Marching Band Thailand
Mahouts ride on their elephants as they march with well-wishers during a procession near the Grand Palace to pay their respects to Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn in Bangkok on May 7, 2019. Picture: AFP.

Marching in lockstep outside the royal palace in Bangkok’s historic old quarter, 11 elephants bowed and trumpeted in homage to Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn on Tuesday, a day after the monarch’s three-day coronation ceremony.

The ritual-laden event ended on Monday with the newly crowned 66-year-old monarch granting Thais a public audience from a balcony of the Grand Palace, where thousands gazed up at him and waved Thailand’s national flag.

But elephant trainers, known as mahouts, brought well-wishers of a different species to celebrate there on Tuesday, although the king himself did not appear.

Dressed in yellow silk shawls and wearing saffron flower garlands, the white-powdered elephants — Thailand’s national animal — performed a 10-step jig to symbolise the 10th reign of the Chakri dynasty ushered in by the formal crowning of Vajiralongkorn, or Rama X.

“The elephants… knelt down to bow and roared, as if to say ‘long live the King’ in the elephant language,” said mahout Reangthongbaht Meepon of Ayutthaya Elephant Palace, a tourist centre where the animals are the main attraction for visitors.

The elephants deemed worthy had received special “royal training” for Tuesday’s performance, he said.

“We got the training methods from the royal palace to train elephants according to ancient traditions,” Reangthongbaht said.

Elephant tourism is a lucrative industry in the kingdom that has come under increased scrutiny from animal rights groups in recent years.

The three-day coronation ceremony, rich with pageantry and ritual, was the first in Thailand in 69 years, coming after the death of Vajiralongkorn’s beloved father in 2016.

The tradition began by anointing the king with sacred waters before he donned a tiered golden headpiece weighing more than seven kilograms.

The second day of ceremonies saw the king carried on a gilded palanquin for several hours under a searing sun, before capping the coronation on day three with his public address.

EWN