Foundation Stone Ceremony

In Thailand, it is never a light matter when you do anything. Thai people like to consult the astrology charts in order to find an auspicious time to do something important. This can be anything from the day of your wedding to the time a new car can arrive at your home. The day and time for starting to build your house is also important. A special ceremony is arranged for erecting the first pillar or foundation stone of your house. Yesterday I had the honour to attend the ceremony for the laying of the foundation stone for the Paknam Tower. This is going to be a massive, 139 metre high tower with some amazing views of Bangkok and the Gulf of Thailand. There will also be restaurants, shops, museum and library.

Although Thai people are mainly Buddhists, ceremonies like this one are conducted by Brahmin priests dressed in white. In the above picture, a priest is asking for forgiveness from the guardian spirit of the land. He is also asking permission to build on this land. In front of him you can see the offering for the guardian spirits. Although this ceremony is mainly Brahmin, nine monks were also invited to do some chanting. Local dignitaries also offered food to the monks which enabled them to make merit for this event. I suppose in some ways this is like doubling your chances that the construction of this tower will pass smoothly.

According to Thai astrology, there are three days of the week when you should never start construction of a building. These are Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday. For the Paknam Tower, everything was done by the book. The day they picked was Friday 18th May 2007. The time for the actual laying of the foundation stone (see picture above) was also set for exactly 2.19 p.m. The number “nine” is considered auspicious by Thai people as it sounds like the Thai word for “progress”. Everything is done in multiples of nine. There were nine monks and nine different kinds of food offerings for them. In the picture on the right, you can see a close-up of the astrology chart for the tower.

As well as the marble foundation stone, nine symbolic bricks are also used during the ceremony. Three made of gold, three made of silver and three made of an alloy. In the picture on the right, you can see nine symbolic pegs made of nine different types of wood. In addition to these items, there were jasmine garlands, flowers with popped rice and one baht coins which were all used during the ceremony.

Once the conch had been blown and the small drums banged, it was time for the foundation laying ceremony to begin. In this first picture, Khun Anuwat Methiwibunwut, the Governor of Samut Prakan Province, can be seen hammering one of the pegs into the sifted sand. Each of the dignitries then took turns hamering the other pegs into place.

Next came some cement. In this picture, Khun Watana, an elder statesman of Samut Prakan, is doing the honours. Again, everyone took turns.

In this final picture, you can see that the nine bricks have already been layed in a star pattern above where the pegs had been driven into the sand. More cement was then poured on top. Then, all of the senior dignitaries, (the person second from the left is Khun Chonsawat who is the Mayor of our city) placed the marble foundation stone onto the symbolic bricks. Following this, they then took turns to sprinkle flowers and coins onto the marble slab. Once the main ceremony was over, the local people, who had been patiently watching everything, were allowed to come forward and to also sprinkle some flowers and coins.

I had spotted two exact copies of this foundation stone made of marble. So, I presume that this one will be covered in cement and then the second one will be placed on show once the building has been completed. But, presumably in the exact same spot. As soon as all of the seating and tents have been cleared, I will go back to take a closer look. Over the coming months and years, I will be bringing you progress reports of this building. The Paknam Tower is actually being built on the site of the Old Paknam Prison.

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