From the Blog

May 17, 2016

Chiang Mai City Pillar Festival

When the inhabitants of this once great capital city, show their thanks to both the Lord Buddha and the guardian spirits that protect their homes and families

 

 

When: 21st – 27th May 2017 (TAT provided the dates)

Where:  Chiang Mai City Pillar Festival Chiang MaiNorthern Thailand

The Inthakin or Lak Mueang Festival (also known as Sai Khan Dok or Bucha Sao Inthakin in Thai) is an ancient festival which takes place over 8 days and 7 nights, in what was the capital city of the once mighty Kingdom of Lanna. The event starts on the 12th day of the waning moon of the six lunar month.

 

One hundred thousand drops of rain

This annual event begins on the afternoon on the 1st day with a colourful and glorious procession, featuring a huge number of local people dressed in traditional clothing, accompanied by folk musicians and dancers. The 10th Century Buddha image known as Phra Fon Saen Haa, (literally meaning One hundred thousand drops of rain), takes center stage in the proceedings.

 

Chiang Mai City Pillar Festival Wat Chedi Luang

Picture By Peter Lam

 

Flower Bowl Blessings

As the procession flows around the walled city, its people will reverently step forward and bless the Buddha image with lustral water, the procession ends when the image eventually brought to the courtyard of the temple, Wat Chedi Luang. (The image is normally kept at the neighbouring smaller Wat Chiang Man).

It is here the devotees are allowed to venerate the Buddha image and the guardian spirits of the city, particularly the spirits associated with the City Pillar, known as Sao Inthakin (The Lord Indra’s Pillar).

They do this by way of merit-making, by offering and then placing flowers, candles, and joss sticks, in each of twenty-eight bowls laid out on mats within the temple. This part of the festival is known as Tam Bun Khan Dok (literally the “Flower Bowl Blessing”) and takes place every day for 7 days.

The best time to witness this humble and spiritual part of the festivities is at night, when the temple is magically lit with so many Flower Bowl Blessings, and the nearby streets are awash with vendors, selling not only flowers, candles and incense to one and all, but a multitude of mouth watering food and drink. The night is also full of noise from the small Thai fair offering an assortment of stalls and rides that adds to the joy of this vibrant uniquely Northern festival.

 

 

Local people believe, that by taking part in the ceremony they will be blessed with good health, plus the much needed rain will fall ensuring a plentiful harvest. The parade starts and ends at Wat Chedi Luang, as it is here where the majority of the religious aspects of the festival will be held.

 

Song and Dance

Each evening, monks chant prayers and bestow blessings on the traditional folk artists, who will later give dance performances, accompanied by Thai classical instruments such as the stringed sueng, made of teak or hard wood, played by plucking the two metal or brass strings with a horn plectrum and the stringed Saw Duang.

The traditional Lanna dancing includes; the Choeng Tua Auk-son Dance, which is performed in the Buddha’s honor and is characterized, by a complex choreography inspired by the calligraphy of the ancient alphabets of the northern regions, along with movements used in martial arts. The dancers will also perform the fast flowing Sword Dance, (you Tube) along with equally ancient Muang Dance.

Other events are held around the city including the rite of the Tham Boon Muang, (City Blessing), this city merit-making ceremony is held across Thailand and here in Chaing Mai it is observed at each of the four gates to the city, and each of the four corners of the ancient walls inside the city moat. The event is to appease the guardian spirits of both the moat and city gates, and to ensure the city’s prosperity for another year

It is worth noting that while this is an eight day event on the last day there is no Tam Bun Khan Dok and the festival slowly winds down with a number of closing ceremonies.

 

City Pillar and Human Sacrifices

It is said that the veneration of the city pillar was adopted from a ceremony of the Lawa people (the original inhabitants of northern Thailand) by the Thai Yuan ethnic group who built the city of Chiang Mai upon the foundations of an older Lawa city.

There is reportedly historical evidence that in the beginning of the seventeenth century the practice of human sacrifices was still wide spread and employed when-ever a new City pillar was built in Thailand see more

 

 

A little on Wat Chedi Luang

Built in the mid-15th century, the stupa behind Wat Chedi Luang used to be the home of the famous Emerald Buddha. After an earthquake destroyed the upper portion of the structure in 1545, the statue was moved to Bangkok. The stupa stands about 60m tall (200ft) and is the highest building inside Chiang Mai’s Old City.

 

Chiang Mai City Pillar Festival Wat Chedi Luang 1

A level of decorum during the festivities

While this is a Thai festival for the people of Chiang Mai, the many spiritual events are open to everyone, but it should be noted that they are of religious significance to the Buddhist people of this Kingdom and therefore visitors should ensure they attire themselves in appropriate clothing and conduct themselves with respect on the temple grounds

Please Note: As with all temples of worship anywhere in the world you are respectively asked that you:

  • Bow your head and pay respect to the temple and the Buddha statues.
  • Do not point at Buddha statues, Monks, Nuns and/or elders especially with your feet
  • Cover yourself from the shoulders down to at least below your knees.
  • Keep your head below Buddha statues, images, honorable Monks and Nuns
  • Do not touch (especially on the head) Buddha statues, images, Monks, Nuns and elders.
  • Please refrain from public displays of affection
  • Keep Quiet. There are those meditating or praying somewhere even though you may not see them
  • It may be very fascinating to foreigners to see a reclining Buddha.  However, do not get too close to a Buddha statue when taking a picture.  Where possible kneel on the ground so that you head is below the statue.

 

Buddhist monks are forbidden to touch or to be touched by a woman or to accept anything from the hand of one. If a woman has to give anything to a monk or novice, she first hands it to a man, who then presents it. Or in the case of a woman who wants to present it with her hand, the monk or novice will spread out a piece of saffron robe or handkerchief in front of him, and the woman will lay down the material on the robe which is being held at one end by the monk or novice.

All Buddha images, large or small, ruined or not, are regarded as sacred objects. Therefore, do not climb up on one to take a photograph, or generally speaking, do anything that might show a lack of respect.

Failure to adhere to these simple rules will be viewed as offensive.

 

 

For more on Festivals across Thailand for each month click on any of the Following:  JanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMayJuneJulyAugustSeptemberOctoberNovember

December

 

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