Loy Krathong is probably the most visually evocative of all Festivals held in the Kingdom of Thailand. It would take a very mean spirited individual not to be moved by the sight of a November full moon with thousands of candles and incense sticks flickering and burning on floating Krathongs.
As November is the month that Mali and I normally visit Thailand, I have attended many Loy Krathong celebrations over the years. In the main these have been in rural areas in Isaan. Although these village celebrations don’t have the scope or grandeur of mainstream celebrations in say Krung Thep or Sukhothai they are still marvelous due to their relative simplicity and the community involvement of Village people.
Last November I attended once again another Loy Krathong celebration in the Isaan village of Ban Phutsa in Nakhonratchasima province. In the days leading up to Loy Krathong night there were many reminders of the significance of this celebration.
The Hindu origins of Loy Krathong date back centuries to the Sukhothai period of Thai history where it commemorated both the ending of the rainy season and the all important rice harvest. As such one of the two main Sala’s in the village were decorated with palm and coconut fronds and included mounds of freshly picked green coconuts.
Many villagers were in attendance at the Sala where the village monks chanted and were offered alms. Amongst this the Monks blessed small sacks of rice from the all important rice harvest that was occurring at that time. It also reminded of the important role that the village Wat plays in the life of rural Thailand. Village temples are places, which Thai people enter and use freely and take immense pride in.
Over at the other Sala in the village Wat a small cottage industry was creating the colourful Krathongs that the villagers would float on the night. In the main they were being built out of banana leaf and decorated with flowers, candles and incense sticks. The only sign of modernity were the Styrofoam bases. The Krathongs were then sold for a few baht to villagers with all profits donated to the village Wat.
As the moon rose on the night of Loy Krathong the villagers slowly gathered in the grounds of the temple. From there holding their Krathongs people moved out to a large irrigation pond in the rice fields immediately behind the temple.
As the Candles and incense sticks were lit and the obligatory coins also placed on them, the Krathongs were launched by young and all. The pond soon came to life with the flicker of candlelight and the musky odour of burning incense. Amongst the throng of people village monks moved easily, talking and laughing with family, friends and neighbours. As an event it could only be described as Sanuk.
As mentioned above, it wasn’t as grand as the celebrations in Krung Thep and other places but just like home made chocolate cake, just so much sweeter.
And then it was over, another important cycle completed in that intriguing place called the Kingdom of Thailand.