January 21, 2015
Two different annual celebrations for the price of one
Revised Jan 2017
Where: Near the provincial administration building Maha Sarakham City Northeast Thailand
About Maha Sarakham
Maha Sarakham (มหาสารคาม; also spelt Mahasarakham) is ranked the 42nd largest province of the Kingdom, located in the heart of the Northeast region of (Isan) Thailand. The capital city of the same name with its abundance of educational facilities has the nickname ‘Taxila of Isan’ (Taxila was considered to be amongst the earliest universities in the world and was founded in India) (now the Punjab province in Pakistan). The Thai province is also known as the spiritual heart of Isan with many Buddhist artefact’s having been unearthed in the area. It is home to most of the important Buddhist festival in the region and has a good number of thought provoking shrines and parks.
By road: From Bangkok to Maha Sarakham, the route is approx. 475 km. By bus: State-owned Transport Co, operates many buses and air-conditioning coaches between Bangkok and Maha Sarakham. For more information, call North Eastern Bus Terminal: 0-2936-2852-66.
Train or plane: Travel to Khon Kaen then take local buses to Maha Sarakham, 72 km away.
Bun Boek Fa Fair and Red Cross Fair (งานบุญเบิกฟ้าและกาชาด)
Is held annually on the third lunar day of February to celebrate the end of the harvest season, the fair is a vibrant, fun filled event, designed to show-case and conserve the unique cultural heritage of Isan.
During the festivities there is a large and colourful parade to honour the goddess of rice Mae Pho sop with a mass of decorated floats and people wearing many different Isan traditional dress.
There are also a number of ceremonial events including the spiritual ‘Baisee’ ceremony. (It is believed the observance of Baisee was prevalent in Thailand even before Buddhism) and the equally ancient protective ritual of Baisi Su Khwan
Fair goers can also expect to enjoy various Isan cultural performances in both dance and music along with the opportunity to buy locally hand made products such as silk, mat-mi cloth, khit cloth, khit pillow and not forgetting the chance to taste authentic Isan food.
With luck while in Isan you may well take part or witness a traditional Isan Welcome of the Bai Si ceremony . This is where white or coloured strings are tied around the wrists of the honoured guest. Traditionally the string is tied on the right hand for women and the left hand for men. It is hoped this will bring good luck and protection to the person and that mishap will not befall them.
Phra That Na Dun Festival
At the same time as the above fair and just 65 kms, from the city of Maha Sarakham (and still within the province), the Phra That Na Dun Festival (งานนมัสการพระธาตุนาดูน), is taking place. The event is a week long Buddhist celebration held at Phra That Dun also known as the Buddhist Park of Isan. Activities include giving alms to the monks, vipassana practice (the foundation of all Buddhist meditations), dhamma lecture (the truth taught by Buddha), along with other spiritual events.
The area is one of special historical importance, with many artfacts being uncovered which have shone light on the ancient city of Champa Si and its links with the Champa people. The most important find is that of the stupa (chedi) dating from the Mon Kingdom of Dvaravati, once believed to contain gold, silver and bronze caskets housing the holy relics of Lord Buddha. While the festival is not on the grand scale of Makha Puja Day the event is a time of peace and thoughtful meditation.
To get there from Maha Sarakham, take a local taxi the distance is 65 kilometres and the cost is from 500-600 baht.
Whether you preference is the abundance of colour smells and sounds that is the Bun Boek Fa Fair or you want to immerse yourself in the more sedate and tranquil Phra That Na Dun Festival, the choice is yours, one thing is for sure the memories of the time you spend in this unique part of Thailand will live with you for a life time.
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