Thailand: The Royal Plowing Ceremony
For more than 700 years, the time-honored Royal Plowing Ceremony has been an
annual event in front of the Grand Palace in Bangkok. The ancient Brahmanical
rite is held during the sixth lunar month (around May, as the rice-growing
season approaches) to produce bountiful crops and boost farmers’ morale.
Rice is still vital to the lives, livelihood, and economy of Thailand,
where rice farming remains the people’s main occupation.[Back to previous page] [Back to Rice Heritage]
At the beginning of the ceremony, the Phraya Raek Na (Lord of the
Festival) performs a rite to predict the amount of rainfall during the
coming season by selecting one of the three pieces of different-lengthened cloth that
are covered with another piece of cloth in a tray held by a Brahmin astrologer.
If the shortest one is chosen, rainfall will be abundant; rice in high
area will be plentiful, but rice in low areas may be flooded. If the medium
one is picked, rainfall will be average and rice abundant. It the long
one is selected, rain will be scarce and rice in low areas plentiful and
that in high areas suffer from drought.
Phraya Raek Na then wears the piece of cloth and proceeds to the plowing
area, paying respect to his Majesty the King, who attaches great importance
to these ceremonies, along the way. A pair of ceremonial bulls are yoked
to a plow, and he begins to plow three concentric furrows and three crosswise
furrows, and scatters rice seed from gold baskets carried by the four Nang
Thepis (consecreted women) as he plows.
The bulls are unyoked after the plowing and then presented with rice seed,
green beans, maize, hay, sesame seed, water, and rice liquor. What they
eat or drink predicts the growing season. For example, if rice seed or maize
are selected, cereals and fruit will be bountiful; if rice liquor, communication
will improve, the economy will prosper, and foreign trade will increase.
After the ceremony, spectators rush onto the field and pick up the sacred
rice grain to take home and mix with their rice seed for planting or to
keep as hallowed items.
Source: Ministry of Tourism, Thailand
Photos: Department of Agricultural Extension, Ministry of Agriculture and