Friday, May 14, 2010

Special Report: Royal Ploughing Ceremony

Phra Ratchaphiti Phuetchamongkhon Charot Phra Nangkhan Raek Na Khwan or the Cultivating and Ploughing Ceremony, consists of two ceremonies which are Phra Ratchaphiti Phuetchamongkhon or the Cultivating Ceremony and Phra Ratchaphiti Chaarot Phra Nangkhan Raek Na Khwan or the Ploughing Ceremony. The ceremony is rooted in Brahmin belief, and is held to ensure a good harvest.

The Ploughing Ceremony can be traced back to the Sukhothai period, over 700 years ago. The two royal ceremonies are related to each other which aim at bringing propitiousness to the nation’s crop, boosting farmers’ morale as well as announcing the start of the rice growing season.

These annual events had been observed until 1936, but were temporarily suspended after that. The Cultivating Ceremony and the Ploughing Ceremony were again retrieved in 1947 and 1960, respectively, and have been held together since then with His Majesty the King regularly performs the function every year.

Nowadays, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives serves as Phraya Raek Na or the Lord of Ploughing. The four Celestial Maidens or consecrated women who carry silver and golden baskets containing rice seeds for scattering during the Ploughing Ceremony are deliberately chosen from the single females of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives. They all have performed the functions overseen by their Majesties the King and Queen.

This year, the Cultivating Ceremony is held during the afternoon of 12 May at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, inside the Grand Palace. The ceremony is presided over by His Majesty the King or his representative. He performs religious rituals and prays for the nation’s crops. Then, the Chief Brahmin reads the proclamation on the Cultivating Ceremony, which seeks to bring propitiousness to the crops.

The Ploughing Ceremony is held in the morning of 13 May at Sanam Luang, in front of the Grand Palace. At the beginning of the ceremony, Phraya Raek Na performs a rite to predict the amount of rainfall during the coming season by selecting one of the three pieces of cloth in different lengths. Phraya Raek Na together with his entourages then leave the ceremonial pavilion in order to start the Ploughing Ceremony.

Two chosen oxen pull the wood plough and they plough a furrow in the ceremonial ground, while rice seed is sown by Phraya Raek Na. After the ploughing, the oxen are offered plates of food, including rice, corn, green bean, sesame, fresh-cut grass, water, and rice whiskey. Depending on what the oxen eat, the Brahmin makes a prediction on whether the coming growing season will be bountiful or not.

-- NNT 2010-05-13

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