Royal Barge Museum Bangkok
The Naga Boat Figurehead At Royal Barge MuseumThailand National Museum Royal Barges
- 80-1 Bangkok Noi Canal, Bangkok Noi suburb,Bangkok 10700 [ 66 2 246 6700 ]
- Open 9 am to 5 pm all days except national holidays, Songkran Thai New Year and New Year's Day.
- The National Museum of Royal Barges is located on the north side of Bangkok Noi close to its entrance on the west side of Chao Phraya River. The preferable way to access it is by boat from the East side of Chao Phraya River. The back route through side streets can be confusing and not good.
- The National Museum of Royal Barges contains the most significant 8 of the 52 royal barges and provides information and displays historical and decorative objects associated with the barges and the Royal ceremonies.
- To appreciate what to see the following explanation may assist. Each boat has a figurehead and each has significance.
- Vishnu riding on Garuda; The most imposing boat and figurehead is that of Vishnu mounted on Garuda. [ In Thai called Narai Song Suban. ] According to the Hindu legend, Vishnu lives in the sea and arises to the human world to resolve problems. Vishnu's image is often positioned oputside hotel buildings in Thailand. He is seen with 4 heads and 4 arms and holds a trident, mace, disc and conch shell. Vishnu is mostly portrayed riding Garuda. In Thai beliefs incarnations or avatars of gods appeared as human Kings and so the current Thai or Siamese Kings were considered avatars of Vishnu.
- Naga; The Naga is a mythical being of Hindu mythology and in Thai culture is can be seen in all temple design and works of decorative art. The mythical Naga lives underwater and the Naga King Anantanagrai is the one who supported Vishnu [ or Narai ] while he churned the milk ocean [ as can be now seen in the display at Bangkok airport ]. The Anatanagarai Royal Barge displays the tradition of the present King as an avatar of Vishnu riding the boat as did Narai on Anantanagaraj in the Hindu myth. The seven headed Naga boat figurehead is shown in the images here.
- Garuda; As a Hindu mythology creature the Garuda is the vehicle of Narai [ Vishnu ] and is a creature with a birds head, beak, talons and wings of an eagle and the torso of a human being. The Garudas are the sworn enemies of the Naga. The Guruda boat figurehead is shown in the images here.
- Krabi [ the monkey ]; This is Hanuman the monkey from the Ramayana Indian epic. Hamuman has a white body [ as also shown in the painted murals ar Wat Phrao Kaeo ] and supernatural powers such as walking in air. His figurehead is mounted on the Krabi Prab Muang barges. These Krabi class boats have a driving speed of 2.6 meters per stroke with 36 oarsmen and 2 steersmen. The boat on display was made during the Rama 1 period and has been repaired following war damage in World War 11. It is 28.8 meters long, is 2.1 meters wide at the beam and has a depth of 56 centimeters.
- Hong the swan The Hong is the name of an ancient bird of India which acted as the vehicle for Brahma the creator. In Buddhist writings the Hong represents past lives of Buddha. I Thailand the Hong is a symbol of high status, elegance and importance. On the Royal barge the Hong represents as the vehicle of Brahma to emphasis the importance of the King. In the museum this is seen on the Royal Barge Suphannahong, which also has World Heritage staus having been award the Maritime Heritage Award in 1992 by the World Ship Trust of Great Britain.
- It is 46 15 meters long, 3.7 meters wide at the beam and the hull is 94 centimeters with a draught of 41 centimeters. It has a driving speed of 3.5 meters per stroke with 50 oarsmen and 12 other office bearers [ including, 1 chanter, 1 signalman, and 8 Royal Regalia bears ].
- Asura; The Asura Vayuphak is another creature from the Himmavana forest as depicted in The Ramayana and temples like Wat Phrao Kaeow and elsewhere. This creature is half giant [ like his father ] and half bird [ as was his mother ].
- Hera; The Hera is also a creature from the Hammavana Forest and has a crocodile head and a fish tail. This Icon and design can also be seen at the carved stone murals at Bayon at Angkor which was constructed by the Khmers in the 13 C. The Ekachai Hern How hull at the museum is decorated in Hera patterns similar to those on the Bayon carvings made 800 years ago. The Ekachai class of boat is designed to tow the Royal Barge. This class of boat has 38 oarsmen with 2 steersmen and a driving power of 3 meters per stroke. It is 30 meters in length with a 2 meter width at the beam. The hull depth is 60 centimeters.
- Historically boats of this style were used in war, private travel and ceremonies and transport. In Ayutthaya. The history and description of the Ayutthaya period boats is recorded in ancient text of the many foreign visitors to Ayutthaya. The Thai records and the Thai boats were destroyed with Ayutthaya in 1767.
- In Ayutthaya there were 2 docks. Sea going boats were docked near Pom Phet fortress [ Fort Phet ] and the warships and regalia boats were docked on the north side of the Island near what are now the ruins of the former Grand Palace.