Royal barges are part of the Thai cultural heritage, magnificently created for posterity. Being incomparable to other worldwide works of art, these masterpieces with unique designs and decorative details have gradually become part of the invaluble traditions and pride of the nation.
Royal barges are not only the precious possession of the Thai nation, but also that of the world. They are a combination of various aspects of craftsmanship, magnificently designed with regard to both beauty and utility. The delicate workmanship of wood carving, colourful painting and sculpture make ordinary pieces of wood look living creatures, especially like birds flying over the river when the oars are moving up and down, with the reflection of sunlight on the water, during the Grand Royal Barge Procession.
As a testimony of Thailand's sophisticated and highly evolved culture, the Grand Royal Barge Procession is a rare treat to be preserved as the historical and auspicious heritage.
During world War II, the barges were left in ruins and many were destroyed by bombs. On February 13, 1952, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX) visited the dry docks on the bank of Bangkok Noi Canal, saw the deteriorating conditions of the barges and took some photographs. His Majesty then suggested that the royal barges be repaired and preserved for posterity.
On the occasion of
the celebration marking the 25th centenary of Buddhism, some barges were restored to be
used in the river procession. No evidence about the restoration were found, though.
In 1967, the Royal Thai Navy and the Fine Arts Department signed a contract with Sahaisant Company for the restoration of the Royal Barges Sri Suphunahongsa and Ananta Nakkha Raj. This marked the first time a written document about the barge restoration was found.
In 1969, the Royal Thai Navy and the Fine Arts Department signed another contract with the company for the restoration of three royal barges. Initially, the old figureheads and sterns were to be placed on brand new hulls, but the Royal Thai Navy, well aware of their invaluable historical values, decided to restore the entire barges without replacing any part.
On September 4, 1981, that third restoration contract for 52 royal barges was signed with the same company by VADM Chinda Wattakanok, director-general of Naval Dockyard Department, on behalf of the Royal Thai Navy. There were 747 hull repairs and 10 items of replenishment then.
In 1995, the Royal Barge Restoration Project is part of the celebration marking the 50th anniversary of His Majesty the King's accession to the throne. The Royal Thai Navy is responsible for the restoration of the 53 brages to perform in the Grand Royal Barge Procession,with the cooperation of the Fine Arts Department, which repaints the designs, and the Royal Household Bureau, which equips them with royal rank paraphernalia and appropriate outfits.
The project calls for a budget of 6,807,580 baht of which the Royal Thai Navy will request from the Government's central budget.
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