The Famous Buddhist Festival Loy Krathong

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Published: 07th November 2012
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Loy Krathong which is also spelt Loy Kratong or Loi Krathong is probably Thailands most famous Buddhist celebration in the calendar. The Loy Krathong Festival dates back thousands of years. It started out as a time where people would pay their respects to several different gods, those being Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma. Communities would craft little lantern type objects made from paper and candles, which would go on display in the houses of the rich and noble.

In more recent times, over a hundred years ago when King Rama IV ruled Thailand this celebration was adapted by Buddhists all over the land to honor Buddha. Folk then hand crafted a variety of lanterns, then gave them to their local temples to be put on display, thus lighting up the temples and becoming a true festival of light. The local Buddhist community would then pray to Buddha asking for their hope and wishes for a prosperous and healthy life to become true. This today still takes place throughout Thailand but is particularly a large celebration in Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand where it is known locally as the Yee Peng festival. Here it is celebrated over several days and is a very important time for all the Buddhists in the region.

The Loy Krathong or Yee Peng festival always takes place on the night of the full moon in the 12th month of the Thai lunar calendar, this normally is November. The festival becomes a fantastic visual display illuminating the sky and rivers with floating and flying candles. This light show utilizes floating lanterns on water known as krathongs made from banana stems and leaves while the flying sky lanterns or Thai lanterns known as Khom Loy are made from bamboo and paper which become airborne and fly into the night sky. These can be purchased anyway in the world now from organisations such as www.skylanterns2u.com.

Nowadays this festival is a major part in attracting tourists to the region. Each year thousands of foreigners, many of which are not Buddhist also take part in the celebrations. Many particularly enjoy releasing the sky lanterns into the air. This can be seen in many parts of the city of Chiang Mai. One main area is at the old city gate, Tapei gate. Each year many tourists flock here by the walls of the gate and purchase the Thai lanterns from local vendors to release into the sky. At the same time they also will often make a wish or may even send off one of the lantern in memory of someone that has passed. This then is almost a multi faith celebration.

Sky lanterns now are available worldwide but many do not know the true history of them but they are all used almost for the same reason. That being to celebrate a birthday, a wedding, someone’s life or to make a wish.

Other activities also take place during the Loy Krathong festival, one being a large beauty parade and contest. This is common in other Thai celebratory festivals also. Local parades using a convoy of vehicles carrying the beauty contestants will circle the towns and cities of Thailand. A truly magnificent event during the festival with thousand of onlookers enjoying the site of the vehicles often decorated in flowers and such to compliment the females taking part.

I would truly recommend a visit to Thailand just to see this famous festival which once experienced will never be forgotten but just make sure you bring a lighter!

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