One of the structures that you will see at many Sakon Nakhon temples (but not all) is a crematorium, which you can identify by the building with a tall chimney. The overwhelming majority of Thais are cremated, as that is the Buddhist practice, but some burials are undertaken among the Christians/Catholics and Muslim residents of Sakon Nakhon.
Thai Buddhist funerals can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks. The bathing of the body by monks occurs the same day as the death, after which the covered body is paid respect to by close family members and friends, who pour holy water over an uncovered hand. Afterwards the body is kept in a refrigerated coffin for several days or weeks, while the monks chant prayers and additional people come to pay their respects.
On the day of cremation, the body is taken to the crematorium, which in Thai is called “men” (เมรุ). The word “men” is an abbreviation of Khao Phra Sumen (เขาพระสุเมรุ) or Mount Meru. According to Buddhist cosmology, this is the scared five peaked mountain which is at the center of the world and represents the center of all the physical, metaphysical and spiritual universes.
Thai funerals can be rather expensive affairs, even in rural Sakon Nakhon villages. However, all small villages have a local insurance program, which nearly everyone pays small amounts into on a regular basis. Also a small funeral donation (which is basically mandatory) is collected from every household when a village member dies. This funeral and insurance money is given to the deceased member’s family, which covers the cost of the funeral, with some extra left over to help the spouse.
Below you will find our developing photo collection of Sakon Nakhon crematoriums. We will continue to add to this collection as time goes by. If you are interested in Buddhist statues, check out our collection of Fat Buddha statues in Sakon Nakhon, and learn the difference between the two famous “Fat Buddha” monks of history.