Phra Samut Chedi in Samut Prakan

Every October, at the end of the rainy season, people from Samut Prakan, and the surrounding area, come together to worship Phra Samut Chedi and enjoy the annual temple fair. The idea for this temple dates back to the time of King Rama II. He wanted to have the temple built on an island close to the mouth of the Chao Phraya River. His intention was to let everyone know entering the kingdom that this was a Buddhist country. Unfortunately he died before his dream could be realized. However, the task was taken over by King Rama III who began work on the temple in October 1827. Subsequent kings added to the height and size of the temple in order to make it more impressive for foreign visitors. King Rama IV even had 12 sacred relics of the Lord Buddha enclosed inside the chedi.

The temple fair starts every year with a grand parade through the city of Paknam. On the first float heading the parade is the red sacred cloth which is later wrapped around the chedi. All of the local people come out to pay their respects to this sacred cloth. After the parade has finished its circuit of the town, it goes to a local jetty where it is placed on a boat. It is then taken upriver to Phra Pradaeng where the local people there have their own opportunity to pay respects to the red cloth. About two hours later the red cloth was again brought down river, but this time to Phra Samut Chedi.

Here, the Governor of Samut Prakan, together with local dignitaries, took part in a procession around the chedi. Above them they held tightly onto the sacred red cloth. Like any other procession around temples, they did this in a clockwise direction and it was done three times. Although the red cloth was quite long, people scrambled to grab onto a piece of the cloth. It is considered a great method of making merit and people didn’t want to lose out on this opportunity.

Inside the temple grounds, the red cloth was handed over to members of the Rungjaeng family. By tradition, only this one local family is allowed to stitch together this cloth and then carry it up the side of the chedi to the top. Despite some members of the family being quite old, they were very agile as they walked along narrow edges carrying what must be a very heavy cloth. None of them had safety harnesses on. After about 15 minutes, the red cloth was in position and it was dropped down to cover the top part of the chedi.

The temple fair is now on for nine days and nine nights. I am planning on taking plenty of photographs to show you over the coming days. As long as it doesn’t rain. Storm clouds are covering the sky as I write this. Highlights will be the food photographs of course, but I will also try and get pictures of the wall of death, the floating head, the two headed baby and other such fairground attractions. There are also nightly concerts with big stars such as Dan & Beam, So Cool and Bodyslam. The fair takes place all day, but in the evening there will be thousands and thousands of people. It will take an hour just to walk 100 metres.

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