The Old Siamese Conception of the Monarchy. พิมพ์ อีเมล
เขียนโดย Prince Dhani   

DHANI NIVAT, PRINCE. THE OLD SIAMESE CONCEPTION OF THE MONARCHY. JSS. VOL.36 (pt.2) 1946. p.91-106

 

THE   OLD  SIAMESE   CONCEPTION
OF THE   MONARCHY

by

Prince Dhani

---------------------------------------

        In March 1946 I had the honour of giving a lecture on behalf
of the Siam Society before a distinguished gathering which was
graced by the presence of their Majesties the late King Ananda and
the present King with their mother Her Royal Highness the dowager
Princess of Songkhla. What I was asked by the President of the
Society to speak about was the subject of the Siamese Coronation.
Although the subject was of great interest to me and I had made,
at the command of His late Majesty King Prajadhipok, a special
study of it, I could not help feeling that it was hardly a topic that
would appeal to a general audience. On being further pressed into
delivering the lecture, I recollected a certain passage in Malinowski's
Science, Religion and Reality quoted by Dr. H.G.Q. Wales in his
Siamese State Ceremonies, p. 5, thus:
                      A society which makes its tradition sacred has gained by
          it inestimable advantage of power and permanence. Such
          beliefs and practices, therefore, which put a halo of sanctity
          round tradition, will have a 'survival value' for the type
          of civilisation in which they have been evolved

          .......................................................................................................................... 
          They were bought at an extravagant price, and are to be
          maintained at any cost.
          In a wave of nationalistic impulse, kindled by the above
quotation, I changed my mind and undertook to give the lecture.
Since, however, the coronation ceremony had been extensively
studied and accurately described elsewhere by the learned Dr. Wales

 

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                                H.H.  PRINCE  DHANI  [Vol.XXXVI

and by observers among whom myself^), I prefaced my lecture
with further results of my study of the institution of Kingship by
way of offering to the audience something new and original. That
lecture was reproduced verbatim in the local daily Liberty of
March 1946. A Siamese version was also made from it and published
under the auspices of Phra Suddhi-arth for presentation to guests
who attended the cremation of his mother and has also appeared in
the 4th Siamese number of the Journal (January 1947). The
Subject therefore of the Coronation Ceremony has been given
sufficient publicity and in complying with the request of the
editorial committee for that lecture I am submitting merely its first
part dealing with the theory of the Siamese Monarchy, to which
I have made considerable additions as well as given full references
which could naturally find no room in a lecture.

Cultural Background
          To understand the old Siamese conception of the Monarchy, let
us consider quite briefly the cultural background of the Thai race.
As they emerged from the hinterland of south China and descended
upon the upper reaches of the Indochinese rivers from an early
period, the Thai were probably animists^2^ In the Menam valley
they came into contact in the XIIth century (Christian era) with the
Mon state of Dvaravati. The latter, being cultural descendants of the
Telingana of the upper west coast of the Bay of Bengal who had

1) In English: H.G.Q. Wales: Siamese State Ceremonies 1931. ; Official
pamphlet, The Coronation of His Majesty Prajadhipok, King of
Siam (byH.H. Prince Dhani 1925);
In Siamese : Prince Damrong: History of the Second Reign pp 15-47; An
official record of the coronation of King Vajiravudh, Nat. Library
Ed. Bgk 2466 (1923); An official record of the coronation of King
Prajadhipok, Govt. Gazette, sp. no. 2468 (1925); A poetical narrative
of the coronation of King Prajadhipok, very detailed, by H.R.H.
Prince Naradhip, 2468 (1925);
In French : La cérémonie du couronnement au Siam, Extrême Asie,
no. 13, Juillet 1927.
(2) Traces of animism in our beliefs and customs survive to the present
day despite the frankly anti-superstitious attitude of Hinayana
Buddhism. The cult of the kwan, for instance, seems to imply a certain
undetermined element in every individual which is to be protected
and treasured with care. A study of this pre-Buddhistic animism
would require a book by itself.

