Category: Festivals

Songkran in Bangkok

 Songkran in Bangkok

“Songkran” is the Thai traditional New Year and an occasion for family reunion. At this time, people from the rural areas who are working in the city usually return home to celebrate the festival. Thus, when the time comes, Bangkok temporarily turns into a deserted city.

The festival falls on April 13 and the annual celebration is held throughout the kingdom. In fact, “Songkran” is a Thai word which means “move” or “change place” as it is the day when the sun changes its position in the zodiac. It is also known as the “Water Festival” as people believe that water will wash away bad luck.

Songkran in Bangkok

This Thai traditional New Year begins with early morning merit-making, offering food to Buddhist monks and releasing caged birds to fly freely into the sky. During this auspicious occasion, any animals kept will be set free.
Paying homage to one’s ancestors is an important part of the day. People will pay their respects to the elders by pouring scented water over the palms of their hands. The elders in return wish the youngsters good luck and prosperity.

In the afternoon, after performing a bathing rite for Buddha images and the monks, the celebrants both young and old, joyfull splash water on each other. The most-talked about celebration takes place in the northern province of Chiang Mai where Songkran is celebrated from 13 to 15. During this period, people from all parts of country flock there to enjoy the water festival, to watch the Miss Songkran Contest and the beautiful parades.

Songkran in Bangkok

In Bangkok, the Buddha image “Buddhasihing” is brought out from the National Museum for people to sprinkle lustral water at Sanam Luang, opposite the Grand Palace.

Queen’s Birthday

Her Majesty Queen Sirikit was born on Friday, August 12,1932, as the eldest daughter of His Highness Prince Chandaburi Suranath and Mon Lung Bua Kitiyakara. Her Majesty was born with the royal title of Mon Rajawongse and Her name “Sirikit”, which means “Glory to the Kitiyakara Family”,was Given by His Majesty Fing Prajadhipok (Rama VII ). Mon Rajawongse Sirikit began her studies at Rajini School ro the Queen’s School and during World War II she transferred to St. francis Xavier Convent School in Bangkok. At the end of the Second World War, her father was appointed the Thai minister to France and Denmark and full Ambassador to the United Kingdom. She thus accompanied him and continued her education in Europe here she met His Majesty King Bhumibol.

Their Majesties became engaged on July 19, 1949 and in March of the following year, His Majesty, accompanied by the Royal Family and Mom Rajawongse Sirikit and her family; returned to Thailand for the Cremation Ceremony of His majesty King Ananda Mahidol.Rama VII. The Royal wedding took place at 9.30 a.m. on Friday, April 28,1950 at Sra Pathum Palace. On May 5 of the same year there followed the Coronation of His Majesty King Bhumibol.Their majesties have four children, namely:

1. H.R.H. Princess Ubol Ratana, born on the 5th of April 1951, in Lausanne, Switzerland.

2. H.R.H. Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkron, born on the 28th of July 1952 in Bangkok.

3. H.R.H. Princess Maha Chakir Sirindron, born on the 2nd of April 1955 in Bangkok.

4. H.R.H. Princess Chulabhorn, born on the 4th of July 1957 in Bangkok.

In 1956, when His Majesty King Bhumibol entered the monkhood for two weeks, Her Majesty was appointed as his Regent. During that period, Her Majesty performed her duties so successfully that, on the recommendation of the government, Her Majesty was given a royal title of higher distinction: “Somdejphra Borom Rajininath”.

Apart from being a royal wife and mother, Her Majesty the Queen also dedicates her tireless efforts for the betterment of the Thai people and the entire nation. The Queen spends much time travelling to rural areas to find sources of supplementary income in the off-season or in areas affected by droughts or floods. In order to help poor people in rural areas make both ends meet, The Foundation for the Promotion of Supplementary Occupations and Related Techniques (SUPPORT) was established on July, 21 1976 under Her Majesty’s patronage. The foundation has achieved remarkable success, today thousands of rural folks and their families are benefiting from Her Majesty’s countless efforts and initiatives.

As a tribute to Her Majesty’s boundless contributions for the happiness of the entire population and the prosperity of the nation as a whole, August 12 is now a public holiday. We join all loyal and devoted subjects of the kingdom in wishing Her Majesty the Queen a long life of good health and happiness.

