March 29, 2015
Where ancient traditional dance and music is blended with puppets to bring a story to life
Where: Tambon Soifa, Amphoe Photharam, Ratchaburi Province (about two-hour drive South from Bangkok).
The Art that is Nang Yai
Nang Yai or Thai traditional shadow puppet theatre, is the Kingdoms oldest theatrical art form, being performed for over 2,000 years. In this ancient form of storytelling, the agile puppeteers use opaque figures, in front of an illuminated backdrop to create the illusion of moving images. Each performance is a combination of both dance and puppetry, with the accompaniment of songs, chants and dialogue helping to bring the shadowy figures alive.
Part of the beauty of this art form is also the long hours that go into the intricate work in making these elaborate large frames, ‘Nang’ is a Thai word for animal hide, and ‘Yai’ means large.
Nang Yai should not be confused with Nang Talung (believed to have started in the southern Thai province of Phat Talung, hence the name Talung), in which smaller figures are used.
The major differences between Nang Yai and Nang Talung
- The audience view
Nang Yai is performed in front of a screen, the light traditionally comes from coconut husks placed behind the screen in a darkened room. This way the audience gets to see the intricate details of the figured carved on the cow hide. In Nang Talung, the figures are behind the screen and where the audience only sees the shadows projected on the screen.
Nang Yai figures are far larger, 1-2m high and can weigh up to 8 kg, furthermore each frame can contain more than one character. In the far smaller Nang Talung figures only one character is depicted.
The temple of Khanon is internationally renowned, for its work in keeping this multi-faceted artistry alive. From the museum on its grounds, through its school for teaching the newest puppeteers, to international shows and annually in April when they stage the country’s oldest puppet festival.
The troupe here at Wat Khanon mostly performs episodes from the Ramakian epic, the story about the battle between vice (represented by Thotsakan) and virtue (represented by Phra Ram). Performances are every Saturday at 10.00 hrs. There are only three troupes existing in Thailand. The other two are Nang Yai Wat Sawang A-rom, Sing Buri province and Nang Yai Ban Don, Rayong province.
Nang Yai Wat Khanon Festival 2017
The event includes not only performances by the temples own puppeteers, (each performance has a cast of approx. 20 puppeteers and 10 musicians playing traditional musical instruments plus narrators), but also from troupes from around the Kingdom, including the smaller rod puppets from Klong Bangluang, along with puppet dance from Phetchaburi.
That’s not all there will also be workshops and demonstrations of mask and puppet making and other traditional performing arts including the Lanna Khon Dance, telling the “Origin of Songkran Day” and the Dikir Hulu Muslim folk dances.
The festival is playing its part in conserving this rich cultural heritage for another 2,000 years and you can be part of it, even if you cannot make it to the festival the shows every Saturday are worth the visit. How often will you be able to witness an art form that has been shown to kings and paupers for centuries?
How to get there: By car: Take Highway 4 or Phetchakasem Road, passing Nakhon Pathom to Amphoe Ban Pong, Ratchaburi. Then, turn right at Amphoe Bang Phae Intersection and drive along Highway 3090 to get to Amphoe Photharam. Cross the bridge over the Mae Klong River and turn right into Highway 3089. Go for about 3 km, and you will see Wat Khanon on your right.
By bus: Take the bus Bangkok-Photharam from Southern Bus Terminal and get off at Photharam Bus Station. From there, take a Song Thaeo running on the Ban Pong–Photharam route to the front of Wat Khanon or take a hired motorcycle which takes about 5 minutes.
If you are going to Wat Khanon why not add a trip to Thailand’s best Floating Market at Damnoen Saduak Floating Market and mix in one of the most bizarre train journeys that of the Umbrella Pull Down Market, it would be a close thing to cram all 3 into one day but hey what a day!
A big thanks for the Pictures from https://www.facebook.com/WatKhanonNangYai/timeline
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