Salatpak Festival-Northern Culture In The South

Though I have been in Thailand for more than two years, I seldom went to the Buddhist or the temple fairs. Lately, I had the opportunity to attend a festival called “Salatpak” , a merit-making festival featuring the random presentation of monastic necessities to Buddhist temples.

The festival was jointly organized by the Temple of Tambun Yarom and Northern Community Cultural Club and, supported by the Betong Municipality. The Mayor of Betong was invited to officiate the opening ceremony on this auspicious occasion.

Salatpak festival was the tradition of the Northern people, Lanna. Lanna means “Land of a million rice fields”. It was the name of a prosperous self-ruling kingdom, founded in the 13th century, that occupied the whole of Northern Thailand and parts of present day Myanmar and Laos. Today, there are quite a number of Lanna people scattered around Southern Thailand and they still preserve the ancient Lanna tradition ,culture and heritage.

Salatpak festival is normally held after harvesting season and beginning of the rainy season. During rainy season, Buddhist monks traditionally remain in their monasteries or temples and temporarily refrain their outside activities of travelling and teaching. Devotees will make offerings and donations to the temples during this time.

Based on the Buddhist belief, one’s destiny is determined by the acts and good deeds performed during his current life. The significance of merits making and offerings during the Salatpak festival are actually two-folded. Firstly, hopefully the merits are accrued to the departed relatives and friends of devotees and secondly, hopefully the merits accrued to themselves so that they will be blessed with longevity, happiness and prosperity. The monks will draw lots to get the offerings from devotees. The offerings were in cash terms or miscellaneous consumables such as rice, salt, cigarette, prawn paste, fish sauce, candle, matches, tooth paste, tooth brush, pens and fruits.

The Offerings

On that day, Lanna people and other Thais thronged to the temple. There were cultural performances and scattered groups of people singing, dancing and playing traditional instruments. Some of them were a little high after some beers. I was told that nowadays Salatpak has become a “drinking festival” for the people. As I was watching and taking pictures, a guy who was a little drunk put his arm on my shoulder so I quickly ran off to the temple…

Happy hours

Though a more light-hearted atmosphere was encountered outside, a serious atmosphere prevailed within the temple. Many people gathered in the temple and there were chanting, sermons and blessing sessions. Some devotees joined in half way and had their own ways of worshipping. I then found the figure of the Mayor who was at the first row and seemed very concentrated, bowing his head and not moving at all. I paid attention to him for a while and thinking that it was not easy for him to be so concentrated after so many functions. Then only I found out that he actually fell asleep…:)

Small-scale procession/Having fun

Lanna Children in their traditional costumes/In the temple

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