 

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   Pt 2] THE OLD SIAMESE CONCEPTION OF THE MONARCHY 

crossed the Bay to settle down on this side of it, possessed a high
culture based upon the Hinayana school of Buddhism. It was this
culture which exerted the most lasting influence upon the Thai
of the Menam valley, in other words the Siamese. It was also
from these people or their descendants that we got our old legal
treatise of the Thammasat, which served for a long time as the
Siamese Constitution. History does not tell us very clearly how
these Mon disappeared from the scene. It was from a blending
of the old Thai ideal with this culture that we developed that
patriarchal kingship with which I shall go on to deal later.
          Once in the valley of the Menam, we came into contact with
the great Khmer empire, which is mainly known to posterity through
its great monuments such as Angkor. Their culture was made up of
Hinduism from the innumerable waves of Indian immigration and
of Mahayana Buddhism inherited in all probability from the rule of
the "King of the Mountain" of the naval empire of Srivijaya. The
Khmer developed out of these sources their own cult of the Devaraj,
or divine kingship. When the Siamese ousted the Khmer from the
Menam valley, they came under the influence of the latter's culture.

Patriarchal Sukhothai Kingship
          As I have just pointed out, the old Thai had their own
traditions of kingship. The monarch was of course the people's
leader in battle; but he was also in peace-time their father whose
advice was sought and expected in all matters and whose judgment
was accepted by all. He was moreover accessible to his people,
for we are told by an old inscription that in front of the royal palace
of Sukhothai there used to be a gong hung up for people to go and
beat upon whenever they wanted personal help and redress. The
custom survived with slight modifications all through the centuries
down to the change of regime in 1932. Under Kings Rama VI and
Prajadhipok for instance instead of the gong there used to be
stationed at the front gate of the Grand Palace a "gentleman-at-
arms," or tamruac luang, whose duty it was to receive any written

 

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                                   H.H.  PRINCE  DHANI  [Vol.XXXVI

petition which a subject could submit to his king. Needless to say,
not only was the King rewarded for his responsibilities with
popular respect, but was also liable to be blamed by his filial
subjects on occasions of national as well as personal calamities, even
including a crop-failure.
The Thammasat
          What formalised this patriarchal kingship was the Constitution
of the Thammasat (from the Pali Dhammasattha) which we got
from the Mon. Its origin might have been very old. Its inspiration
was doubtless older for it can be traced to the Digha Nikaya of the
Tipitaka which Rhys Davids assigns to the Vth century B.C. The
Thammasat describes its ideal of a monarch as a King of Righte-
ousness, elected by the people (the Mahasammata). Its inspiration^)
describes its ideal monarch in identical terms, that is the
Mahasammata, 'elected by the people'. It further explains that he
was a khattiya, 'Lord of the fields' and one who charms others and
thereby earns the title of raja. It is of interest to note that the
term khattiya, derived from the Sanskrit kshatriya, is the etymolo-
gical and possibly historical equivalent of the Iranian kshatrapa
which has been anglicised through the Greek satrapes into satrap.
I do not know whether the identity with our term Chao P'aendin,
'the Lord of the Land' is historical or merely accidental, for no
etymological connection can be traced through the Pali or Sanskrit.
According, then, to the Thammasat, the ideal monarch abides
steadfast in the ten kingly virtues, constantly upholding the five
common precepts and on holy days the set of eight precepts, living
in kindness and goodwill to all beings. He takes pains to study the
Thammasat and to keep the four principles of justice, namely : to
assess the right or wrong of all service or disservice rendered to him,
to uphold the righteous and truthful, to acquire riches through
none but just means and to maintain the prosperity of his state
through none but just means

(3)   DÏgha Nikaya, Agganna Sutta, section 21, tr. by Rhys Davids in
Dialogues of the Buddha Vol. IV, p. 88.

