Loy Krathong Festival

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Loy Krathong Festival

            Loy Krathong Day is one of the most popular festivals of Thailand celebrated annually on the Full-Moon Day of the Twelfth Lunar Month.  It takes place at a time when the weather is fine as the rainy season is over and there is a high water level all over the country.                                                                                                                        

The word “Loy” means “to float”, and “Krathong” means lotus-shaped vessel made of banana leaves. Loy Krathong is, therefore the floating of an illuminated leaf bowl.  But nowadays some krathongs are made of coloured paper.  A krathong usually contains a candle, three joss sticks, some flowers and coins.                                                                                                     

The history of Loy Krathong Festival is slightlyobscure.  First, it is to ask for apology from the water goddess for having used and sometimes made rivers and canals dirty.  Second, it is to offer flowers, candles and joss sticks as a tribute to the footprint of Lord Buddha on the sandy beach of the Nammatha River in India.  Third, it is to show gratitude to the Phra Mae Kong Ka or Mother of Water.  Fourth, it is to wash away the previous year’s misfortunes.
  The ceremony is believed to have originated in the time of King Ramkhamhaeng of Sukhothai, the first capital of Thailand, and to have been started by Nang Nophamas or Tao Sri Chulalak, the Brahman consort of the King.  She was the first person who introduced “Krathongcherm”, the banana leaf krathong in the form of lotus blossom on the festival night.    The festival starts in the evening when there is a full moon in the sky.  People carry their krathongs to the river and canals.  After lighting candles and joss sticks and making a wish, they gently place the krathongs on the water and let them drift away till they go out of sight.  It is believed that krathongs carry away their sins and bad luck, and happiness will come to them.  Indeed, it is the time to be joyful and happy as the sufferings are floated away.                                                                                                          
          The festival includes a contest of Krathong-making, the Nophamas Queen Contest, local games and performances, entertainment programs and
 firework displays.  The Loy Krathong song contributes to the romantic atmosphere of this occasion.

A crowd with flickering light of candles and color of flowers decorating floating object is familiar scene in a celebration occurring in a twelfth month in lunar calendar.  It is one of wonderful Asian cultures when rivers and canals are full of water.  Since we have been a kid, I guess everyone must be impressed with this festive occasion in November - Loy Krathong. Most of us are convinced that floating objects or Krathongs are originated in Sukhothai by Tao Sri Chulalak or Nang Noppamas, who was one of Phra Ruang’s wives.  However, some assert that the story was written in the reign of Rama III merely to advocate women on role model of a good wife, as no evidence is found to prove the festival’s existence.  They believe that Loy Krathong has just been celebrated since the end of Ayutthaya.  Despite the confusing history, this gracious culture is still alive.  People still conducts this ritual not only to worship the footprint of the Buddha on a riverside in India, but also to pay respect to Chulamanee Chedi in heaven.  Another well-known purpose is to show their gratitude to the Goddess of the Water on their plentiful use of water and ask for forgiveness in the ensuing pollution.  Moreover, many people believe that floating the beautiful Krathong away also refers to flying away misfortune and bad things in the past and asking for good luck in the future.   

In the past, people in Lanna Kingdom in the north of Thailand also show respect to rivers, but they use fire instead.  They float a lantern like a hot-air balloon in the sky which is called Yee Peng.  And now we still can find this celebration in Chiang Mai.  Interestingly, people other than Thais have the similar tradition.  Not far from us, Laos float Pratips (or our Krathong) and Lai Rue Fai (or flowing an ablaze boat) in worship of Water Goddess.  This rite is also used to welcome the Buddha after His return from preaching to His mother in the second heaven.  In Cambodia, this period is called Ok Ambok which means worshipping the moon.  They float Pratips on a full moon night as well.  Another neighboring country as Burma has the same culture.  They float Krathong to worship the Buddha and Nut or household spirit.  Looking upward farther, some of us may be surprised that Vietnam, Korea and Japan have the similar rituals too.  They apologize the Water Goddess and float away ill fortune.  It is assumed that the origin is Mahayana Buddhism which was expanded from China.  On the other hand, Indians claim that they are the root of this ceremony derived from Brahmin.  This festival is aimed to worship Naraya God who sleeps in the milk ocean and He then will throw our sin away.      

In Thailand, people enjoy creating their own Krathong made from natural resources, such as leaves and trunks of banana adorned with flowers.  Some might use bread instead of synthetic materials showing their concern for environment.  Other than flowers, a candle and incense sticks, we often put some coins or betel pepper and nut in our Krathongs.  And that’s why our Krathongs can’t drift any further as they are raided for little money.  Nevertheless, Loy Krathong Festival remains the most romantic and favorite occasion for a number of people and still best represents our gratitude. 

Thanks for reading.

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