An ancient rite of protection and abundant rainfall - the Inthakhin Festival
From May 20 to 27, one of the most significant religious
celebrations in Chiang Mai takes place at Wat Chedi Luang in the old city –
the Inthakhin Festival. This ancient rite, initiated in the north of
Thailand over a thousand years ago, is held to honour the Pillar of the City
(Sa-Deu Muang), which is situated in a large spirit house just inside the
front gate leading to the Wat.
the spirit house is the beautifully decorated reliquary which contains the
Pillar of the City.
Many believe that the Pillar itself is home to a spirit who protects the
city and its inhabitants. Visitors may view the Pillar only on the days of
the festival; during that time men may enter the spirit house to pay homage,
but women must view it from outside.
The Inthakhin (a term from the ancient Pali language) Festival originated in
ancient times as an annual fertility rite, held traditionally at the
beginning of the rainy season, and, in present-day Chiang Mai, involves the
sprinkling of water on the magical image known as the “Buddha of 100,000
Rains”, thus ensuring abundant rainfall and a successful rice crop and
invoking peace, happiness and prosperity for the city and its residents.
‘Bussabok’ carriage used to carry the Buddha images during the procession
The Buddha image itself is paraded throughout the city on the first day of
the festival, after which it is placed in front of the Vihara to allow
inhabitants to make offerings of candles and flowers. The festival has been
held at Wat Chedi Luang, the exact centre of the city of Chiang Mai, ever
since the temple was erected shortly after the founding of the city itself
in 1296 A.D, the same year in which the first City Pillar was erected, just
outside what is now the boundary wall of the Wat.
Every year, many thousands of farmers, tradesmen and people from all walks
of life travel from all over the north to join with the residents of Chiang
Mai in participating in the ancient ceremonies, making merit, and paying
homage to the City Pillar and to the spirits of the rain. Every evening,
crowds throng the grounds of the Wat, spilling over into the nearby streets
with their food and offering stalls.
The concept of the City Pillar is an integral part of northern Thai culture,
beloved by residents both in this Lanna city and its suburbs, and in the
On the first day, after the parade had departed, winding its way around the
old city, the temple seemed very quiet, as though it was waiting for the
ancient ceremony to begin. Even though traditional music was being relayed
through the loudspeakers in front of the beautifully restored Vihara, the
silence around the massive Chedi itself could almost be felt.
A few people, mostly Thai, wandered around the food stalls, set up in
preparation for the 7 days of celebrations. Stalls selling offerings of
incense, flowers and lotus buds had also been arranged for, many on the
street outside, and a few inside the area of the Wat itself. The street was
closed for the duration of the parade; traffic noise was almost
non-existent. In each hall, the many images of the Buddha, both in bronze
and carved wood, had been wrapped in glowing golden silk robes.
As the parade, having completed its circuit, drew closer to the gate of the
Wat, people began to gather in welcome. Families and a few tourists, many
carrying their offerings, followed the huge gilded carriage containing the
Buddha of 100,000 Rains as it was dragged by sweating young soldiers through
the gate to the area in front of the Vihara itself. Female dancers in
traditional multi-coloured dress began their slow, graceful dance to the
rhythm of the drums in the parade.
Traditional dancers in their colourful costumes
perform their slow, graceful dance at the end of the parade.
When the carriage reached its resting place, the holy Buddha image was
gently removed and placed on a dais positioned between the gate and the
entrance to the Vihara, ready to be venerated by the crowds, while the
soldiers placed their offerings in front of the Pillar of the City.
The opening ceremony was performed in front of revered senior monks from the
Wat, and culminated in a huge gong being struck to symbolise the beginning
of another year in the ancient city’s history. Offerings were made by the
dignitaries present and by several of the groups who had marched in the
As night fell, thousands of people began to arrive for the festival, most
carrying offerings to the Buddha of candles and flowers. In an atmosphere of
joy and hope for the future, traditional music and dances took place on a
temporary stage, and the crowds milled round the many temple buildings and
the magnificent Chedi itself.
The festival, an expression of a true Lanna culture, will end on May 27.