Information in this page mainly comes from a book called “Essays on Thailand” by Thanapol Chadchaidee. It is used here with his permission. The book contains 60 essays about Thailand written in Thai and English.

Ploughing Ceremony

The Ploughing Ceremony, which is observed every year, is an age old tradition dating back to the Sukhothai Period. It was observed in the Ayuttaya Period and passed on to the Rattanakosin Period. The Ploughing Ceremony is held at Sanam Luang in Bangkok during May. It signals the start of the planting season in this country where the majority of the population are farmers. The ceremony is aimed at providing morale and making predictions about the year’s crops.

In the reign of King Rama IV, the Ploughing Ceremony was held in the ancient capital of Ayuttaya as well as in Phetchaburi. Later, it was held on a field, called Som Poy, in the outskirts of Bangkok, and it was at this time Buddhist elements were added to the previously Brahmin-dominated proceedings that took place at the temple of the Emerald Buddha on the eve of the ceremony.

The Buddhist part of the ceremony involved the processing of Khantarat Buddha images of the past reigns, along with citations blessing such grains as rice, glutinous rice and sorghum, sesame seeds, taro, potato, gourd seeds, melons and sweet basil.

A ceremonial pavilion was built at Sanam Luang for the occasion, which was participated by the Lord of the Ploughing Ceremony (Phra Raek Na) assisted by four Celestial Maidens (Thepi) carrying gold and silver baskets full of grains. Before the start of the ceremony, the Lord of the Ploughing Ceremony and the four maidens were anointed on the foreheads and in the palms, and given a conch and bel leaves.

Selected from among high-ranking officials of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, the Phya Raek Na wore a ceremonial ring with nine different gemstones which the King had given him.

The ceremony in the reign of King Rama IV was performed in grand style, with a processing of 500 people led by the Lord of the Ploughing Ceremony in resplendent attire and carrying his ceremonial sword. Before the start of the ceremony, the Lord of Ploughing Ceremony was offered three pieces of loincloth from which he chose one. The cloths were of different lengths — four, five and six kheub (one kheub is about six inches) — and the length of the cloth that be chose determined the amount of rain for that year: the shortest piece indicated a year with plenty of water, the longest one foretold little rain, and the medium-sized one was indicative of a balanced supply of water, abundant rice and healthy crops.

With the plough and a goad he received from the Brahmin priest presiding over the ceremony, the Lord of the Ploughing Ceremony ploughed three ceremonial furrows in an oval shape, then scattered the grains from the baskets carried by the Celestial Maidens, amidst the blowing of conches by five Brahmin priests. As he ploughed, a man in front sprinkled lustral water on the earth before him.

After the seeds had been scattered, the Lord of the Ploughing Ceremony again ploughed the earth over the seeds for three more rounds.

Following the ceremonial ploughing, the sacred bulls were unleased and presented with platters containing seven feeds, namely rice, corn, beans, sesame seeds, alcohol, water and glass. The bulls’ choices would predict the agricultural produce for that year.

According to predictions by Brahmin astrologers, a choice of rice or corn would mean abundance of grains and plentiful fish; beans or sesame meant plentiful fish and meat, water or grass indicated plentiful rain, food, meat and agricultural crops; and alcohol foretold a more efficient transportation system, good trade relations with other countries, and prosperous economy.

The Ploughing Ceremony was observed in its entirely until 1936, when there was a change in the political structure of the country . It was revived in 1960 by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, as an annual ceremony to boost the farmers’ morale. The role of the Lord of the Ploughing Ceremony was assumed by the Under-Secretary of State (now known as Permanent Secretary) of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, and the four Celestial Maidens were civil servants from the same ministry.

Each year, the 40 kilograms of the rice grains and the 40 other grain species used in the ceremony are supplied by His Majesty the King’s experimental plot in the Chitrlada compound. What is not used in the ceremony is distributed to farmers throughout the country.

Since 1986, the day on which the Ploughing Ceremony takes place has also been declared Agriculture Day, with activities ranging from a grain contest to agricultural exhibitions at Sanam Luang.

Loy Krathong

One of the most popular festivals in early November is the Loy Krathong Festival. It takes place at a time when the weather is fine as the rainy season is over and there is a high water level all over the country.

