Regalia are symbols of prestige and honor, given for superior service that the King of Thailand has long bestowed upon members of the royal family, courtiers, officials, and ordinary citizens because of their rank or to reward them for outstanding performance in their duties or for exceptional service.
Types of Regalia
The regalia are made of valuable materials by ancient craftsmen. They are exquisite and delicate, and have different features and patterns that are unique for each rank. On special occasions, those who have been bestowed the regalia can wear them, display them in a suitable location, or use them when presenting himself before the king at the royal hall.
1. Regalia for Prosperity: These are a breast chain and nine gems ring, 108-beaded rosary, amulet and ceremonail gold chain. These regalia are bestowed not only for prosperity but also to convey a very important meaning. The 108-beaded rosary and the ceremonial gold chain are given in order to remind the recipients to perform their duties with honesty and righteousness.
2. Headgear: These are bestowed only on members of the royal family and high-ranking courtiers. The royal crown and the pointed crown are bestowed only on the king’s sons. The phra mala sao soon with yee kah (plumage for hats) decorated with apus (bird-of-paradise) featheris for royal children with the title of Chao Fah. The sao satern hat without yee kah is for male courtiers with the title of Chao Phraya. The song prabhas hat is for officials with the rank of governor. In the southern region, for a recipient who is Muslim, a turban is bestowed instead of the song prabhas hat.
3. Attire: Clothes are bestowed on recipients according to their rank. For certain ranks, there is a gold braid on the sleeves or collar, such as a robe made of cloth embroidered with gold or silver thread. Some are decorated with a gold purl of flowers design or other patterns called Kan Yaeng (growing flower-stalk like), and Dok KraJai (Aster). There are also clothing like shorts, and waistbands.
4. Weapons of Rank: These refer to spears, halberds, guns, two-edged swords, sabers, and swords. There are many types of swords bestowed as weapons of rank, such as a general sword or sword with a perforated haft; that is, the metal of the haft is perforated in such a way as to create various patterns. There are scabbards with a silver stripe, a gold stripe, a copper alloy inlay, a plain gold inlay, gold with a patterned inlay, and gold with blue-gem (lapislazuli) enamel. The design of the scabbard can range from a one-headed naga to a three-headed naga.
5. Royal Paraphernalia Set: These are personal utensils for daily use such as betel nut trays, betel nut boxes, water pitchers, trays, kettles, water bowls, tea sets, and spittoons. What takes depend on the receivers used. The gold royal paraphernalia with blue-gem (lapislazuli) enamel is bestowed upon The queen royal family members and officials with the title of Somdej Chao Phaya. The engraved golden royal paraphernalia are bestowed upon members of the royal family with the title of Phra Ong Chao Tang Krom and officials with the title of Phraya.
6. Umbrellas of State, Sunshades, Fans, and Flags: These refer to royal umbrellas for boat trips or road trips called chatra apirumchoomsai, sunshades consist of chamorn(a whip of yak hair), klod (a long-handled umbrella when a monk is at rest), phatbok (a palm-leaf fan), chatra benja (an umbrella for the funeral of minor royal family members), suppathon (a long-handled ceremonial umbrella for yet-to-be-ordained monks), kanching (a kind of long-handled tiered umbrella), and various flags while. Some of these are regalia some signify the bestowing of an honour. Generally, they are used when the recipients are in a procession. Some are used at funerals to signify honour and some are used in funeral processions.
7. Vehicles: These refer to the royal chariot, and other vehicles called phra wo si wika kan, salieng, and krae kanya. These vehicles have been bestowed since ancient times. The phra wo si wika kan is a vehicle for high-ranking female members of the royal family. It is quite similar to the krae kanya. The different is The phar wo si which has gold curtains to keep the royal passenger out of sight, but the krae kanya dose not have them. The salieng and krae kanya differ in that the salieng is an open stretcher without a roof while the krae kanya has a roof. Some high-ranking officials might be bestowed with both.
Once Thailand entered into frequent contact with the West, during the reign of King Rama IV, the bestowing of regalia has adapted to correspond to Western norms. As a result, royal decorations since the reign of King Rama IV have had the form of various stars. During the reign of King Rama V, an act was issued to establish various orders of royal decoration such as the Order of Chula Chom Klao, the Order of the White Elephant, and the Order of the Rama. Because of this, the bestowing of regalia stopped and was replaced by the bestowal of royal decorations as a reward for outstanding service to the country.