April 5, 2015
A combination of two religions and three Ceremonies and the only ‘Royal Ploughing Ceremony’ still to be held in South East Asia.
When: Usually in May. From 8:19 am to 8:49 am. Date TBA
Where: Grand Palace and the fields of Sanam Luang. Bangkok.
The Royal Ploughing Ceremony is an ancient rite dating back over 2,500 years and heralds the start of the new rice-growing season. The event is usually in May, with the actual date determined by the king’s own Brahmin astrologers.
While the ceremony was once a purely Brahmin ritual it is now split into two distinct religious events combined into one Royal Ceremony. The Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew) on the grounds of the Grand Palace in Bangkok hosts the Buddhist element, while the Hindu rites are held five on the nearby open fields of Sanam Luang, Bangkok.
Cultivation Ceremony held at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha
This the Buddhist element is held the day prior to the actual ploughing ceremony, in the ‘Chapel Royal’ Temple of the Emerald Buddha. His Majesty the King, traditionally preside over this more private spiritual event which is about blessing the seeds and ceremonial items which will be used in the Ploughing Ceremony.
It is also at this point His Majesty the King will anoint the appointed Lord of the Harvest by pouring ‘Lustral Water’ over his hands and forehead, a similar blessing will be given to the four Celestial Maidens who also play a role in the following morning’s ceremony
The Lord of the Harvest also receives from the King the ceremonial ring and sword which will also be used in the up coming ceremony.
Ploughing Service Held at the Royal Grounds at Sanam Luang
The ceremony begins with the Lord of the Harvest performing a rite to predict the amount of rainfall in the coming season, he does this by selecting one of three pieces of cloth of varying lengths, which he will wear during the ceremony.
Brahman priests sprinkling sacred water lead the royal procession, the Lord of the Harvest begins to plough the field, with the two pairs of Celestial Maidens follow behind the plough, carry rice seeds in dual gold and silver baskets, from which the Lord of the Harvest will seed the tilled ground.
Ceremony of the Bulls
The plough takes three circuits tilling the earth around the staged area and once completed the oxen are offered seven types of foods to select from: Rice seeds, monk beans, maze, haze, sesame seeds, water and rice liquor.
The choice of the bulls on what it wishes to consume, Predicts the coming season; success of a particular crop; the abundance of meat; sufficient rainfall or that transportation will improve along with higher exports and a stronger economy.
The result of this prediction and the length of the cloth is related to the King and those listening both around the event and those watching the event on live television.
The end of the Ceremony
At the end of the ceremony after all the participants have gone and the barricades are removed, hundreds of people rush onto the field hoping to gather a few sacred rice grains scattered by the Lord of Harvest. These are either mixed with the farmer’s own rice stock to ensure a good crop in the coming year, or simply kept as a token of good luck.
The Rest of Thailand
The 6th Lunar month is traditionally the month of planting rice through-out the Kingdom and while there is only one Royal Ploughing Ceremony, villages, towns and cities will have they own festivals to mark the beginning of a new planting year, from the unique Udon Thani Bun Bung Fai Festival (Rocket Festival), to individual farmers paying homage to the likes of Phosop the goddess of rice. See more in our post how Thai farmers are returning to this Thai Goddess, in their fight to feed their families.
See The Ceremony:YouTube Royal Ploughing Ceremony 2014
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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