People in all parts of the world have their own ways of expressing thanks through ceremonies and festivals. For example, here in America as the leaves turn color in the Fall, people look forward to celebrating Halloween and Thanksgiving. At the same time, people in Thailand are looking forward to one of their own festivals of thanksgiving, the Loy Krathong Festival.
Throughout the Kingdom of Thailand at the end of the Kathina Festival season when the rivers and canals are full of water –and sometimes even overflowing their banks– the Loy Krathong Festival takes place on the full-moon night of the Twelfth Lunar Month. It is the last festival of the twelve month annual cycle of ceremonies and festivals called Praphenee Sibsongduan or Heed Sibsong. Young and old alike bring receptacles called krathong –bowls made of leaves which contain flowers, candles, incense sticks, food and coins– to the banks of rivers and lakes.
In the ancient capital city of Sukhothai, a UNESCO World Heritage Site 270 miles north of Bangkok, a very special version of this festival takes place with a colorful show of light and sound.
Those who wish to experience it firsthand may wish to contact the Tourism Authority of Thailand or the Royal Thai Embassy in Washington, D.C.
In a symbolic gesture of gratitude to the Mother River –the source of water without which we cannot survive–each person lights candles and incense sticks, places them in his or her krathong, makes a wish, and then gently releases the krathong out onto the surface of the water.
Loy Krathong is also interpreted as paying homage to the Holy Footprints of the Buddha on the beach of the Nammada River in India. One time the Buddha went to the Nammada River where the Nagas live. The Nagas are large cobra-like snake deities who are often portrayed sheltering the Buddha. The Nagas welcomed the Buddha with great deference and asked the Buddha to give a Dhamma talk. The Buddha assented and the Nagas were very thankful. When the time came to see the Buddha off, the Nagas asked the Buddha to give them something in remembrance of his visit. The Buddha then gave his footprints on the shore of the Nammada River for the Nagas to pay respect and pujã to remind them of the righteous way of life.
In India, Loy Krathong was also a traditional rite of the Brahmins (Hindu) people whereby they gave thanks to the Mother-goddess of the Ganga River, which is the treasure of India.
In Northeastern Thailand, people make rockets and wax boats into which they place food, clothes, medicines, candles, incense, oil, cotton string, and needles in preparation for the evening. Late in the afternoon they invite monks to perform a chanting ceremony to bestow blessings. The people then light candles and in the evening they float the rocket boats in the rivers or lakes close to their home villages and towns to pay homage to the Buddha's footprints and to show their gratitude and pay respect to the rivers as well.
They perform this festival and ceremony in the Eleventh Lunar Month after the Buddhist Rains Retreat. The next morning they offer food to the Monks and receive blessings from the Monks.
The festival is then over. In the Thai literature of the Sukhothai period, it is recorded that Nang Nopphamas, a virtuous lady in the court of King Ruang, was skilled in the art of making beautiful krathongs. It then happened that the king sponsored a krathongs contest. The contest of Miss Nopphamas on the occasion of Loy Krathong festival has been observed since then. The season of Loy Krathong has important religious observances, and it provides a good opportunity for people from different areas to meet one another and join hands in making the festival a success. It is very important religious aspects, and it also provides opportunities for social bonding and the development of artistic skills.
These festivals have been observed in Thailand ever since the Sukhothai period.
Festivals in all cultures have meanings that are interesting to learn about. As we have seen here, Thai people give thanks during Loy Krathong just as Americans give thanks during Thanksgiving.
Loy Krathong Festival at MBMC is on 8 November, 2008 - Please join MBMC for MBMC 2008 Loy Krathong Festival party night at Knight of Columbus Hall 870 N. Main St. Clawson, MI 48017 at 6:00 PM to 12:00 AM. (Midnight)
Ven. Chuen Phangcham, Ph.D.
Last Updated (Tuesday, 28 July 2009 13:59)