LOI KRATONG FESTIVAL OF SUKOTHAI
A ritual of gratitude to water following the lunar cycles which has its roots in the past
Loi Krathong, have you heard of it? If any of you went to Asia, yes.
This is a special event, which lasts about a week, in which the Thais make small boats that are decorated and leave floating on the rivers of all Thailand.
A bit of history
The origin of Loi Kratong, once called Chong Pa Rieng, is not well defined. The treaty of Chula Luck tells that the ceremony originated in Sukhothai, the first capital of Thailand, about 700 years ago. At that time the concubine Nang Noppamas, the king’s favorite, made a small boat with an origami-adorned banana trunk. King Phra Ruang was so surprised by his ability that he decided to celebrate this custom once a year.
Another version tells that the story was written much later, during the reign of Rama III and that the custom is a Thai adaptation to Diwali, an ancient Hindu tradition of floating small lanterns on the Ganges river.
Loi Krathong today
Following the lunar calendar, the festival is celebrated in November during the last full moon of the year. At this time the rainy season is at an end and the rivers are filled with water. In all of Thailand along the banks of rivers and on the beaches the inhabitants let go of hundreds of small rafts adorned with banana leaves with incense, candles and offerings on them.
Nowadays the Loi Krathong is celebrated in two ways. One with rafts and the other leaving rice paper lanterns flying in the sky. The latter, much more spectacular, is called Yipeng Loi Krathong.
There are many reasons why Loi Krathong is celebrated. Thank the goddess of water, giver of life and let go old grudges to start a peaceful new year.
Loi Kratong in Sukhothai
The ancient historic city is a UNESCO heritage site. Ramkhamhaeng the Great invented the alphabet, the political and governmental system still in operation in Thailand. For this reason Sukhothai was the first capital of the Thai kingdom for a 200 years starting from 1238. Its literal translation means “dawn of happiness”.
Getting to Sukhothai during the Loi Krathong is a fascinating sight. For a week in the historical park shows, beauty contests and a wide market of typical products follow one another. All set up of course by millions of lanterns that illuminate the entire space. The environment is relaxed and friendly as inside the area you cannot drink alcohol or smoke!
Want to take a bike ride to the Sukhothai temples?
I leave you the link of the Sukhothai bicycle tour headed by Jib. A fantastic guide, with excellent English and a lot of passion for the history of his hometown Sukhotai. Tripadvisor recomended!
The tour will let you discover and understand the history of the ancient city and its temples. Jib’s team will always follow you with a pickup to assist you in any eventuality.
A festival full of lights and tradition in a country where tourism is an excellent source of income has led to a massification of the celebration with obviously some drawbacks. Thousands of tourists choose Thailand to attend the festival, which has led to saturation and further pollution of the rivers. The government itself urged people to make bails only with natural material and not polystyrene as was often used. Even the launch of lanterns in the sky has been regulated for the risk of fire in some urban areas.
Despite this, in 2016 about 6 tons of material was recovered from the Chao Phraya River and as many as 78 domestic and international flights were delayed or canceled due to the launch of lanterns.
The visit of millions of tourists, who absolutely want to participate, leads to considerable amounts of money but at the same time of garbage and the consequences have often been serious.
It is a magical event. Perhaps it is enough to participate in it in a more polite and discreet way. Simply observing the ancient tradition that the Western world ignored until a few decades ago.
To get an idea of the situation I leave you some opinions of the Bangkok post
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