  

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The ten kingly virtues above cited are often quoted in Siamese
literature and attributed to the commentators of the Jataka^.
They are: almsgiving, morality, liberality, rectitude, gentleness, self-
restriction, non-anger, non-violence, forbearance and non-obstruction.
Usually coupled with the above is another curious quartette of the
lines of conduct proper for an ideal monarch. They are : sassamedha
knowledge of food organization, purisamedha knowledge of men,
sammàpàsa means of winning the people's heart, vâcàpeyya gentle
words. The quartette is said to have been established by sages of
old. With just a little imagination one easily detects under the Pali
veneers of these ethical terms the names of Brahman sacrifices of old
as laid down for Brahman monarchs in the Satapatha Brâhmana.
Nothing can be more unbuddhistic than some of these sacrifices and
the way they have been transformed is a clever piece of linguistic
juggling to reach a compromise. Sassarnedha is in fact from
asvamedha the famous horse-sacrifice; purisamedha is purushamedha
the human-sacrifice long discontinued by the Hindus themselves ;
vâcàpeyya is the vàjapeya ritual celebrated to obtain plenty; but the
last I have not been able to identify, though the Pali Text Society's
Dictionary says it was a sacrifice and was the equivalent of the San-
skrit samyàpràsa, whatever that may be. The first three are well-
known and full details may be had from the Satapatha Br"ahmancS5\
          Thus fortified by the above rules of conduct, the ideal monarch
justifies himself as the King of Righteousness. And through righte-
ousness he may attain to the dignity of a cakravartin, the universal
sovereign. Such is the theory according to the inspiration of the
Buddhist Canon(6). Let us examine the theory by looking at the
following which was probably the very passage which inspired
the jurists of old who wrote the original of the Thammasat.

 


(4) Commentary of the Jataka III 274.
(5) For the asvamedha, Sacred Boohs of the East, V, p. 274 et sqq.; the
purushamedha, SBE V, p. 405; the vajapeya, SBE III, p. 41.
(6) DÏgha Niyâka, Cakkavatti Sutta, sect, 6; tr. Dial, of the Budha,  IV
p. 62 et sqq.

 

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                       H.H.  PRINCE  DHANI                 [Vol.XXXVI

                    But, what, sire is this Ariyan duty of a wheel-turning
          monarch ( i. e. the cakravartin ) ?
          This, dear son, that thou, leaning on the Norm ( Dhamma ),
          honouring, respecting and revering it, doing homage to it,
          hallowing it, being thyself a Norm-bearer, a Norm signal,
          having the Norm as thy master, shouldst provide the right
          watch, ward and protection for thy own folk, for the army, for
          the nobles, for vassals, for Brahmins and householders, for town
          and country-dwellers, for the religious world, and for beasts
          and birds. Throughout thy kingdom let no wrong-doing
          prevail. And whoever in thy kingdom is poor, to him let
          wealth be given.
          And when, dear son, in thy kingdom men of religious life
          .... shall come to thee from time to time and question thee
          concerning what is good and what is bad, what is criminal and
          what action will in the long ran work for weal or for woe,
          thou shouldst hear what they have to say, and thou shouldst
          deter them from evil and bid them take up what is good.
          This, dear son, is the Ariyan duty of a sovran of the world.
          The old tale goes on to say that upon the strict observance of
his father's injunctions as detailed above, the young monarch,
succeeding his father who retired in old age, found one day upon the
upper terrace of his palace the coveted celestial wheel, which rolled
onward first to the east and then to other quarters of the universe.
The king followed with his army ; and wherever it stopped there
the victorious war-lord took up his abode and with him his fourfold
army. All the rival Kings in those respective regions came to the
sovran king to give him welcome and beg for his teaching. The
king then exhorted them to refrain from killing, from stealing,
from adultery, from untruth and from intoxicating drinks, ending
up with the injunction Enjoy your possessions as ye have been
wont to ... .
          The above is but one example of the fairly extensive but
scattered material in Pali literature which inspired the Thammasat.

 

