The National Museum Bangkok celebrated the kick-off to Songkran or Thai New Year on Thursday with an opening ceremony for a temporary exhibition, “Relics and Navagrahas Puja in Traditional Thai New Year”.
The ceremony kicked off at 9.09am with a water-pouring blessing ceremony to the Buddha Relics Reliquary and a Brahman Puja ceremony of the “Navagrahas” or nine planetary gods of Hinduism.
“Buddhists believe that beginning the Thai New Year with blessing the Buddha statue will bring good deeds to their life,” said Nitaya Kanokmongkol, director of the National Museum Bangkok.
The three-day festival ending today (March 14) presented a rare change to worship, study, and get close-up views of the museum’s treasures dated back in the 19th Century.
The jewelled golden Buddha Relics Reliquary is one of the museum’s most sacred treasures. The Buddha Relics were once secretly kept on the top of the head of Phra Buddha Sihing located in the museum’s Puttaisawan Throne Hall.
In the early Rattanakosin period, the relics were moved to inside the jewelled golden reliquary. For this year’s New Year exhibition, the museum has put it on display at the Samran Mukhamat Pavilion. Built in the reign of King Rama V, the pavilion was used for royal water-pouring ceremonies. Nowadays, the museum uses this pavilion for hosting special blessing occasions including the Songkran and New Year’s festivals.
The “Navagrahas” (“nine planets” in Sanskrit) are nine astronomical bodies along with mythical deities from Hinduism and Hindu astrology. These are the Sun, the Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn, and the ascending and descending lunar nodes, respectively known as Rahu and Ketu.
“The collection of brass sculptures of Navagrahas were built in the reign of King Rama IV,” Nitaya explained. “As most of Navagrahas often are seen on murals or in paintings, this brass sculpture collection is one of the Kingdom’s rare antiques.”
The 200-year-old brass sculpture collection was created by HRH Prince Issaraphong, son of Prince Maha Sakdipholsep who was King Rama IV’s regent.
These sculptures were inspired by the murals depicting Navagrahas in the main chapel of Wat Boreorsatharnsuthvas or Wat Phra Kaew Wang Naa, which the Princes also designed. Each deity has a different vehicle.
The Sun rides a lion. The Moon rides a horse. Mars rides a buffalo, Mercury an elephant, Jupiter a deer, Venus a cow, and Saturn a tiger. Rahu rides Garuda, while Ketu rides naga.
To promote Thai culture as a match for the Bt100-billion “Thai Niyom Yangyuen” (“Sustainable Thainess”) programme, the museum invited audiences wearing traditional national dress to join the three-day event.
Admission to the event is free. The museum is closed during the Songkran festival and opens its door again on April 18.