“Loy” means “to float” and a “Krathong” is a lotus-shaped vessel made of banana leaves. The Krathong usually containts a candle, three joss-sticks, some flower and coins.

In fact, the festival is of Brahmin origin in which people offer thanks to the Goddess of the water. Thus, by moonlight, people light the candles and
joss-sticks, make a wish and launch their Krathongs on canals, rivers or even small ponds. It is belived that the Krathong carry away sins and bad luck, and the wishes that have been made fir the new year due to start. Indeed, it is the time to be joyful and happy as the sufferings are floated away.

The festival starts in the evening when there is full moon in the sky. People of all walks of life carry their Krathongs to the nearby rivers. After lighting candles and joss-sticks and making a wish, they gently place the Krathongs on the water and let them drift away till they go out of sight.

A Beautiful Queen Contest is an important part of the festival and for this occasion it is called “The Noppamas Queen Contest”. Noppamas is a legendary figure from the Sukhotthai period. Old documents refer to her as the chief royal consort of a Sukhothai King named “Lithai”. Noppamas was said to have made the first decorated Krathong to float in the river on the occasion.

In Bangkok, major establishments such as leading hotels and amusement parks organise their Loy Krathong Festival and the Krathong contest as major annual function.

For visitors to Thailand. the Loy Krathong Festival is and occasion not to be missed. The festival is listed in the tourist calendar. Everyone is invited to take part and share the joy and happiness.

The King’s Birthday

His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great was born on December 5, 1927 to Prince Mahidol of Songkhla and Mom Sangwan. His Majesty is the ninth King of the Chakri Dynasty and the longest-reigning monarch in the history of Thailand.

His Majesty the King is well recognised as the heart and soul of the Thai nation. He is held in the high esteem not only by his own subjects, but His Majesty also commands enormous respect from people in all parts of the world.

Everywhere he goes, people turn up to greet him in hundreds of thousands. The manner in which His Majesty conducts himself, giving his whole heart and attention to the people, immediately linked the living symbol of the nation to the people in a bond of matual understanding and personal affection.

The main concern of His Majesty is for the uplifting of the general well-being of the people. Evidence of this can be drawn from His Majesty the King’s ceaseless efforts to visit his subjects in the rural areas. The aim of his Majesty’s visits is to learn at first hand about the needs of his subjects.

To obtain such information, His Majesty has to travel many thousands of kilometers throughout the kingdom and, whenever possible, suggests ways to overcome the difficulties. These visits have led to the establishment of over 1,000 Royal and Royally-initiated projects. They are implemented by the relevant agencies of the government after having been given advice and assistance by His Majesty.

His Majesty is the first member of the Royal Family to be granted a patent for an invention. The registered patent is for one of His Majesty’s “Chai Pattana Machines” – the Chai Pattana Aerator Model RX 2. The patent rights call it an “apparatus for water treatment”, which is used for agricultural and industrial purposes and can be seen operating in many polluted waterways.

Buddhism is the national religion of Thailand and HisMajesty can stantly shows himself to be a convinced and dedicated disciple of the Lord Buddha. To follow the tradition of young Buddhist men to go into the monastery for a period of time, His Majesty entered the Buddhist monkhood at Wat Bovornnives on 22 October 1956. The Constitution of Thailand, however, does not prescribe the King to be only the Defender of the Buddhist Faith, but also to be the upholder of all Religions. He gives equal attention to the protection of al forms of worship and also to the problems of other religious communities inThailand.

His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great came to the throne on June 9, 1946. The meaning of his name is “Strength of the Land, incomparable Power”. Since that date he has reigned over the Kingdom of Thailand as a constitutional monarch. At the Coronation Ceremony on May 5, 1950, His Majesty the King pronounced the traditional Oath of Accession which stated: “We will riegn with righteousness for the benefit and happiness of the Siamese people”. His Majesty’s actions since then has thoroughly reflected those words and have always been directed towards increasing the welfare and prosperity of the Thai nation.

On his birthday, which is observed as a National Holiday, all his subjects rejoice in demonstrating once more their affection and loyalty to him. Religious rites are held, houses and buildings are decorated with flags, lights and his portraits. The whole nation prays to the Holy Triple Gem and all the sacred things in the universe to bless His Majesty with good health and happiness and the strength to carry on his onerous task.

