Old colour films always make me a little excited. It’s like you’re looking at a world that you previously believed to be in black and white. The captions to this film on YouTube state that it’s the ordination of an abbot, though I think it’s in fact the ordination of a monk. (The abbot would be the head of the temple. This seems to show, at least to my non-expert eye, the ordination of a monk who is taking a long-term vow of service.)
Nearly all Thai men ordain for a brief period of their life during their young adulthood. One month at age 20 is common, but there is a lot of variation. Those who ordain with the intention of long-term Buddhist study and monkhood undergo a more elaborate ritual. The rituals in Northern Thailand are known for being particularly flamboyant.
The pageantry of the ceremony includes the initiate parading to the temple on horseback – or, when horses are not available, upon the shoulders of human carriage. (The bearers can switch places when they tire out.)
Another vibrant detail of the ceremony is the wearing of the chada, the traditional Thai crown. It takes a conical form, often with many levels. Apart from these ordination ceremonies, the crown can also be seen in traditional Thai theatrical dance. The accoutrement can be seen in its most elaborate and sacred form, the Phra Maha Phichai Mongkut, or Great Crown of Victory, which was used for the coronation ceremony of His Majesty the King and makes an appearance in various royal emblems.
Glimpse the over-one-hundred-year-old footage of an ordination ceremony below and marvel at the colour as you gaze into the past: