BANGKOK – Eleven rare white elephants participated in a parade Tuesday morning outside of the Grand Palace to pay respects to Thailand’s beloved deceased King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
The auspicious elephants, guided by mahouts, bowed down in front of the Grand Palace, where they also undertook a moment of silence to honor the country’s longest-reigning King, who passed away at the age of 88 at Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok on Oct. 13.
Thousands of mourners gathered at the site to sing the royal anthem during the march of the albino elephants, which are considered sacred in Southeast Asia and a symbol of power and prestige in the monarchy.
Known in Thai as chang samkhan, the role of the white elephant is tied to Buddhist mythology, which states Buddha’s mother dreamed of a white elephant giving her a lotus flower on the eve before she gave birth to him, according to the Think Elephants blog.
The eleven pale pachyderms live in an elephant camp in Ayutthaya, some 90 kilometers (56 miles) from Bangkok, and were brought to the capital especially for Tuesday’s event.