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The Royal Ploughing Ceremony

Ancient Rituals for Bountiful Harvest The Royal Ploughing Caremony.

In a country where agriculture sustains the livelihood of the majority of the people, the festivals and ceremonies associated with crop cultivation and farming are central elements of the way of life in the rural communities. Of particular importance are the rites undertaken to ensure a bountiful harvest. These rituals performed on auspicious dates in the sixth lunar month (approximately in May) signal the beginning of the planting season.

The majestic Royal Ploughing Ceremony and the sprightly "Bun Bung Fai" Rocket Festival, the most celebrated of Isan's merit-making rituals, are two of the nation's most important and visually engaging events. Agricultural productivity and abundance is the key focus of both the royal as well as the folk traditions. The Royal Ploughing Ceremony is an ancient Brahminical rite dating back to the Sukhothai period (1257 - 1350 A.D.) The ceremony, which heralds the start of the new rice-growing season, was undertaken to assure a successful planting season and an abundance of the nation's crops. Festivities were held to boost the farmers' morale urging them to strive for an abundant harvest and encouraging them to engage in rice cultivation on a significant scale not just for local consumption but also to maintain sufficient reserves for times of war and for export overseas.

During the reign of King Loet La Naphalai (Rama II) in the Rattanakosin period, the Royal Ploughing Ceremony was held in the Royal Grounds of Wat Arunratchavararam. It was then moved to Toong Sam Poi Grounds in the Phya Thai sub-district by King Chulalongkorn (Rama V). The practice was later extended to the Ayutthaya and Petchburi provinces. Additionally, while on state visits, King Chulalongkorn carefully observed the agricultural methods and techniques employed abroad and sought to transfer this knowledge to the Kingdom of Siam. The practice faded out towards the end of the reign of King Prajadhipok (Rama VII) but was later revived by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej in 1960 (B.E. 2503). Since then, it has been observed annually.

Today, the Royal Ploughing Ceremony consists of two ceremonies a Cultivating Ceremony known as "Phraraj Pithi Peuj Mongkol" (pra-rard pi-tee peud mong-kon) and the Ploughing Ceremony, "Phraraj Pithi Jarod Phranangkal Raek Na Kwan" (pra-rard pi-tee ja-rod pra-nang-kan raeg-nar-khwan). Both royal ceremonies are state events with the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives assuming the role of the Lord of the Harvest or Phraya Raek Na, while four single female officials of the Ministry holding positions of second rank and above in the civil service undertake the role of the Celestial Maidens or Nang Thepi, assistants to the Lord of the Harvest.

The Cultivating Ceremony is a Buddhist ritual performed one day before the Ploughing Ceremony. Paddy and the seeds of forty other crops and ceremonial items to be used in the Ploughing Ceremony are blessed. His Majesty the King (or a representative) presides over the religious rites which are performed in the Royal Chapel of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha within the compounds of the Grand Palace. With lustral water poured over his hands and his forehead anointed by His Majesty the King, the Lord of the Harvest receives the royal blessing. The four Celestial Maidens also receive similar blessing. The Lord of the Harvest then receives the ceremonial ring and sword to be used in the Ploughing Ceremony from His Majesty the King.

The Royal Ploughing Ceremony which is held the next morning at Sanam Luang "The Royal Ground" begins with the Lord of the Harvest performing a rite to predict the amount of rainfall in the coming season. This is done by selecting one of three pieces of cloth of varying lengths. At the auspicious time following the arrival of His Majesty the King and members of the Royal Family, the Lord of the Harvest begins to plough the field and sows the rice seeds from the baskets carried by the Celestial Maidens. At the end of the ploughing ceremony, the ceremonial bulls are led to troughs, each containing one of seven different offerings of food or drink namely, paddy, green beans, maize, hay, sesame seed, water and liquor. Predictions regarding the success of the harvest and the abundance of particular crops in the coming season are determined by the items selected by the bulls. Then as the barricades are removed, hundreds rush into the field hoping to gather a few sacred rice grains scattered by the Lord of Harvest. These are either mixed with the farmer's own rice stock to ensure a good crop in the coming year, or simply kept as a token of good luck. To grant due recognition to the agricultural sector, Cultivating Day was designated "Farmers Day" and has been celebrated every year since 1966.

Source : The Tourism Authority of Thailand

Vocabulary kum-sab

Ancient Rituals pi-tee-grum gao-gae (or boe-rarn)
(พิธีกรรมเก่าแก่ (or โบราณ))
Bountiful u-dom som-boon
Ploughing thai
Livelihood ar-cheeb / garn tum-mar har-gin
(อาชีพ / การทำมาหากิน)
Agriculture ga-sead-tra-grum
Farming garn-por-ploog
Planting season reu-doo por-ploog
Sprightly sa-nug / rar-rerng
(สนุก / ร่าเริง)
Engaging nar-chom
Encouraging gum-lang jai
Consumption garn-bor-ri-poeg
Sufficient por-piang
Paddy kharw-ploerg
Seeds ma-lead pan
Representative poo-taen
Celestial Maidens narng-far
Ceremonial bulls pra-coe
Green beans tua-khiaw
Maize kharw-poed
Hay yar-haeng
Sesame ngar
Water num
Liquor su-rar / lhao
(สุรา / เหล้า)
Predictions tum-nary
Thu, 15 May, 2003

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