Information in this page mainly comes from a book called “Essays on Thailand” by Thanapol Chadchaidee. It is used here with his permission. The book contains 60 essays about Thailand written in Thai and English.

Coronation Day

The coronation of the present king took place on 5 May 1950 and His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great is the ninth King of the Chakri Dynasty. On 5 May of every year, all his subjects rejoice in demonstrating once more their affection and loyalty to him by organising a celebration on his coronation day.

Prior to the reign of King Rama IV (King Mongkut), there was no coronation ceremony in Thailand, there was only a private ceremony held by high ranking officials to celebrate their Royal Regalia and positions in the 6th lunar month. A coronation, however, took place for the first time when King Rama IV was crowned on 15 May 1851. The king thought that the coronation was an auspicious occasion and above all, several countries which have a king or Queen as the head of state regard this day as an important occasion to organise a ceremony in honour of their monarch. Thus , King Rama IV issued a proclamation to organise a ceremony on the coronation day. However, the king thought that it would be difficult to explain the meaning of the coronation day to his subjects in detail, he thus allowed people to call this day as a “ceremony to commemorate the Royal Regalia”, but was Quite similar to that of a coronation. On that day (the 13th of the full moon in the 6th lunar month).Buddhist monks were invited to perform a blessing ceremony and on the following day monks were invited to have meal at the Dusit Maha Prasart Throne Hall in the Grand Palace.

During the reign of the present king, the ceremonies are performed for three days. The first day falls on 3 May in which the following ceremony will be performed; the king performs a merit-making ceremony at the Audience Hall of Amarindra in dedication to the deceased kings while Buddhist monks chant, give a sermon and perform a requiem (a ceremony to meditate and take memorial robe) on the royal ashes of the deceased king. On 4 May, the Coronation Ceremonies beginwith a proclamation of the Coronation Day read by the Chief of Brahmin priests followed by an evening chanting performed by Buddhist monks. Finally 5 May is the actual date of the ceremony in which food is to be offered to monks and followed by a celebration of the Royal Regalia. At noon the Army and the Navy, each fires a 21-gun salute in honour of the king. On this day, His Majesty the King also presents the royal decorations to the people who have made a valuable contribution to the country.

Constitution Day

December 10 marks the Constitution Day which is held annually to commemorate the advent of the regime of Constitutional Monarchy in Thailand. Previously, the government of Thailand was an absolute monarchy until June 24, 1932 there was a transition to constitutional monarchy led by a group of young intellectuals educated abroad and inspired by the concept of western democratic procedures. The group which was known as “People’s Party or Khana Rasdr” was led by Luang Pradit Manudharm (Pridi Panomyong). To avoid bloodshed, King Rama VII graciously agreed to abolish absolute monarchy and handed over the country’s first “Permanent” Constitution. In fact, King Rama VII (King Prajadhipok) had prepared, even before being asked, to hand over his powers to the people.

All Thai constitutions, however, recognise the King as Head of State, Head of the Armed Forces, Upholder of All Religions and sacred and inviolable in his person. His Majesty the King’s sovereign power emanates from the people and is exercised in three ways, namely: legislative power through the National Assembly, executive power through the Cabinet and Judicial power through the law courts.

Even though the Revolution of 1932 brought an end to the centuries old absolute monarchy, the reverence of the Thai people towards their kings has not been diminished by this change.

Portraits of Thai kings are prominently displayed throughout the kingdom. On Constitution Day, the entire nation is greeted with festivity. The government offices, private buildings and most highrises are decorated with national flags and bunting and are brightly illuminated. On this day, all Thai citizens jointly express their gratitude to the king who graciously granted them an opportunity to take part in governing the country.

Information in this page mainly comes from a book called “Essays on Thailand” by Thanapol Chadchaidee. It is used here with his permission. The book contains 60 essays about Thailand written in Thai and English.

Chulalongkorn Day

“Chulalongkorn Day” or “Piyamaharaj Day”, which we say in Thai, is celebrated on 23rd October of every year. It is the day that our King Chulalongkorn, or King Rama V, died. He is one of our most important kings in the past. The most important thing he did is abolish slavery but he also did many other reforms in order to modernize the country.

