The organizing of festivities for the Royal Cremation Ceremony is an age-old tradition, performed since the Ayutthaya period. It is meant for the general public and signals the ending of the official mourning period at the same time. The public performances also manifest the greatness of the monarch.
Records show that public performances for the occasion have included the khon masked drama, puppetry, shadow plays, Chinese opera, Mon dances, thep thong dances, stunt shows, acrobatics, and others. In the Rattanakosin period, public performances took place for the first time during the Royal Cremation of Somdet Phra Pathom Borommahachanok, the father of King Rama I, in 1796. They were discontinued in the reign of King Rama VI for the Royal Cremation of King Rama V.
In preparing public performances for the Royal Cremation Ceremony for His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the Fine Arts Department has followed the tradition set by the Royal Cremation Ceremony for Her Royal Highness Princess Srinagarindra, the mother of His Majesty King Bhumibol, in 1996, as well as the Royal Cremation Ceremony for Her Royal Highness Princess Galyani Vadhana Krom Luang Naradhiwas Rajanagarindra, the sister of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, in 2008, and the Royal Cremation Ceremony for Her Royal Highness Princess Bejaratana, the only daughter of King Vajiravudh (Rama VI) in 2012.
Festivities for the Royal Cremation of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej include various performances, which will start at 18.00 hr on the Royal Cremation Day, 26 October 2017, and run until 06.00 hr on the following day. They include the following performances.
1. The khon masked drama will be performed in front of Phra Thinang Songtham, or the Royal Merit-Making Pavilion, before the Royal Crematorium. Khon is a classical masked dance derived from Indian temple rituals and dances and draws its story line from the Ramakian, the Thai version of the Indian epic Ramayana. There will be 300 performers.
2. There will also be public performances on three open-air stages in the northern part of Sanam Luang.
Stage One features nang yai (great shadow play), and the khon masked drama on the Ramakian from Her Majesty Queen Sirikit’s Khon performers as well as the Fine Arts Department. There will be about 1,400 performers and other relevant personnel.
Stage Two presents hun luang and hun krabok, which are puppet shows. Hun luang features the Ramakian and hun krabok tales from Phra Abhai Mani (a romantic, epic adventure by Sunthon Phu). Other drama performances include the legend of Mahajanaka, Inao (a romance with a Javanese background), and the story of Manora. There will be a total of 422 performers.
Stage Three features orchestras playing music composed by His Majesty King Bhumibol and other songs, with performances, to pay a tribute to His Majesty the late King. There will also be a ballet performance inspired by the story of Manora. Singers, musicians, and performers will come from A.S.(Ambara Sathan) Friday Band and Sahai Pattana Band, as well as other bands from many agencies and institutes, namely the Fine Arts Department, the Government Public Relations Department, the Royal Thai Army, the Royal Thai Navy, the Royal Thai Air Force, the Royal Thai Police, Chulalongkorn University, the Princess Galyani Vadhana Institute of Music, Banditpattanasilp Institute, and Rajini School. There will be 942 musicians, singers, performers, and other relevant personnel.