The tradition of the royal barge chanting has become a 'Thai cultural heritage' created and passed down to us by our ancestors. It is unlikely that any other nations in the world could match it.
Royal Barges are especially treasured as the national pride of supreme craftsmanship of the traditional Thai arts. The exquisitely detailed work displayed by the royal barges represents the artistic endeavour of artists from several areas such as naval architects, pattern designers, carvers and painters, etc.
The royal barges are organized in a grand and stately procession. They glide along a river with beauty and grace. The dramatic boat song is sung by trained male voices. It fills the air as the barges, manned by brilliantly-clad oarsmen in ancient costumes of red, blue, white and green, moving to the rhythmic beat of the drummer who directs the raising and lowering of the oars like a concert conductor. All barges are presented as if in full flight aided by the stylized wing-beating motion of oarsmen. Their rising paddles gleam in sunlight or moonlight suggesting a sedate swan-like movement of their wings. Those who are able to witness this magnificent procession will carry with them an astounding and lasting impression of this memorable event.
It can be said that the tradition of the royal barge chanting ceremony is the most intriguing and unique, and it should be maintained as an invaluable national treasure not only for Thailand but also for the rest of the world.
Featuring a total of 52 barges, manned by 2,082 oarsmen and consisting of 51 historical Royal Barges and the newly-constructed Narai Song Suban King Rama IX.
Taking shape in what is called the Major Formation, 1,110 metres long and 90 metre wide, consisting of five rows of barges.
Proceeding down the Chao Phraya River for a distance of approximately three kilometres, form the Wasukri Royal Landing Place, passing the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew, The Grand Palace and Wat Po, before arriving at the Temple of Dawn.
At the centre of the flotilla are the four Royal Barges: the Anantanagaraj bearing the Royal Kathin Robes; the Suphannahongse reserved exclusively for His Majesty the King and other members of the Royal Family; the Royal Barge Narai Song Suban H.M. Rama IX and the Anekchatbhuchonge acting as secondary barges.
Two Tiger Class barges (destroyers) lie to the left and right of the Royal Barges, as do a further eight gunboats, two Demon Class barges, four Monkey Class barges and two Garuda Class barges, all containing a cannon below the bow. Six Saeng Barges act as escorts, three on each side, and some 22 Dang Barges protect the front and rear of the procession. The flotilla is completed by two Drum Barges, three Police Barges, two barges for carrying senior officials and two back-up towing barges.
Royal Barge Suphannahongse was built anew in the reign of King Vajiravudh (Rama VI), deriving the name from the Royal Barge Sri Suphannahongse that was built in the Reign of King Phra Buddhayodfa Chulalok the Great (Rama I). Resembling the head of a Royal Swan or Hongse, the bow is richly adorned with golden lacquer and glass jewels.
Royal Barge Narai Song Suban H.M Rama IX built anew in the reign of King Bhumibol (Rama IX) in honour of H.M. the King's 50th year on the throne, has for its prow the Hindu god Narayana mounted on a garuda.
Royal Barge Anantanagaraj was built anew in the reign of King Vajiravudh (Rama VI) to replace the old barge built in the reign of King Mongkut (Rama IV). Representing the 7 headed Nagaraj, the bow is beautiful with gold lacquer and glass ornaments.
Royal Barge Anekchatbhuchonge was built anew in the reign of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V). Fine wooden carvings and ornamental Naga figurines make the prow appear elegant.