Chakri Memorial Day is a national public holiday in Thailand. Every year on April 6, the faithful Thais express their love and reverence to the monarchs of Chakri dynasty — the ruling dynasty in Thailand since 1782.
The Great Beginning
Before King Rama I founded the Chakri dynasty, the Kingdom of Siam — Thailand’s former name — was in great havoc. Ayutthaya fell to the hands of belligerent Burmese troops on April 8, 1767, and the Siamese people were forced to flee to the city of Thonburi, located downriver on Chaophraya River. The war ebbed and flowed over the years, until 1779, when the Siamese armies united in Thonburi. Ayutthaya-descent Thon Duang, whose name has been changed to Chakri, was called by the people to take over the Royal Court of Taaksin, which lacks strong leadership and caused rebellions to break out throughout the territories. Chaophraya Chakri took the title “King Ramathibodi” and reigned as King Rama I from April 6, 1782 until 1809.
An experienced military commander, King Rama I commanded that a new capital be established across Chaophraya River, and so Khrung-Thep, popularly known as Bangkok, was created along the western border as a means of keeping the unruly Burmese at bay. In the new capital city, King Rama I built the Grand Palace that also houses the Emerald Buddha. The leadership of King Rama I is also credited as the reason Thailand was able to overcome Burmese control.
King Rama I and his successors are credited with reconstructing the Thai state and culture, as well as introducing a series of Western reforms into Thai politics and beginning the modernization process in the country.
Chakri Memorial Day is a day of immense national pride. Every year on April 6, the national flag is displayed by the people of Thailand, and both government officials and members of the Thai community participate in traditional ceremonies, offering flowers and garlands to the statues of kings in the House of Chakri.
In 1919, King Rama VI introduced Chakri Day to commemorate all the kings in the Chakri dynasty. The monarchs of the House of Chakri brought peace to the people in Thailand, while maintaining the kingdom’s sovereignty during the periods when they were threatened by Western colonization and two World Wars.
The people are led in the ceremonies by King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the ninth king of the Chakri dynasty. Accompanied by members of the royal family, King Rama IX leads the religious ceremonies at the royal chapel before paying respects to his predecessors at the Royal Pantheon inside the Grand Palace. After the ceremony, King Rama IX and the rest of the royal family will proceed to lay wreath at the statue of King Rama I at the Memorial Bridge. The country’s prime minister and all government officials join the king in paying homage to his predecessors, while the people either join the celebrations in the locations or hold ceremonies in Chakri monuments and memorials across the country.
The Memorial Bridge was opened on April 6, 1932 by King Rama VII in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Chakri Dynasty and the foundation of Bangkok. Spanning over the Chaophraya River, the Memorial Bridge connects the districts of Phra Nakhon and Thonburi, and on its site stands the statue of King Rama I, where the current king lays wreath.
The statues of King Rama I and memorials to the house of Chakri are a sight to see, filled with flowers and garlands of all color and sizes as the people of Thailand take the opportunity to express their gratitude for the contributions of the Chakri monarchs. Thailand has since become a democratic country, but people still retain an utmost regard for the Chakri dynasty, and their deep reverence are expressed during Chakri Memorial Day.
All of Thailand, including Pattaya, Ayutthaya and Chiang Mai, participate in the celebrations of Chakri Memorial Day. People from all walks of life can be seen putting flowers on statues of King Rama I, which can be found all over the country.
The Royal Pantheon, one of the buildings in the temple of the Emerald Buddha in the grounds of the Grand Palace, will be open to public. The Royal Pantheon houses statues that represent each of the eight kings of the Chakri dynasty. Since the Royal Pantheon is opened only once each year on Chakri Day, the Grand Palace is expected to be more crowded with locals. It is advisable to plan ahead and arrive early to avoid the crowds and the ceremony.
For 2013, Chakri Day will be celebrated on a Saturday. Because it falls on a weekend, the next work day, April 8, will be an Observance Day as a compensatory non-working day. Government offices, banks and other institutions will be closed that day, except for commercial establishments and tourist facilities.