Above: The Royal Pantheon at Wat Phra Kaew
Chakri Memorial Day
April 6 is Chakri Memorial Day, a national holiday. It marks the date of the founding of the Chakri Dynasty on April 6, 1782 after the death of King Taksin. The Royal Pantheon at Wat Pra Keo has life-size wax figures of all the past kings. Traditionally it was only open on this day, but in past years it has been open on other days as well.
From the Government Public Relations Department: King Rama the First ascended the throne on April 6, 1782, after the death of King Taksin of the Thonburi Kingdom. Appointed as King Taksin’s top warlord, he was formerly called Chao Phraya Chakri. Realizing that Thonburi on the West Bank of the Chao Phraya River would always be threatened by enemy attacks, King Rama the First moved Thailand’ s royal capital from Thonburi to Bangkok on the east side. His reign has been called a “reconstruction” of the Thai state and Thai culture, using Ayutthaya, old capital, as a model.
From Rattanakosin Bicentennial – An Illustrated Book on Historical Events – Kurusapha Business Organization, 1982: In 1918 King Rama VI decided to use a building in the center of Wat Phra Kaew to display statues of previous kings. Originally the building was intended to house the Emerald Buddha, but was judged too small and was later damaged by fire during the Rama V era. The building was restored and renamed Prasat Phra Dhep Bidorn or the Royal Pantheon.
In 1919 King Rama VI declared April 6 of each year as Chakri Day. On that day an official ceremony would be performed in the Royal Pantheon to honor the dynasty.
On either side of the Royal Pantheon building are chedis built by King Rama I to honor his father and his mother. The colorful demons around the base of the chedis are one of the most photographed details of Wat Prae Kaew.