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Published: December 15th 2007
Arriving in Sukothai in time for the last two days, Saturday and Sunday, of the Loy Krathrong festival I consider myself most fortunate to acquire accommodation a kilometer from the historical park. Having never attending this festival before it seemed appropriate to see it here, where it first occurred over 600 years ago. Legend says that the first floating krathrong was placed by Noppomo, consort to King Loethai.The festival is now celebrated all over Thailand on the first full full moon of the 12th month of the traditional thai lunar calender. This means it falls in November, this year around the 5th.
A krathong is a small raft made from banana tree bark and folded banana leaves. It is decorated with flowers, candles and incense. Some have an included coin. This is for the spirits which usually take the form of a small boy who collect the used krathongs, remove the coins and ...keep them. Originally made in the form of a lotus leaf, they are now made in a wide range of shapes eg boats, stars, circular. The krathrong is placed on the water, the candle is light and it floats away. Performing this ritual is said to bring
Originally in the shape of lotus leaf the design has evolved over the centuries. Often a coin is included for the 'spirits' which usually take the form of a small boy.
good luck and honour the Godess of the Water, Phra Mae Khlongkha. When launching, a wish is sometimes made, if the candle stays alight until it is out of sight the wish is granted.
Entering the park via the eastern gate I come across people who are giving alms, but not to an image of Budda. The monument is of King Ramkamhaeng. It depicts him reading a book with a sword at his side. He was a warrior who established the Kingdom of Sukothai around 1250. He is also credited with devising the Thai script.
Like all good tourists, I make my way toward Wat Mahathat. All around me preparations for the nights activity of the Loy Krathong are proceeding. Stalls selling drinks and food are being setup; krathongs are being made and laid out along the walk paths; laser lights are being checked;people, mostly Thai are claiming ground by setting out mats, where families will have picnics; later as dusk falls, young ladies will be dressing up in traditional costumes to perform traditional dances to tunes beated out by traditional orchestras.
Wat Mahathat was the spiritual center of the Sukothai Kingdom, built to house relics of
the Budda. In the vicinity of this Wat are several ornamental ponds, featuring, of course, lotus plants. At its center is a lotus style chedi flanked by two standing Buddas, known as Phra Attarot, housed in mondrops. Located east, is the remains of the main wihan, consisting of columns which once supported the roof and a large seated Budda image. North of the central chedi is the remains of the bot also consisting of a large east facing seating image of the Budda.
Dusk is falling, the moon is rising, available spaces are being filled. Loy Krathong festivities are underway. Hundreds of krathongs are launched, but alas many wishes will not be granted, as the flame flickers out long before the krathrong is out of sight. Each province submits a large elaborate gas fired krathong for judging. These are set out around the periry of a large ornamental pool.
Another way of removing the evil spirits from one life is by launching a Kom Toms. Consisting of a cylindrical bag, sealed at one end and containing a wire frame with a central wick on the other. The wick in lighted and hot air fills the bag causing it
Wat Mahathat at Dusk
Its present form dates around 1345. It is used as a stage for a laser light show during the Loy Krathong festival.
to rise. As it rises it morphs; a tranlucent bag with a burning flame; higher, a large orange light ; still higher, a bright orange star; until finally a dim orange star which continues to dim until out of sight, taking away all launcher's bad spirits.
In addition to the traditional dances, a laser light show depicting a romanticized history of the Sukothai Kingdom is presented, its birth in throwing off the Khmer yoke, it conquest of the central plans and the establishment of the Kingdom of Peace and Happiness and its fall to the younger, more powerful southern city of Ayutthaya. Before the beginning of the laser performance, a woman was being escorted by the military. At first I thought she must have been a Thai Princess but as she got closer I could see that she was caucasian, the reigning Miss Universe. Hope she enjoyed the show.
Laser show is finished, during the final fireworks, the crowds make their way out of the park. There were a few of us farangs in the crowd, but as a percentage, not many in this largely Thai festival. From what I could see, the event was not marred by
the drunken violence that can mar similar events at home. So under a still full moon the Sukothai Loy Krathong ends for another year.
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