Vol. VIII No. 21 - Tuesday
May 26 - June 1, 2009

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Art, Music & Culture • Entertainment • Lifestyles
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

An ancient rite of protection and abundant rainfall - the Inthakhin Festival

Music in his veins – a profile of Tasana Nagavajara

World Comedy Film Festival to be held in Thailand


An ancient rite of protection and abundant rainfall - the Inthakhin Festival

Elena Edwards
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.

Inside 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.

The ‘Bussabok’ carriage used to carry the Buddha images during the procession and ceremony.
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 province.
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 parade.
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

Jai Pee
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.

Tasana 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 pupils.
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)

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