February 27, 2015
The Kam Fa Festival (or Boon Kam Fa Festival)
Revised Feb 2017
While the Phuan people may only number a few hundred thousand, their long and at times tragic history should not be forgotten.
This festival is all about celebrating not only their past but also looking to their future. With a dazzling display of colour, noise and aromas, that combined conjure up an image of a bye gone time, this festival is sure to leave you and your senses wanting more.’
When: Second & Third day of the waxing moon in the third lunar month (February in the Gregorian Calendar))
Where: Phai Lio Sub-district, Don Phut District. Saraburi Province Central Thailand
How to get there: From Bangkok click here
This beautiful and colourful Festival providing a snapshot of the history of the Phuan people through music, dance and food.
The Kam Fa Festival (ประเพณีกำฟ้า) is a traditional annual holiday for the Phuan people, who consider the festival a predictor of the people’s future prosperity, plus the beginning of a New Year. Celebrated in towns and villages across Thailand, (Mainly: Si Satchanalai District, Sukhothai Province – Ban Phue District Udon Thani Province – Phrom Buri District Sing Buri Province), traditionally over a 3 day period. Here in the Central Province of Saraburi it is now crammed into 2 unique and differing days.
The informal activities take place on the first day when traditional folk entertainment comes alive in a glorious celebration of the Phuan way of life. In the hour before midday the whole area is awash with the sounds of traditional Lam Phuan music and the charm and beauty of local dancers dressed in traditional clothing. Others still, will also be dressed in traditional attire carrying Pha Khaow or Sa Hae , trays used to carry the food that will be later offered to the monks at the temple.
The dancing is for the goddess of good fortune; ‘Nang Kwak’. Entwined in this colourful and vibrant event is a beauty pageant, cultural shows along with a vast array of stalls selling local hand craft and delicious Phuan food.
It is your chance to see first-hand the local people using traditional Phuan cooking methods including the making of the succulent rich desert ‘Khao Khong’. Sticky rice is combined with red beans, sugar, grated coconut and coconut milk and then placed into sections of bamboo ready to be cooked on an open fire, once cooked the bamboo is left to cool, this traditional mouth-watering desert is served cold. The Phuan also cook and enjoy their own variation of Khao Lam – roasted glutinous rice
While not to every bodies taste the first day in the afternoon is also a time for traditional cockfighting which over centuries has been ingrained into the rural way of life of the Phuan/Thai people. While your first instinct may be to avoid this supposed ‘sport’, cockfighting is presented at the festival in its historical form and in a non-offensive manner.
If you have the time and inclination you may witness the markedly different fighting techniques and tactics that are instinctively characterized by each breed of bird. The sport has a huge following in Thailand and it is believed cockfighting industry has an audience of over 200,000 people each weekend. The time is also ripe to watch the other Phuan games such as Mon Son Pha, Luk Chuang, and Ma Kan Han
The second day is a more spiritual event, the local people dressed in their finest clothing will make merit, by offering food to the monks at the local temples and thereafter attending sermons. While the Phuan people are Buddhist, they also believe strongly that they must worship the gods and spirits that look over their crops and their homes along with their ancestral spirits who look after their family’s health and wealth.
Thus on this day solemn homage is paid, to the gods such as Mae Pho Sop (The Goddess of Rice’), along with thoughtful calm prayers to their ancestral spirits. This quiet tradition is a far cry from the frantic Northern Thailand ceremony known as faun phii, literally meaning Spirit Dance’, where the people dance for days on end, allowing their ancestors to poses their bodies.
The evening changes again and is a time for the people to join in family games such as the pitch and toss game of Saba. Not a computer or tablet in sight….but no one seems to care as it is a time to celebrate life with the company of family and friends.
The religious and cultural importance of the festival
The Kam Fa Festival (or Boon Kam Fa Festival) has its origins from the once rich history of the Phuan People and within the very fabric of this festival you can find more of these people’s beliefs.
Beliefs about Gods and Spirits that surround the Kam Fa Festival
The Phuan believe that they must worship the gods that look after their rice fields and their homes and equally their ancestral spirits to ensure their families are protected and prosper. During this festival the people will pay homage to both, but in particular to the beautiful but scared Mae Pho Sop (the Goddess of Rice).
Beliefs in reference to ‘Frogs who may be without Mouths and Nagas without Orifices’
During the Kam Fa Festival the people believe; Frogs are without Mouths, which is interpreted as they are full as so do not eat. While Nagas without Orifices, is thought to mean that they do not eat and so do not defecate. Combined these two statements, are taken to mean that the period is a time of plenty and the ideal time to practice the Kam Fa.
Beliefs about the first sounds of Thunder
The Phuan people place a great deal of importance on the first sound of thunder, which they will wait for around the time of this festival, as they believe that this event will allow them to predict the years rainfall and so can plan how best to achieve the greatest harvests.
The meaning of Kam Fa
Kam means belief or hold/observe and is similar to Kalam, meaning taboo; it is taboo to work during the festival. Fa means Than-God or deity, who is able to bestow both punishment and reward. Fa also refers to the ancestral spirits.
See More about the Phuan People in our post here A Snapshot on the Phuan People
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