Seven days of culture to honor Thailand’s new King

To celebrate the dawn of a new reign, the Kingdom is staging a seven-day national festival of arts and culture that includes performances of classical dance, puppetry, sound and light shows and other traditional and fine arts to honor His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn who serves as the custodian of Thai culture and religions.

His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn was coronated during three days of elaborate ceremonies from May 4 to 6 that featured ancient rites and rituals. The coronation was filled with pomp, pageantry, and processions in Bangkok witnessed by hundreds of thousands of loyal subjects. The 66-year-old monarch is the tenth king of the Chakri Dynasty that was founded in 1782.

It has been customary throughout the Chakri Dynasty for officials and the people to arrange and perform traditional arts such as classical and folk dances in a show of joy and reverence following the coronation of a new king. Thai arts are rich in their diversity, with each region infusing its form of dances, paintings, songs, poetry, and drama with characteristics unique to the people of each area. As mainland Southeast Asia is home to many tribes and ethnic groups, the people of Thailand have welcomed and absorbed cultural and artistic influences from Tai Yai, Lao, Mon, Hmong, Malay, Khmer and many other peoples and groups who reside within its borders.

Some of these arts, such as Khon, an ancient style of dramatic dance in which the performers wear masks, have been recognized and honored beyond Thailand’s borders. In 2018, UNESCO named Khon to its global list of arts that are “intangible cultural heritage,” describing its “graceful dance movements, instrumental and vocal renditions, and glittering costumes.”

The festival will begin on May 22 at Sanam Luang, the Royal Field, in Bangkok with a Khon performance involving 600 dancers, and a sound and light show entitled “The Light of the King’s Kindness.” A variety of events that the public and tourists can attend will continue throughout the seven days in many locations across the country. It will conclude in Bangkok with a performance by drummers from the four corners of the Kingdom on the evening of May 28.