February 9, 2017
An ancient festival to highlight Thai Folklore and the importance of Family life within the Kingdom
When: 9-12th February
Where: Wat Sawetawan Wanaram in Kalasin Northeast Thailand
This annual festival is held across the northeast region of Isaan, it is also held in neighbouring Lao where it is called Bun Khun Khao (Bun Khoun Lan), traditionally held in the second lunar month (or the 1st month every year; January).
Throughout eons these forms of thanks giving have been played out in this part of the Kingdom, with activities such as the Kwan khao ceremony, or Rice Offering Ceremony (Phitee Tham Kwan Khao – thanking the spirits and gods for the bounty of the fields). This is also a time to re-confirm family ties or Bun Khun (บุญคุณ).
The Rice Goddess
The days are awash with merit making, traditional sport competitions, the lady of Kwan khao beauty contest, stage performances and a Phra Mae Phosop parade. The goddess Phosop, (Also known as Mae Khwan Khao แม่ขวัญข้าว; “Mother of Rice Prosperity”. Phosop (โพสพ) or Phaisop (ไพสพ) and is known as the rice goddess of the Thai people).
Mae Phosop (Mae = Mother in Thai) resides in the grains of rice and is usually depicted as a beautiful women, sitting with her legs folded under her, dressed in a traditional Sabai Chieng, (an ancient garment used by women that is wrapped, over one shoulder, then around her chest and back). In her right hand she carries stalks of rice, while in the other she carries a bag of rice. Above all else she is seen as fragile and easily scared, therefore the Rice Ceremony is held to calm her and invite her to stay within the paddy fields.
Most of these ancient festivities are centered on the Rice Ear Castle, built within the grounds of the temple, by villagers and monks of nearby villages. In Kalasin, 12 villages take part in building the castle, with each taking a turn in its construction, in the hope that it brings each village closer together.
Erecting this immense structure, built from bamboo and local rice stalks, begins months earlier, with the finished Rice Castle, measuring 20 meters in height. The interior of the castle will be filled with thrashed rice prior to the start of the event provided by all 12 villages, while the castle exterior will be decorated with popped rice, flowers and scented paste at the discretion of each village.
The four days are a mix of colour, respect and laughter, with a host of different people dressed in their traditional clothes singing and dancing to the unique Isaan music. Their are also a number of cultural displays, featuring the different tribes that make up this, the largest region in the Kingdom, plus of course a host of stalls selling all manner of local handicraft and produce.
Bun Khun (บุญคุณ) is in some-ways difficult to relate to the western world, yet it is the fundamental back bone to Thai family life. In simple terms; if you do a good turn to anyone, it means you have บุญคุณ to that person.
In the Thai family circle, Parents raise their children, so parents have บุญคุณ which children have to ตอบแทนบุญคุณ (to pay back to parents, in the way of taking care of parents, financially etc). While displays of outward affection in Thailand are not common in all but the younger generations, this festival is a time for Display’s of respect of the younger towards their elders and is a cornerstone value in Thailand.
Buddhism further more teaches that if anyone does something good for another person, then they must repay them in some way, if not in this life then in the next. มีบุญคุณต้องทดแทน.
Re-engaging the Thai People with their own folklore
While festivities celebrating Thai family life and its close links with Rice production, have been taking place across the Kingdom for centuries, it was not until Queen Sirikit gave her royal patronage to the ancient customs, of Thai folklore in August 2008, that paying homage to Mae Phosop by rice farmers, during the different stages of rice growing, is once again an important part of the annual celebrations held across the Kingdom.
For more info: TAT Khon Kean Office +66 4324 4498-9 or TAT Call Center 1672
For more on Festivals across Thailand for each month click on any of the Following January…February…March…April…May…June…July…August…September…October…November…December
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