The edifices for the cremation festivities of King Mongkut (died 1868)
on the Phramen grounds (Sanam Luang)
This photograph shows the main group of the Phramen with the proper Mount Meru in the middle. The Thai call the edifices in which the cremation of the royal body takes place Mount Meru in imitation of the ancient Indian world system. With this they assume that the body of the king burns to ashes on the highest summit in the middle point of the world. The height of the edifice up to the highest top was about 60 metres. On all four sides the roofs are stacked on top of each other; all of them ending in strongly bent snake-heads; the whole structure is overloaded with unbelievable splendor of gold ornaments, mosaics of mirror glass and the richest ornaments. The main edifice is surrounded by eight buildings on the eight points of the compass. All these buildings are crowned with phra prang spires. Numerous umbrellas with nine and eleven layers glittering with gold and silver surround the proud building. Demonic giant figures protect the entrances as tower guards.
The above picture are edifices for the cremation of two princes in the reign of King Chulalongkorn. This photograph was taken from the tower of the Ministry of Justice, since then torn down, at the time the funeral procession with the urn containing the ashes arrived in front of the eastern portico. The crowd of people are following the funeral by circling three times around the main building. In the background you can see the buildings of Wat Mahathat and the Chao Phraya River beyond. These edifices are the most splendid ever invented by human imagination. They are usually more beautiful and daring in their conception than the temple architecture built to last. These edifices are built to be used only for a short time and then they are torn down.
Photo and Text: “The Country and People of Siam” by Karl Dohring