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          The date of the Thammasat should be an important factor in
tracing the history of the Siamese conception of the monarchy but
is still undetermined. The preamble of the Thammasat states that
the work was -
                    enunciated by the seer of the Manusara in the beginning
          in the original language, handed down from time immemorial
          ( and ) is now established among the Ràmanna ; and, being thus
          difficult for men to render from the Ramarina language, I have
          therefore done it in the language of Siam.
          Now, we know from Mon history that Wareru, the Thai king
of Martaban, had a standard Mon code of laws written under his
patronage about 1280 or 1281 which bore the name of Wagaru
Dhammathat. According to a distinguished legal historian this was
without doubt one of the oldest vehicles by which the laws of Manu
penetrated into SiamJ(7). In accepting M. Lingat's statement, I
presume of course that he did not lose sight of Forchhammer's
theory that the Mon law-code, Indian in origin, reflects the social
and religious conditions of Ancient India during the supremacy of
Buddhism and can claim to belong to a Buddhist Manava school
earlier than the well-known Brahmanic recension of Manu, the
Manavadharmasàstra(8). That the Wagaru Dhammathat,
influenced our laws is further confirmed by the fact that it was later
translated into Pali in the XVIth century by the Mon jurist
Buddhaghosa, and called the Manusara. Here, therefore, we have
clearly before us the solution of the problem of the origin of our
laws, for in all probability the ' seer of the Manusara ' mentioned
in the preamble just quoted was none other than this Buddhaghosa,
the Mon jurist. The only argument against such a hypothesis is
that the process of translation has been reversed.

 


(7) R. Lingat:   l'influence indoue dans l'ancien droit siamois, 1937 (dans
l'Etude de sociologie et d'ethnologie juridiques no, XXV )
(8) Forchhammer's opinion, quoted by Mabel Bode: The Pali Literature
of Burma, P. 86,
 

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                        H.H.  PRINCE  DHANI                 [Vol.XXXVI

Royal Ordinances
          Though appended, in the Corpus of 1805, to the Thammasat,
its final section should be really outside. It is obviously an inter-
polation for it is different to the foregoing in style as well as in
matter. Whereas the Pali Thammasat is written in the sloka metre,
this last section is in the indavajira; whereas the grammar of the
former is none too classical, that of the latter is frankly bad. This
last part deals with what is called sàkhàkadi, i.e. branch matter, in
contradistinction to mulakadi, trunk or elemental matter, which
refers to the IViammasàt-pvoper. The text defines this ' branch
matter' as including the Phra Rajakamnod and Phra Ràjabannat,
that is royal ordinances. Royal ordinances were collectively known
as the Ràjasàt, a term that might be rendered as 'King's Lore' as
distinct from the Thammasat, the 'Inspired Lore,' which was the
work supposedly of a superior agency, a Constitution in fact which
was not to be tampered with even by the highest in the land.
         In the Pali original these royal ordinances are said to have
been promulgated by the ancient King Ramadhipati, thus

 

          Sâkhatthanâmena

          pabhedabhinnà
          Anekadhâ sa.

 ...............................................................................         

           Porânarâjena narinda-Râmâ
          Dhipattiyenâbhiparakkamena

................................................................................

                                            patitthitâ te. 
          The mediaeval Siamese translator, however, took this in
another sense. His very free rendering was by ancient kings in
several successive periods.'1 Here is perhaps an illustration of a
conflict between the literary and the juridical conscience. It might
have happened in this way. A certain 'ancient King Ramadhipati',
whoever he was, initiated the system of 'King's Lore' to run along-
side with the 'Inspired Lore', without of course contradicting it.
Whether he was the Ramadhipati who founded Ayudhya in 1350

 

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to whom many enactments were attributed^9), or any other Rama-
dhipati before 1805, or even the enlightened Ramadhipati of the
Mon who was the only Mon king to be so named ( i. e. King
Dhammaceti 1460-1491), one has no means at the present time of
knowing. In any case that Pali passage must have been written
during the reign of a Ramadhipati, but the Siamese translation was
made some time after when his example had been followed by other
monarchs who succeeded him. As has been said by scholars
of legal history, the function of the king was not to legislate but
to protect the people and preserve the sacred law. It might have
been true in many cases that by promulgating ordinances the king
could bend and entirely contravert the Thammasat to suit his end;
and yet he could not hope to give his decisions the lasting form and
authority of the latter; imposed as it was by superior agencyd(10)
          My survey would not be complete if I omitted to mention
a class of moralist literature in Siamese which lays down for the
monarch a line of conduct that has obviously been inspired by an
ancient Indian culture that survives in the Jâtaka and its comment-
aries. It was probably from the same culture that the classical
Sanskrit law-book, Mânavadharmasastra was derived though
independently of our source of inspiration. Whilst our moralist
literature is purely literary, the latter was framed in a wider scope
to include law as well. It is worthy of notice that the Khmer Law
Code^11' also includes this kind of matter within its scope under
the heading of Beach Nitisatth. It is therefore tempting to specu-
late that the original Siamese Code of Laws as in use in the days of
Ayudhya might have also included the matter, which was dropped
sometime later—obviously before the revision of 1805. In any case
it has survived as a separate literary work called the Bàjanlti.
This work was published at the Vajrinda Press in R. S. 120 ( 1901 )

 


(9) Though Dr. Wales does not give him that credit, cf. Ancient Siamese
Government and Administration, pp. 172-3
(10) ibid. p. 170.
(11) Leclère :  Codes Cambodgiennes, Tome I, pp. 65-88.

