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by Kevin Cain

Although Chakri Day (sometimes known as the Great Day) is not an official Buddhist religious day it is an important National Holiday in Thailand.Chakri Day is observed on April the 6th each year and is to celebrate the contribution of the mighty kings of the Chakri dynasty who have been ruling Thailand since 1782.

It is obvious that the current ruler King Bhumibol Adulyadej is dearly loved by his people and so Chakri Day over the past decades during his reign has been highly commemorated. The King who is the ninth king of the dynasty, leads the celebrations at the Royal Chapel. He pays respects to his ancestors at the Royal Pantheon and also lays a wreath at the monument to King Rama 1st at the Memorial Bridge.

King Rama 1 founded the Chakri dynasty and was responsible for consolidating the kingdom and establishing Bangkok as the capital of the country.

Before the Chakri dynasty came to power Siam was in turmoil. Burmese troops controlled swathes of the country in the north and were adamant that they were going to capture the capital Ayutthaya. In 1767 the capital fell and Burmese troops poured in, looting and pillaging as they plundered. But the capture of Ayutthaya had taken it's toll on the rampaging army and they withdrew after only one week of occupation. War continued to divide the country until Thong Duang (known as Chakri) rallied support around him in Thonburi and united all the Siamese armies. He understood that the reigning King Taksin was more distracted by religion and he was not paying attention to the protection of his subjects. A movement began to usurp the reigning monarch with their new hero and protector Chakri. Eventually Chaophraya Chakri was crowned as King Ramathibodi and reigned as King Rama 1 (this title was given after his death) in 1782.

Being a military man Chakri knew that Thonburi was not an ideal place to defend further Burmese attacks and moved his army and the Capital, across the Chao Phraya River. So Krung Thep (Bangkok) became the new capital of Siam and has been so for over two hundred years now.

The construction of the new capital indicated that Chakri would never going to move the capital back to Ayutthaya and many bricks from the old, ravaged walls of Ayutthaya were used in the construction of Bangkok. The whole project took seven years to complete and Bangkok's official name was given as Krungthep Mahanakorn Amorn Rata.

Realising that the country had relinquished their ancient capital and some of their traditions, the new king ordered a revival of old ceremonies, such as; Coronation Day, Royal Ploughing Day and taking the Oath of Allegiance.

There are many cultural activities that take place on Chakri Day including;

* The holding of seminars to clarify understanding of the royal activities and the significance of the day

* Exhibitions about the king celebrating his life

* The wreath laying ceremony for King Rama 1

* Raising of flags across the kingdom on government buildings

* A day for people to make merit dedicated to the king

Thai nationals place flowers on statues of King Rama 1 all over the kingdom on Chakri Day and it is the one day of the year that the Pantheon (Phrasat Phra Debidorn) at the Royal Palace is actually open to the public. It houses life-sized statues of the first eight monarchs of the Chakri dynasty and it is here that the current king pays respect to his ancestors before laying a wreath at Memorial Bridge.

Banks, schools and government offices will be closed on Chakri Day but most small and independent business will continue to operate.