In Thailand, the month of May marks the end of the hot
season and the start of the rainy season. It is also the auspicious time to
begin the yearly rice planting and to that end, festivals are of paramount
importance to bring down the rain.
Wat Pratat at Doi Kham which is only 7 km south of Doi Suthep.
Actually, the original technique for obtaining rain was
the firing of locally produced rockets. The latter can be found in its
purest form at Yasothon in Isaan during the “bun bang fai” or rocket
making festival. Strangely enough, in Lanna, or Northern Thailand, the
tradition of firing rockets has currently fallen into oblivion.
Nevertheless, there is still the tradition that monks and lay people use to
worship a forested hill pagoda and ask for rain from the sacred relics
In this connection, and concurrently with the Visakha
Bucha celebrations in memory of the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and
death, the people of Chiang Mai went to worship at Phra That Doi Suthep by
organizing a pilgrimage on foot to reach the temple during the night before
shrine of Queen Chamadevi flanked by two monkeys.
Less well-known than Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is Wat Phra
That Doi Kham – just only seven km south of Doi Suthep. Interesting to
note is that both mountains – Doi Suthep and Doi Kham – are
interconnected in history going back to the times of the Buddha.
It is at Wat Phra That Doi Kham, where the visitors will
be confronted with Pu Sae – Ya Sae, the ancestor spirits of the Lanna Thai
kingdom. According to some myths recorded by the late Kraisri
Nimmanahaeminda, once when the Buddha was traveling in the area of
present-day Chiang Mai, he met three cannibals, a couple with their son.
This trio followed his trail in the hope of making a meal of him. But when
the Buddha delivered a sermon to them, the cannibals converted to his
religion and abstained from taking human flesh to be allowed the flesh of
the buffalo only. As for their son, he was so affected by the sermon that he
pleaded to abstain forever from consuming meat of any kind, and asked to
become a monk. Later he disrobed to lead the life of a hermit, spending his
time in meditation in a cave atop the mountain that later took his name: Doi
Suthep. After death, the trio became roaming spirits.
shrine of grandmother Ya Sae.
It is intriguing to know that in the 7th or 8th century,
there was a hermit on Doi Suthep who raised the future Queen Chamadevi, who
later ruled the city of present-day Lamphun. One of her local opponents was
the Lawa Khun King Luang Vilanga, who tried to marry Queen Chamadevi, but
did not succeed. Later the twin sons of Queen Chamathevi married the twin
daughters of King Luang Vilanga. Now, it should be obvious that the trio
spirits are related through incarnation with these historical personalities.
To commemorate the original spirit couple, called
Grandfather Pu Sae – Grandmother Ya Sae, there is a yearly black buffalo
sacrifice at Ban Pa Chi at Tambon Mae Hia on the foot of Doi Kham on the
14th day of the waxing moon in June. If the buffalo falls down in parallel
to the Mae Hia creek, the rain will be plentiful. If not, there will be a
shrine of Grandfather Pu Sae.
After that, a complex ritual starts to summon all the
involved spirits and a special medium will be possessed by Ya Sae, the
grandmother spirit. Other possessed mediums join the ritual. In the
meantime, the holy “Phra Bot” painting, showing Buddha flanked by his
disciples will be hoisted up from the branch of a tree, illustrating that he
is going to preach, while eight invited monks chant in the ancient Pali
language. The ritual, asking for rain and plenty, ends before noon.
Why this happen at Doi Kham? One answer is that when the Buddha decided
to save the local people from the cannibals, the “rain god” Indra was so
delighted and caused rain of silver and gold fall down. The places where the
rain fell down have since become known as Doi Kham or Golden Mountain and
Doi Ngoen or Silver Mountain, later to be changed into Doi Suthep. Doi Kham
is also associated with the Grandmother Spirit Ya Sae, while Doi Suthep is
associated with Pu Sae, the Grandfather Spirit, and this until today.
shrine of the hermit Suthep who raised the future Queen Chamadevi, who later
ruled the city of present-day Lamphun.
local opponents, the Lawa King Luang Vilanga, who tried to marry Queen
Chamadevi, but who did not succeed.