 

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                          H.H.  PRINCE  DHANI                 [Vol.XXXVI

with an explanation that it dealt with traditions which Icings
should maintain, in justice and with the dispositions of evil and
good people and the consideration to be made in giving them appoint-
ments. The work is written in stanzas, first a Pali original-so far
unknown as to venue-and then a prose paraphrase in Siamese. The
work bears no date but mentions the names of two Brahmins as
authors, by the names of AnantaSâna and Ganàmissaka. They
are not known outside of this work. The initial Pali verse begins
thus :
                    Râjanîtisattham ranno
                         Ditthadhammatthasàdhanam
                    Vuccate buddhivuddhattham
                         Pararatthavim addane.

 

                    and then —
                    Khattiyassa amaccassa
                         Vakkhâmi gunalakkhanam
                    Sadâbhijo mahipâlo
                         Sammâbhatte parikkhaye.

 

                    Another work, much in the same vein, was published by
the National Library under the title of Ràjanltisàstra in 1920.

Unwritten Traditions
                    Outside of the Thammasat there have been handed down
other traditions which can not be traced to any treatise on polity.
This survey would not be complete without touching on them.
                     A Siamese monarch succeeds to the Throne theoretically
by election. The idea is of course recognisable as coming from the
old Buddhist scriptures in the figure of King Mahasammata, the
'Great Elect.' No hard and fast rules exist as to how electors are
qualified as such, but' they were usually royal and temporal Lords
of the Realm sometimes doing their business in the presence, but
not with the participation, of spiritual Lords.   Irregular successions

 

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there certainly have been, but they were exceptions rather than
the rule.
          I will not hazard a guess as to when the monarch became
known colloquially as the 'Lord of Life,' (Chao jivit). It was of
course a mere acknowledgement of an established fact. It seems
only obvious that the leader of an ancient community, not only, in
Siam but anywhere, should have power over the life and death of
his subjects.
          As to property, the old Law on Miscellanies promulgated,
in 1360 by the founder of Ayudhya laid down that all land belonged
to the King, who was graciously pleased to allow his subjects to
settle on it. They had every right to till or otherwise earn their
livelihood on it save that of proprietorship. Each social grade had
its scale of maximum allotment of land to which its member was
entitled. King Chulalongkorn, however, initiated the system of
issuing title-deeds acknowledging the practical right of his subjects
to land-ownership though the old theory was not exactly abrogated.
In any case the monarch continues to be called the Lord of the Land,
Chao P'aendin, in conversation. The idea might have come also
from the old Indian theory of the khattiya(12).
          A feature worthy of notice is the legislative power of the
monarch of old. The old treatise of the Thammasat divided law
into two main categories, namely: principles {mulakadi) for the
judicature consisting of 10 titles, and principles for the people's
litigation consisting of 29 titles. Laws promulgated in those days
were invariably based upon one or other of these titles. Beyond
them the monarch seemed to have been curiously limited in his
legislative power.
          Many foreign writers, not excluding even the more learned
ones, misunderstand the relationship of the King vis-à-vis the
Church, and often attribute to him sacerdotal powers. The
ideal monarch of Buddhist India, however, was expressly a warrior

 


(12)   cf. supra p. 94.

