Thailand’s National Day

Siam - Scott #234 (1939)

Siam – Scott #234 (1939)

For many years, December 5 has been marked in Thailand as the birthday anniversary of His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej (King Rama IX), with the holiday officially called วันคล้ายวันเฉลิมพระชนมพรรษาพระบาทสมเด็จพระปรมินทรมหาภูมิพลอดุลยเดช บรมนาถบพิตร (Wan Khlai Wan Chaloem Phra Chonmaphansa Phra Bat Somdet Phra Paramin Maha Phumiphon Adunyadet Borommanat Bophit) in Thai.

The date has also been observed as Father’s Day in the Kingdom as King Bhumibol was so beloved that he was considered to be the father of all Thai people born during his reign which helps explain the intense year-long mourning period observed following his death on October 13, 2016. Thais felt as if their own blood-related father had died.

With the conclusion of the the funeral rites on October 29, 2017, the government under the new reign is trying to move away from that cult of personality. July 28 was a new holiday declared this year as วันเฉลิมพระชนมพรรษาสมเด็จพระเจ้าอยู่หัวมหาวชิราลงกรณ บดินทรเทพยวรางกูร (Wan Chaloem Phra Chonmaphansa Somdet Phra Chao Yu Hua Maha Wachiralongkon Bodinthrathepphayawarangkun), the birthday of King Maha Vachiralongkorn (Rama X). December 5 has been renamed National Day, although most Thai people I know are still honoring King Bhumibol’s birthday and calling it Father’s Day.

Thailand Post has stated that the set of Royal Crematorium stamps issued on October 25 will be the last to portray King Bhumibol (something I highly doubt), but are releasing a new stamp today as they have every December 5 for many years. However, they are being careful to not call it a stamp to commemorate the late king’s birthday. The headline in the current issue of the company’s philatelic bulletin reads “Thailand Post Reviving the National Day Commemorative Stamp” but goes on to state both that it is being issued “to convey the deepest gratitude for His Majesty’s infinite divine grace” and that it is “the first National Day Commemorative Stamp in the past 80 years”, the last having been released on June 24, 1939.

Thailand - Thailand Post #TH-1139 (2017)

Thailand – Thailand Post #TH-1139 (2017)

Postmarks to be available at various branch post offices in the Bangkok area on National Day - December 5, 2017

Postmarks to be available at various branch post offices in the Bangkok area on National Day – December 5, 2017

Cachets produced by the Thailand Postal Museum in Bangkok for National Day - December 5, 2017

Cachets produced by the Thailand Postal Museum in Bangkok for National Day – December 5, 2017

I really like the design of the new stamp as it includes the silhouettes of a number of monuments honoring Thai kings and heroes, including the two heroines of Phuket — Thao Thep Krassattri and Thao Si Sunthon — whose twin statue sits just a few miles north of my home. The new National Day stamp might be available in Bangkok today, but none of the provincial post offices (such as here in Phuket) are open. It might be awhile before I can obtain this stamp. However, I do have those from the 1939 National Day issue to report on today; I used one of the other values in the set to illustrate the ASAD article about Thailand’s Constitution Day (December 10) last year.

Scott #234 was released on June 24, 1939, part of a set of five stamps (Scott #233-237) issued that day to commemorate the seventh anniversary of the Siamese Constitution, which proclaimed the end of the absolute monarchy and the beginnings of a constutional monarchy. All five stamps bore the same illustration, identified in the Scott catalogue as “Assembly Hall, Bangkok”, printed by lithography and perforated either 11 or 12. The denominations and colors are 2 satang (dull red brown), 3 satang (green), 5 satang (dark violet), 10 satang (carmine), and 15 satang (dark blue).

Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall in Bangkok. Photograph taken on September 3, 2017.

Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall in Bangkok. Photograph taken on September 3, 2017.

