Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej died at the age of 88 after a decade battling illness, state broadcaster Thai Public Broadcasting Service announced Thursday morning.
King Bhumibol served as Thailand's monarch for the past 70 years, so there is no model for the mourning of a Thai king in the modern era. The last reigning monarch in the nation, Ananda Mahidol, died in 1946. For most Thais, this is the first time they have ever lost their king.
In the wake of King Bhumibol's death, there will be a mourning period, followed by a cremation ceremony, punctuated by the coronation ceremony of the new king. The older and more respected a person in Thailand is, the more spectacular and elaborate the funeral rites. Judging by the ceremonies for other royal family members, mourning and cremation for the beloved king could take years. King Bhumibol's cousin Princess Bejaratana died in July 2011 and was cremated almost a year later in April 2012, according to the Bankok Post. The ceremony for King Bhumibol will almost certainly be even more elaborate and drawn out.
Funerals for Thai Buddhists last much longer than Western funerals even for regular families, often taking weeks or months. They are the most elaborate life events that take place in Thailand. While there are no legal rules regarding a mourning period for the king, estimates suggest 1,000 days or more. During this period, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, the king's son and heir to the throne, will act as the monarch. Any public celebrations, concerts, entertainment events or other forms of merriment will probably be cancelled while the nation mourns. Thais will wear black or white out of respect for the king.
On the first evening after his death, there will be presumably be a bathing ceremony for King Bhumibol open only to close friends and family. They will take turns pouring scented water over one of the king's hands while the rest of his body is draped in cloth. Relatives will make blessings and ask the king's forgiveness before his body is placed in a coffin surrounded with candles and incense.
Cremation will occur at the end of the mourning period and after an elaborate ceremonial funeral pyre is built. Only when the the king has finally been cremated will the crown prince officially be coronated as the new king of Thailand.