 

 

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                      H.H.  PRINCE  DHANI                 [Vol.XXXVI

by birth, though not encouraged to be warlike in his ideals. The
Siamese king has never in theory or practice been a High Priest at
any time whatever. What duty he was required to perform in this
connection was either that of a worshipper or an 'Upholder of the
Faith.' The Buddhist priest, really a monk, seeks release from
worldly ties, and the king cannot really afford to do that, unless
he is prepared to be accused of neglecting his duties.
Divine Kingship
          Later contact with the Khmer coated this patriarchal and-in
a way-limited kingship with a veneer of divinity. It gave outward
dignity to such ceremonies as the coronation and royal obsequies.
In the former, Hindu deities were invoked to pervade the anointed
monarch, who was given such regalia as the trident of Siva and the
discus of Vishnu, and bore in his full style such an epithet as the
Incarnation of the celestial gods (Dibyadebàvatâr). In the latter,
the body of a dead monarch was encased in a ko'sa, the traditional
Khmer cover for the emblem of Siva, thereby attributing divinity
to the royal corpse(13). Since the cult of this divinity was Hindu
and rather involved, all this had no significance in Siam beyond
outward dignity. The average Siamese, then as now, has never
taken up seriously the idea of his king being connected with Hindu
divinities, who after all had no place in his Buddhist faith.
Later Developments
          Having thus traced in successive stages that Siamese conception
of the monarchy from the earliest times to about the third reign of
the Bangkok dynasty, we now come to the final phase of its evolu-
tion, that is the one prior to the present which is a pure foreign
institution and need not be dealt with in a study of the old
conception. Contact with the West brought changed conditions and
by this time new problems arose which were no longer within the
radius of the Constitution of the Thammasat.     Social problems,

 


(13) The identification of the kosa or obsequial urn with the cover-sheath
of the emblem of Siva has been presented in detail in J.T.B.S. XXXII,
no. 2 (1st Thai no.) pp. 45-54.

 

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such as sanitation and education had to be looked after by the state
instead of being left to the initiative of the people and the clergy.
So the King exercised full legislative power in the absence of proper
sanction of the Thammasat. Nevertheless King Mongkut, who
ascended the Throne in 1851, was a highly liberal and idealistic
monarch ; and he it was who commenced to make considerable
modifications to the old conception of the monarchy. In the bi-
annual ceremonies of swearing allegiance to the king on the part of
officials and the Court, the King initiated the custom of himself
giving the sovereign's pledge to be loyal to His people thereby
making it a bi-partite instead of the former one-sided oath
of allegiance. His son Chulalongkorn followed up in the same
policy by his abolition of slavery and his renunciation of the
Treasury to form the nucleus of State property which he had just
organised, and to which he transferred all the revenues from taxes
and dues hitherto paid to the King. King Rama VI, grandson of
the pioneer in reform, made further considerable sacrifices and
thereby modified again the old conception of kingship. All these
changes came from the sovereign's own initiative. As regards
succession, although by now the western custom of the elder son's
right to inherit the Crown had been accepted, the succession had
to be confirmed, at least for form's sake, by a Council of the Lords
of the Realm. Such a practice was still kept up as late as 1925
when the late King Prajadhipok succeeded His elder brother
in the absence of a male heir to the Throne.

The Theory In Actualities
          This old conception of the monarchy, more especially the
ethics of it, such as the tenfold kingly virtues, the quartette of proper
conduct for the ideal monarch and the theory of the wheel-turning
universal sovereign, in Siamese cakrapat, are ever kept before the
public eye in literature, in sermons and in any other channel of
publicity. The Buddhist ideal of the wheel-turning sovereign or
the king of righteousness is to be detected even in many Hindu
ceremonies of the Court which are essentially Brahmanic   and

 

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                       H.H.  PRINCE  DHANI                 [Vol.XXXVI 

doubtlessly borrowed from the cult of the Divine King of the
Khmers. Prior to the proper Brahmanic anointment of the
Coronation, the King seats himself upon an octagonal throne made
of fig-wood and is invited, by representatives of each cardinal and
subcardinal points of the universe starting with the premier point of
the east by way of pronouncing his victory, to extend his protection
and exercise his royal authority over all those realms therein situate
and all beings that therein dwell. This reminds us of course of the
Vth century B. C. passage already cited above which may be
requoted for convenience thus :
                     ......the king, the victorious war-lord, took up his abode
          (in the east),.... Then all the rival kings in the region of the
          east came to the sovran-king and said : Come, 0 mighty king !
          Welcome, 0 mighty king ! All is thine, 0 mighty king !
          Teach us, 0 mighty king !