The building pictured is actually called the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall (พระที่นั่งอนันตสมาคม — Phra Thinang Anantasamakhom which translates to “the place of immense gathering”) and is a royal reception hall within Dusit Palace in Bangkok, Thailand. It was commissioned by King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) in 1908. The building was completed in 1915, five years after Chulalongkorn’s death in 1910. It is now employed from time to time for certain state occasions. Until October 1, 2017, when it indefinitely closed to the public, the hall was open to visitors as a museum and housed the Arts of the Kingdom exhibition, which showcased handicrafts produced under the sponsorship of the Queen Sirikit Institute.

One year after the completion of the Amphorn Sathan Residential Hall in 1906, King Chulalongkorn decided to commission the construction of a grand European-style reception hall for use by the royal court inside the Dusit Palace. The king named the hall Phra Thinang Ananta Samakhom. The name was the same as a throne hall built by his father King Mongkut (Rama IV) in 1859, which was situated in the Grand Palace. The old throne hall was later demolished by the orders of Chulalongkorn himself and the name was reused for the new edifice.

Chulalongkorn laid the foundation stone of the throne hall on the 40th anniversary of his first coronation — November 11, 1908. The throne hall was built in the Italian Renaissance and neoclassical style and was first given to the Prussian C. Sandreczki; afterwards two Italian architects — Mario Tamagno and Annibale Rigotti — took over much of the work, with engineering work by Carlo Allegri and G.E. Gollo. Marble from Carrara, Italy and other foreign materials were used. Italian sculptor Vittorio Novi, who would later also work on the Mahadthai Udthit Bridge (สะพานมหาดไทยอุทิศ), was employed with his nephew Rudolfo Nolli. The construction took eight years and was completed in 1915 during the reign of King Vajiravudh (Rama VI). The throne hall was used for grand royal ceremonies and receptions, as well as a gallery for the king’s art collection mostly purchased from his two trips to Europe.

Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall. Photograph taken on December 22, 2007.

Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall. Photograph taken on December 22, 2007.

The throne hall is a two-story construction with a large dome (49.5 m high) in the centre, surrounded by six smaller domes Fresco paintings in the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall were accomplished by Galileo Chini and Carlo Riguli, who were the royal artists serving Chulalongkorn. There are paintings on every ceiling and wall of the dome depicting the history of the Chakri Dynasty from the first to the sixth reign. The northern dome exhibits a picture of King Rama I leading his armies back to Thailand after defeating the Khmer and later crowned as the first king of the Chakri dynasty. The eastern dome shows the contribution of King Rama II and King Rama III to arts by ordering constructions of the royal temples. The southern dome displays King Rama V’s abolition of slavery. Pictures of King Rama IV surrounded by priests of various faiths are shown on the western dome, depicting the king’s advocacy of all religions. Murals in the middle hall narrate the royal duties of King Rama V and King Rama VI. Other parts of the hall are decorated with King Rama V’s and King Rama VI’s monograms, including a variety of royal emblems such as the Garuda emblem. On the balcony of the middle hall, art nouveau paintings are decorated on the walls with pictures of European women holding flower garlands. In front of the hall is the Royal Plaza with an equestrian statue of King Chulalongkorn.

During the four days of the 1932 Revolution (June 24-27), the Khana Ratsadon (the People’s Party) used the throne hall as its headquarters. The party also imprisoned several princes and royal ministers as hostages inside the hall as it carried out its coup. The events transformed the country’s political system from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional one. After the revolution, the hall was taken over by the constitutional government and the country’s first Parliament, the National People’s Assembly of Siam was first convened here on June 28, 1932.

The hall was used as the seat of the legislative branch until 1974 when the new Parliament House was opened to the north. After the move, the structure was returned to the royal court and once more became a part of the Dusit Palace. Today, many ceremonies are held within the throne hall the most visible being the State Opening of Parliament during which the king gives a speech from the throne, opening the legislative session of the National Assembly.

The throne previously hosted the Arts of the Kingdom exhibition, which showcased handicrafts produced under the sponsorship of the Queen Sirikit Institute. It indefinitely closed to visitors on October 1, 2017. The Arts of the Kingdom exhibition will be relocated to Ayutthaya Province.

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