The Royal Ploughing Ceremony
The annual Ploughing Ceremony is held during the sixth lunar month (May) at Sanam Luang (the Phramane Ground) in front of the Grand Palace. The event, which heralds the beginning of the official rice-planting season, is presided over by His Majesty the King, with much pomp and splendor.
The Ploughing Ceremony is thought to date back to the times of the Buddha more than 2500 years ago. The event has Brahman origins and even today Brahman astrologers set the exact date and time for the ceremony. During the Sukhothai period (13th and 14th centuries), the event was a magnificent affair involving long processions led by the ruling monarch. In the current Chakri period, the original rites and ceremonies have been carefully maintained.
His Majesty the King appoints a Lord of the Festival (Phya Raek Nah) to carry out the rites. The Phya Raek Nah chooses from three 'panungs' (a long cloth worn about the hips). If he chooses the longest one, there will be little rain during the coming year. The shortest cloth means plenty of rain, while the medium-length panung denotes average rainfall. A procession follows with sacred bulls, festooned in flowers, drawing a red and gold plough. Green-costumed drummers, Brahmans chanting and blowing conch shells, umbrella bearers and four 'nang thepi' or consecrated women, carrying gold and silver baskets filled with rice seed, proceed with the plough. Once the bulls have turned a few furrows, they are presented with seven different foods and drinks - rice, beans, maize, hay, sesame, water and liquor. Whichever the bulls choose to eat or drink should be plentiful during the coming year.
After the furrows have been ploughed, the Lord of the Festival scatters rice seed over the newly turned earth. Once the ceremony is over, hundreds of people will rush to the spot in the hope of gathering some of the precious rice grains to ensure a good crop of rice in the next season.