Elephants kneel in ritual tribute to Thailand’s new king

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Handlers lead a procession of 10 elephants kneeling outside the Grand Palace in Bangkok (Rapeephat Sitichailapa/AP)

Eleven white-painted elephants have gathered with their handlers before Bangkok’s Grand Palace to pay respects to Thailand’s newly crowned king.

Hundreds of mahouts, or handlers, dressed in royal yellow sang the royal anthem and knelt with their elephants before a portrait of King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

The ceremony followed a celebration a day earlier in which thousands of Thais watched and cheered as the king and his family waved from a palace balcony.

Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida greet an audience from the balcony of the Suddhaisavarya Prasad Hall at the Grand Palace in Bangkok
King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida wave from the palace balcony (Rapeephat Sitichailapa/AP)

The elephants, which came from across the country and had their tusks garlanded, trumpeted at the end of the ceremony.

They also posed for group photos.

“I am delighted for His Majesty that everyone shows their respect to him, even the elephants showed their respect for him. And they did it so well,” said Phuraporn Gorgerd, one of those attending the event.

Thais consider white elephants a sacred symbol of royal power and an elephant adorned the national flag until 1917.

A procession of elephants parade outside the Grand Palace in Bangkok
The procession of elephants outside the Grand Palace (Rapeephat Sitichailapa/AP)

The elephants are not entirely white and are sometimes painted to look lighter coloured than their natural patchy colour.

King Vajiralongkorn took the throne after the 2016 death of his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who reigned for seven decades.