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Relics picked from late king’s ashes

Bangkok: Thailand’s new king picked bits of bone and ash from his father’s remains to be enshrined as royal relics, after the cremation of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej capped an extravagant funeral that brought the nation to a standstill.
The lighting of the funeral pyre late Thursday night, which was held out of view, closed the book on the 70-year reign of a monarch who was elevated to saint-like status.
The grand send-off, held a year after Bhumibol died aged 88, was a spectacular show of the elaborate, enigmatic rituals that gird a powerful monarchy cloaked in myth and spirituality.
Yesterday, Bhumibol’s son and successor, 65-year-old King Maha Vajiralongkorn, ascended the steps of the crematorium complex to select relics from his father’s ashes.
About 300,000 mourners in black crammed into Bangkok’s old quarter to get close to the four-hour procession on Thursday that delivered the funeral urn to the decorated crematorium.
Mourning stretched far across the country, with more than 19 million Thais joining funeral rites to lay sandalwood flowers in symbolic contributions to the cremation.
Others have tuned in to televised broadcasts of the processions, monk-led rituals and traditional art performances marking Bhumibol’s send-off to heaven.
But the funeral’s climax, the lighting of the pyre, was not aired live as most media were whisked away from the area and official broadcasts turned to dance and folk theatre shows that ran through the night.
Later in the evening smoke could be seen billowing out from the illuminated funeral pyre.
“When I turned back to the crematorium and saw the smoke rising, I cried,” said Narongdech Mokmek, a 33-year-old teacher from Supan Buri province.
He was among tens of thousands who had spent several nights camped outside the purpose-built crematorium complex in Bangkok’s old quarter.
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