Music in his veins – a profile of Tasana Nagavajara
Tasana Nagavajara, now 39 years old, has a most illustrious and
distinguished career behind him and a great future ahead of him. Until very
recently, he was leader (known in Thailand as concert master) of the Bangkok
Symphony Orchestra (BSO), and as a violinist, he could not have had a more
professional musical training and education.
Nagavajara is pictured after performing at a Bangkok concert given by the
Bangkok Symphony Orchestra, of which, until recently, he was the leader.
He began life in the Sukhamvit area of Bangkok where he came from a family
who were amateur yet good musicians. He learnt to play the Thai fiddle
before progressing on to the modern violin. In fact, he made enormous
progress and was playing with the BSO when he was still at high school. He
moved to Chulalongkorn University, where his studies were interrupted after
two years when he won a much-coveted three-year scholarship to the
prestigious Yehudi Menuhin International School in Switzerland.
This talented young man, whose grace and agility on the violin have
delighted audiences all over the world, then moved across the border to
Feldkirch in Austria where part of the internationally renowned Schubertiad
is now housed, continuing his studies and joining the Camerata Lysy. This
distinguished group then traveled throughout Europe, the USA and South
America, where Tasana gained vast experience and knowledge of western music,
while still retaining his first love of Thai traditional music.
He moved on to study a Master’s Degree in Performance in Oregon – where his
teacher insisted he broaden his experience by busking in the street! But at
the same time he came into contact with famous soloists such as
Rostropovitch and Isaac Stern and of course, Yehudi Menuhin himself.
He lives in Bangkok and has an important role at Silpakorn University as
Deputy Dean of the Music Faculty, which he helped to found and where he now
teaches. He has a strong link with Chiang Mai, marrying his delightful wife
Pensri here – and he is a frequent visitor to the city, performing in
February when he played the famous Czardas (with which he once delighted a
group of fellow travellers on the night train from Bangkok one New Year’s
Eve!) at a concert at Payap University before going on to Prem Tinsulanonda
International School to perform a string quintet by Dvorak for some of the
Sadly, he has had to relinquish his leadership post with the BSO after nine
years – but for a far more exciting project which is now beginning to take
shape. Silpakorn University is currently in the process of developing
Thailand’s first Conservatoire – to be named after the late and much adored
Princess Galyani Vadhana. Tasana has become a leading light in steering this
project - and what a project it will be – the building of a small chamber
concert hall to seat around 200 people has already begun, and the BSO, as
part of the project, is launching a series of concerts, one of which on June
15 will feature no less a work than Mahler’s Fourth Symphony.
Tasana sees no conflict between Thai traditional music and western classical
music and adores playing both. His charming personality, endearing smile and
true professionalism have made him a popular and respected figure in the
musical world internationally as well as here in Thailand, and we in Chiang
Mai await the return of the man with music in his veins with bated breath.
Mahler Four in Chiang Mai – why ever not!
World Comedy Film Festival to be held in Thailand
Thailand will hold the World Comedy Film Festival 2009 next month,
attracting hundreds of film professionals and helping to promote the
country’s film production attributes.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and the Federation of National
Film Association of Thailand (FNFAT) will co-organise the festival from
June 10-16 at Central World and the Siam Paragon, said TAT Deputy
Governor Chuthaporn Roengronasa in a statement.
The event is to be staged as part of an ongoing public relations
campaign to promote Thailand as a country where hospitality and smiles
come naturally, and to boost the kingdom’s image as a prime location for
international film production.
The festival will feature a wide variety of comical movies from around
the world; including romantic comedy, madcap, satirical and classic
slapstick, and will be joined by guests William Shatner of “Star Trek”
fame and Eric Roberts (“Heroes”).
The TAT deputy governor said Thailand was honoured to be the first
country in South East Asia to host the event under the theme “A day
without laughter is a day wasted”.
More than 50 international comedies and short movies will be on screen
at the festival and as many as 1,000 film operators and interested
parties are expected to participate in an event which will help the
country earn income while developing a positive profile for the local
film industry, Chuthaporn said. (TNA)