The King of Thailand has died at the age of 88 and his country is mourning him dressed in black. During the 70-year reign of King Bhumibol, as a sign of love and loyalty, Thailand was every so often dressed in yellow, the king’s personal “birthday colour”.
Thailand’s king was the world’s longest reigning head of state. Maha Bhumibol Adulyadej, King Rama IX, Head of the House of Chakri, Great King of Siam ascended the Thai thrown as a young man in 1946.
Most Thai people have awarded the king and his wife, Queen Sirikit, an almost god-like status as a symbol of national peace and development, a unifying force in a sometimes unstable society, a constant in the past seven decades of Thailand’s history.
At the news of the king’s death tens of thousands of mourners took to the streets. For weeks people had been waiting and praying outside the Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok, many wearing pink as a sign of wishing luck and good health. In addition to the striped blue, red and white national flags of Thailand, the crowds also carry yellow and sky blue flags.
These are the royal flags of the king and queen. All members of the Thai royal family have two banners: A royal standard for official and personal use, and a royal flag which is also commercially available to the public.
The Royal Standard of Thailand is a yellow square banner with a red and golden Garuda. The Garuda is the national emblem of Thailand, a mythological man-bird connected to the god Vishnu in Hindu and Buddhist traditions as well as a centuries-old symbol of the Thai monarchy.
The royal flag of King Bhumibol is a yellow rectangular banner with three elements: The king’s cypher (three letters), the mantra Aum (written in Thai) and the Great Crown of Victory, the golden coronation headdress of the kings of Thailand.
In several Asian cultures gold or yellow is the colour of royalty and prosperity. Saffron or ochre yellow is the colour worn by Buddhist monks. In Thailand yellow is also the colour for those who want to show a special love and reverence for the king. Many buy the royal flags and fly them together with the national flags in homes, shops, restaurants, and in public for the king’s birthday, political rallies etc.
The royal flag of Queen Sirikit is also widely used. It s a rectangular sky blue banner with the queen’s cypher (two letters) and the Great Crown of Victory.
Thai astrological traditions dictate that members of the royal family have flags with different colours depending on their birthdays. King Bhomibol was born on a Monday and the colour of that day is yellow. Hence, the king’s personal colour is yellow. Queen Sirikit was born on a Friday and therefore her colour is sky blue. The colour of Saturday is purple and Sunday is red. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays are pink, green and orange, respectively.
The next king of Thailand, Maha Vajiralongkorn, King Rama X, who is designated to succeed to the thrown soon, will uphold the tradition of two yellow banners.
The square yellow Garuda banner will remain. It has been the Royal Standard of Thailand since 1910. The rectangular royal flag with the Great Crown of Victory will also be yellow under the reign of the new king. For Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn was born on a Monday like his father.