October 4, 2015
The Legend of the wandering statue
When: 15 – 16th October 2016
Where: Around Wat Trai Phum, Phetchabun Town. Northern Thailand
Um Pra Dam Nam is a centuries old religious festival which is held annually on the full moon of the eleventh Thai lunar month, when the people of the Kingdom, take to their streets, water ways and seaboard, in joyful celebration, to commemorate the festival of Wan Ok Phansa, which in turn marks the end of the three months ‘Buddhist Lent’ known as Wan Khao Phansa. (Buddhism in Thailand is largely of the Theravada school, and is followed by 93.6% of the population)
The name loosely translated means “Dive the Buddha Image into the Water” The image in question is the ancient bejewelled Buddha image of ‘Phra Buddha Maha Thammaracha,’ which is believed to be from the Khmer period 802–1431 and is cast in the Lop Buri style. The festival was known by its full name prior to 1985 that of, ‘Pra Pea Ni Sat Thai Wat Trai Phum’ or the equally memorable ‘Pra Pea Ni Phra Put Tha Rup Song Nam’, thankfully for those of us less than comfortable with the Thai language, the name is a more manageable Um Pra Dam Nam.
The Legend of the Buddha Image
While the statues earlier history is cloaked in mystery there is a local legend that surrounds it; the image was first found in the Pah Sak River some 400 years ago and was then taken to be housed at Wat Trai Phum (built in 1557). Magically the statue has disappeared twice from the temple only to found later back in the waters of the Pah Sak River. It is said that the Buddha image, miraculously wandered out of the temple by itself to return to the water. To appease the Buddha Image this colourful and spiritual ritual of the bathing ceremony is held every year, to co-inside with the end of Buddhist Lent and the return of Buddha.
Um Pra Dam Nam Festival
Beginning early afternoon on the 15th October the venerated image is paraded around the town, so people can pay their respects, it is then returned to its home in the temple where those that wish can add gold leaf to its body. That night prayers are chanted and the town is alive with all manner of street entertainment, the following morning local people make merit by giving food and alms to the monks
The Buddha image on the following day is then taken to be bathed in the Pah Sak River by the governor of Phetchabun, accompanied by priests and dignitaries on board a beautiful traditional Thai Long Boat It is hoped that this ritual will bring happiness, seasonal rainfall and fertility for the province. This is all done under the watchful eyes of thousands of onlookers who station themselves on the river bank, on what will later become the stands to watch the Long Boat races. After the ceremony, the water in the river is regarded as sacred and the people can swim in it and drink it.
The festivities continue with folk displays and Long Boat racing and of course as this is still Thailand, there will be a vast array of stalls selling local produce and mouth-watering food.
Celebrations across Thailand
Celebrations at this time of the year are conducted through-out Thailand, with a vast array of different, vibrant festivals that sit hand in hand, with the religious rites, to mark the occasion of the end of the Buddhist Lent; each has its own uniqueness and is known by many names. In Thailand’s south the people celebrate this most auspicious occasion with their very own festival of Chak Phra (Phum Pha Pa), while also in the south the people of Phatthalung Province, go mad with drums in the Phon Lak Phra Festival.
The north has its spiritual Tak Bat Devo Festival, featuring hundreds of Buddhist monks. The province of Sakon Nakhon features the amazing Wax Castle possession, while in the north east province of Nakhon Phanom you will find the dazzling Fire Boat Possession. Central Thailand offers you the chance to be part of the Lotus Flower Festival and in the Mae Hong Son Province, of North West Thailand you can be part of the uniquely Tai-Yai peoples event, that of the Chong Para Festival. Not forgetting throughout the Kingdom you can witness a whole host of Longboat races and Festivals
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