In a country where agriculture and farming sustains the livelihood of over 70% of the population, the festivals and ceremonies associated with a bountiful harvest are central elements of the way of life in the rural communities.
Agricultural productivity and abundance are the principle objectives of both the royal as well as the folk traditions. These rituals performed on auspicious dates in the sixth lunar month (approximately in May) signal the beginning of the planting season.
Born of the traditional beliefs of the Isan people, the sprightly “Bun Bang Fai” Rocket Festival, the most celebrated of Isan’s merit-making rituals, has been strictly observed by the residents of Isan for generations and is essentially an annual ritual to ensure that the seasonal rains fall at the appropriate time in the planting cycle. In this process, Buddhist merit-making traditions are also observed and reinforced.
Highlights of the annual Bun Bang Fai celebrations being held this year include a procession of old-style rockets mounted on traditional carts, a beauty pageant, and cheerleader and photo contests, and a traditional ‘Palaeng’ I-san style dinner.
The festival which is held over a period of three days strengthens community spirit. The first day known as “Wan Sook Dib” features lively processions as rocket teams transport the “May 13-15, 2005” rockets in a procession and perform a ritual to pay homage to Chao Pu, the spirit of the city pillar. Each is escorted by a colourful dance troupe.
The second day is the rocket procession day. Modern-day rockets are mounted on vehicles or traditional carts to be drawn in the parade. The “Bang Fai” rockets come in different sizes. For example, the Bang Fai Kilo is packed with one kilogram of nitrate, while the Bang Fai Meun – 12 kilograms, and the Bang Fai Saen – 120 kilograms of nitrate. The rocket-making technicians play a vital role in deciding the right amount of nitrate to be mixed with the charcoal. With the wrong formula, a rocket could blow up prematurely before it is launched high into the sky. The rocket cylinders are usually made from the bottom half of the bamboo.
It is also a day for the ordination of novices with festive celebrations follows merit-making rituals. Dance, music, song and revelry are integral elements of the processions as the parade of beautifully decorated rockets wind their way through the village on their way to the temple offering an opportunity for the residents and visitors to admire the impressive works of art.
The rockets are finally launched on the third day in which various rocket contests are held. With the launch of the rockets, predictions are made with regard to the fortunes of the coming harvest. The Rocket Festival in Yasothon Province is spectacular and provides a tremendous opportunity to experience Isan-style festive fun.
The Rocket Festival stems from the belief that when this merit-making ceremony is held, gods and spirits will reciprocate with seasonal rain and a bountiful harvest.
Note: Event dates and programme details may be subject to change. To ensure you have the most updated information, please reconfirm details prior to travel.
Contact: Tourism Authority of Thailand – http://www.tat.or.th/