The Royal Ploughing Ceremony, Thailand – Explaining This Traditional Event

oxen2The Royal Ploughing Ceremony is a traditional event that is held in Thailand to honour the beginning of the agricultural season for growing rice. It happens every year in May in Thailand, its date depending on astrology. The date for the 2014 festival is the 9th of May, Thailand.

What Happens During the Ceremony?

The Royal Ploughing Ceremony has been the same for many centuries and there are a few specific rituals that are performed. During the ceremony, two sacred oxen will be hitched to a wooden plough which is pulled through the ceremonial ground to create a furrow. The court Brahmins will sew some rice seed. After this ritual ploughing has been performed, the oxen will be given special plates of food which contain fresh-cut grass, corn, rice, green beans, sesame and rice whiskey.

The onlookers pay close attention to the food that the oxen eat first, as this will indicate what the coming growing season will be like. The food that the oxen chooses will be the scarcest food during the following season – so the farmers know to pay close attention to that crop.

The festival is more than just a religious ceremony, it is a high profile State sponsored event which involves a number of important officials. Since around 50% of Thailand’s people still rely on farming for a living, the ceremony is very important and it symbolises the bond between the King, government and farmers.

What is the History of This Ceremony?

Originating in Burma, this event dates back to the late 500s CE – which was during the time of the Pagan Dynasty. The festival was originally performed by the kings Htunchit, Htunpyit and Htunchit. This festival was originally not held annually because it was too expensive. Rather, it was held whenever a new monarch was elected. During the event, the king would plow a special field outside of the royal palace.

The ritual began to take place in Thailand during the Sukhothai Kingdom, the period from 1238 to 1438. The ceremony is at least 700 years old and although it fell out of fashion in the 1920s it became popular again in the 1960s – brought into fashion by the present king of Thailand HRH Bhumibol Adulyadej.

The Lord of the Harvest

The event will begin with the Lord of the Harvest, who is appointed by the king. He performs the ceremonial rite, in order to predict how much rainfall the community will receive during the coming rice season.

The Lord of the Harvest will be presented with three pieces of cloth that look identical but are actually slightly different in length. If he chooses the shortest cloth it means that there will be a lot of rain during the next season. The role of the Lord of the Harvest is played by the Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture.

Have you been to the Royal Ploughing Ceremony in Thailand? Let us know your travel stories in the comments below.

photo credit: Dave_B_ via photopin cc

photo credit: coolinsights via photopin cc


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