Celebrating the goddess of the river

Thailand November 09, 2011 00:00

By Chusri Ngamprasert
The Nation

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The central part of the country may be flooded but other regions are still floating their krathong


The traditional festival of Loy Krathong arrives tomorrow and the flickering candles of hope will offer Thais some consolation for the arduous flooding the country has suffered this year. 
With Loy Krathong comes the chance to ask Ganga, the goddess of the river, for her forgiveness for man’s polluting of the water and to thank her for fertility.
Every full moon of the twelfth month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar, which usually occurs in November in the western calendar, millions of people welcome the Loy Krathong festival by thronging the banks of waterways to launch their floats of banana leaves and flowers, known as krathong. They kneel by the rivers to ask the goddess to forgive them their transgressions of the past year. And then they'll ask that she sweeps all their bad luck and worries away with the current as she scoops up their humble krathong offerings.
High water levels have forced many places to cancel their planned celebrations but there are still a few provinces feting the event.
This is the best place to celebrate Loy Krathong. The Thai kingdom's first capital is credited as the birthplace of Loy Krathong, so you can expect full honours for the legacy tonight and tomorrow night in the Sukhothai Historical Park, a Unesco World Heritage site. Against the backdrop of the ancient ruins, the highlights include a light-and-sound cultural show, fireworks and onstage performances. 
The sky in Chiang Mai will be brightly lit as the local Lanna folk release lanterns - sort of home-made hot air balloons - to glorify the mythical Chulamanee Pagoda in heaven. The venues are Tha Phae Gate and along the banks of Ping River, where cultural shows and processions will also take place.
However, your best bet might be the temples, where you can see monks and the people of Chiang Mai revive the traditional Yi Peng ceremony. People will also be hanging elaborate lanterns outside their homes.
If you want to be in the thick of things, head to the bustling Ngua Lai Street near the Tha Phae Gate.
The northern province of Tak has a unique take on Loy Krathong with its tradition of krathong sai, or krathong “strings”. The locals tie together entire fleets of coconut shell lanterns fuelled by paraffin, light the wicks and float them down the river. The best place to be is the Sompot Krung Rattanakosin 200 Years Bridge, where you can admire the fireworks, ooh and aah over a curtain-of-water display and cheer for your favourite krathong sai.
Simple as it’s humble, Samut Songkhram province goes green and traditional as it shows respect to Goddess of River. A few years ago, the locals reinvented their krathong using banana leaves and candle and that’s all. The simple krathong has since won many environmental-friendly fans. The festival will take place next Sunday at King Rama II Park and features a khon performance, puppet show and showcase of banana art to add colour to the full moon night.