and night and project water effects in emerald green.”