King Chulalongkorn (Phra Chulachom Klao Chaoyuhua or RamaV) succeeded to the throne at the death of his father, King Mongkut (or Phra Chom Klao). He was born on September 20, 1853 the first son of Queen Ramphai Pamarapirom (Thepsirindra) and the 9th surviving son of King Mongkut. King Rama V ascended the Throne in 1868 at the age of 15, with Chao Phraya Sri Suriyawongse as Regent.

King Rama V’s long reign of 42-years was a busy era of full-scale reform and the emergence of Thailand into the modern age. He learned the systems of Western Governments, made friends with major powers such as Britain, France, America and Russia and sent the royal children to be educated in the West. It seems he was prepared to learn from the West while at the same time, resisting domination by the major powers. Above all, he was the first Thai monarch who traveled widely: to neighboring countries in Asia and to Europe twice. Wherever he went, he was impressed by the hospitality and respect shown to him by the Royalty of the various countries.

The King’s reforms, which involved almost every aspect of Thai life, included the abolition of slavery, the expansion of the communication system through the construction of railways, the establishment of post and telegraph services and the creation of a ministerial system in 1892. In addition, the King also established a variety of public utilities, particularly in the fields of health and education. Unfortunately, world events at that time did not allow him to proceed smoothly with his administrative reform as it coincided with the age of colonialism. The King, therefore, had to adapt his foreign policy to maintain a balance between the contending powers. He fostered friendly relations with all powers and avoided confrontation. In the last period of his reign, the country lost a lot of land to France. Thus, at the time of crisis, even though Thailand had to sacrifice some of her territories, she was able to keep her independence.

King Chulalongkorn wanted to make the people less subservient, thus, in 1873 after the coronation, he proclaimed that prostration in front of the king was to be abolished. Later, in 1905 he abolished slavery. This slave abolition was the most important royal contribution. The Slave Act was passed by King Rama V in 1905 to prohibit slave-trade. The King traveled extensively throughout the kingdom to personally investigate and share his subjects’ conditions and aspirations, often known in Thai as “Prapasstion”. It is very difficult to mention all of his numerous reforms. All the present-day ministries and departments owe their origin of his far-sighted concepts.

His death on October 23, 1910 was a great loss to the entire nation as he was one of the most honored and beloved kings who was often called “Somdej Phra Piyamaharaj”. Moreover, Thai people also believed in the King’s miraculous power of bringing good luck and prosperity to the person who pays respect to him. Thus, the King’s picture is found in almost every house. Thai people from all walks of life lay wreaths at his equestrian statue at the Royal Plaza in Bangkok and his statues in the provinces.

Information in this page mainly comes from a book called “Essays on Thailand” by Thanapol Chadchaidee. It is used here with his permission. The book contains 60 essays about Thailand written in Thai and English.

King Chulaongkorn is more well-known in the West as the “boy king” in the movie and musical “The King and I”. We have an extensive web site called “The King and I: Fact or Fiction?” which takes a close look at the movie and books with an intention to set the record straight.

Buddhist Holidays

Makha Bucha Day
This Buddhist holiday is held on the full moon of the third lunar month (usually February) to commemorate the famous event of Lord Buddha preaching in front of 1250 spontaneously gathered monks. Besides the usual Buddhist merit-making during the day, the main part of the celebration consists of a candle-lit walk three times around the chapel on the temple grounds.

Visakha Bucha Day
Another important Buddhist religious holiday, this one celebrates the birth, enlightenment and passing away of Lord Buddha. The usual sermons, candlelight processions and chantings in and around the temples are the hallmarks of this ceremony.

Ashana Bucha Day
The first sermon of Buddha to his five disciples is commemorated by this national religious holiday. As usual, candlelight processions in wats mark the celebration.

Khao Phansaa
At the beginning of the rainy season, young men enter monkhood, and all monks retreat for three months to the monastery. It is also called Rains Retreat for this reason. Khao Phansaa marks the beginning of the Buddhist Lent. Devout Buddhists make resolutions at this time and try to live their lives according to the precepts.

Ohk Phansa
End of the Buddhist Lent, beginning of the Kathin (Thawt Kathin) season, a one-month long celebration during which robes and gifts are offered to the monks.