          In another section of the ceremony, responding to the Brahmin
High Priest and priests who extend to him the invitation to rule
over the Kingdom, the King says :
                    Brahmins, now that I have assumed full responsibility
          of Government, I shall reign in righteousness for the good
          weal of the populace. I extend my royal authority over you
          and your goods and your chattels, and as your sovereign do
          hereby provide for your righteous protection, defence and
          keeping.   Trust me and live at ease.
                    This is again a reminder of the above-cited theory of the
          King of Righteousness^) in which the wheel-turning sovran
          of the universe accepts invitation to rule and enjoins the rival
          kings of the east etc. to adopt high moral conduct and enjoy
          your possessions as ye have been wont to do.
          The Siamese Coronation has to end up with the King's
triumphal progress round the city. In the story of the wheel-turning


 


(14)  cf. supra p. 94.

  

                                                             (105)

  

              Pt2] THE OLD SIAMESE CONCEPTION OF THE MONARCHY

sovran of the universe he too went his round of the world in
the wake of his celestial wheel. Dr. Wales thinks(15) that the
custom must have had a far older significance though long since
forgotten by the common people, and traces its origin to the Agni
Purana, where one finds that the coronation was concluded by the
king riding pradakshina-wise around the city. Jataka 472 also
mentions the right-wise procession of a king round his city. Such
a royal progress is of course a common topic in the Buddhist Canon
and the custom probably dates back to the period of Buddhist India.
The local custom doubtless originates from this direction.
          The subject of the Siamese conception of the monarchy was
first studied by Dr. H.G.Q. Wales in his Siamese State Ceremonies
and formed in it the IVth chapter (pp. 29-53). No other study
of the subject has been made since as far as I know. In that study,
however, there are certain points which seem to be misunderstood,
such for instance as the assumption that the Siamese king performed
the functions of a High-Priest, with which I have already dealt
with. Nor can I accept the imposing list of taboos, practically all
of which have been misunderstood altogether. The first item for
instance that the king being divine it was taboo to touch his body
especially his head and hair. Before the levelling influence of the
West became prevalent, no Siamese would have tolerated his head
or hair being touched by his junior in age or station and an in-
fringement of this was considered as bad manners. It applied
naturally all the more when it concerned the head or hair of the
king. Thus was the position. Nothing to do at all with the divine
right of kings. Most of the ten taboos in Dr. Wales' list, in fact,
were merely the dictates of good manners and breeding or else
necessitated by the caution to protect the life of one whose word
and action was law and whose death might throw the whole country
into confusion. Had the learned doctor been equally conversant
with court etiquette in his own country, would he have written that
it was also taboo in England to use word of the common language

 


(15) cf. Siamese State Ceremonies, p. 107.

 

                                                          (106)

 

                       H.H.  PRINCE  DHANI                 [Vol.XXXVI

or common modes of address, when speaking to or about the King
and princes,^) when he noticed that one often said Your Majesty
instead of you, that one preferred to talk of the King's natal day
rather than birthday and to say that the sovereign had been pleased
to command his attendance upon the King at dinner and so on ?
Would he be maintaining that it was taboo in his country for his
sovereign not to address a fellow sovereign in his letters as his
illustrious brother when the king knew just as well as Dr. Wales
that the addressee was really no relation of his ? Would the learned
doctor have stated that it was taboo in, say French Indochina, for
all persons who pass the Résidant Supérieurs car to keep their hats
on, and how would he explain the reason of such a taboo since the
Résidant Supérieur was at best just the representative of one, who,
however highly placed in his land, had never pretended to lay any
claim to the divinity of his office ?
          Such are the kind of points to which I can not agree with the
learned doctor. With all due respect to his wide-reading and high
erudition which I can never claim to equal, there are, I feel, certain
points the significance of which requires  no  effort  for  a native to

understand   and   appreciate   even   though   they   seem   so   problematical

To    the    foreigner.    I   feel,   therefore,    that   a    new   treatment    of   the
Subject  such  as  this  article  would  not  be  superfluous.

 


( 16 )  cf. Siamese State Ceremonies, p. 39, section 8

 

 

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