Floating Lantern Festival of Thailand
- SWATHI RAMASWAMY
- UPDATED May 09, 2018
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The Floating Lantern Festival of Thailand is probably one of the most memorable sights you will ever see in your lifetime. Gallivants from all over the world travel to Thailand around November to witness the night being lit up with thousands of floating lanterns.
Also known as the Yi Peng festival, the floating lantern ceremony is one of the oldest festivals of Thailand. Originally, Yi Peng is a twist to the Loi Krathong Festival of Thailand. The Loi Krathong festival is celebrated all over Thailand on the 12th full moon of the year. In this festival, the people of Thailand float little vessels made of a banana tree trunk or the spider lily plant. These vessels are decorated with flowers and leaves. Then they are filled with traditional desserts and incense sticks and a candle. Sometimes a little coin is also kept in the vessel as an offering to the spirits of the river. The ritual is to float these vessels, or Krathong is a nearby water-body in reverence to the River Goddess and the spirits of the river. These vessels are also symbolic of the Buddhist culture. The floating vessel symbolizes letting go of all the vices of anger, jealousy, gluttony, etc. The candles in the night also represent the arrival of a brighter future.
However, the northern city of Thailand, Chiang Mai has put in a unique twist to this age-old tradition. Instead of floating Krathongs in the water, the people of Chiang Mai float lanterns in the air. If you visit this place in time for the festival, you would be able to witness the most unforgettable sight of thousands of lanterns glittering against the backdrop of the night sky. These lanterns are called Khom loy in the Thai language. People all over Thailand fly these lanterns or float the Krathongs wishing for a better and more prosperous future.
The origin of this dazzling festival is often believed to be in the hands of a court lady named Nopphamat. However, it has been proven that the story of Nopphamat is inspired by a poem written in the early Bangkok period. A more believable theory about the origin of this festival is that it was a Brahmanical festival which was adopted by the Thai Buddhists to honor Budhha.
The Loi Krathong or the Yi Peng festival is one of the most celebrated festivals of Thailand. All government institutions and most shops remain closed on these days as all the people file out on the streets to witness the beautiful night adorned with strings of light.
While visiting Thailand during this period, tourists should keep a few tips in mind to enjoy the festival thoroughly:
1. MAKE A WISH
The Loi Krathong or the Yi Peng festival is essentially an opportunity to wish for your heart’s desire. When you float the Krathongs in the water or the lanterns in the air, it symbolizes a new beginning when all your wishes will come true.
2. STAY SAFE
If you are opting for the Krathong ceremony, then make sure that you do not buy a Styrofoam Krathong from the nearby shops. Styrofoam is taken much time to disintegrate and pollutes the water-bodies. Instead, a banana tree trunk Krathong or a cheaper bread Krathong will be a better option. If you are going for the Yi Peng festival, then make sure that you do not buy your lantern from random shops. It might not be effective and can even be dangerous. Only authorized dealers are allowed to see these lanterns to the public. Therefore make sure that you arrive at the spot early and grab your lantern before the maddening crowd gathers before the authorized shops.
3. THE BEST SPOT TO ENJOY
The lanterns of Chiang Mei can be spotted from all over the place. From wherever you stand, you will be able to witness the grandeur of the lanterns in the night sky. However, there are some key spots that can enhance your experience further. The Nawarat Bridge or the Iron Bridge on the Ping river are the best spots to watch the grand night sky from. If you want to get away from the crowd and watch the lanterns in peace, then you can head to the temple grounds at Wat Pan Tao.
This festival is accompanied by Beauty pageants and parades. In Chiang Mei, the monks of the monasteries also organize meditation sessions to centralize their energies before releasing the lanterns.
Thus, the Floating Lantern Ceremony in Thailand is quite a sensation amongst gallivants. You can spend three days amongst festivities, getting to know the true heritage and culture of Thailand during this festival.