Headed out last night for Khom Loy to the Lanna Dhutanka Temple in Mae Jo, just north of where we live for the start of the Loy Krathong ceremonies/festivities. We'd been told the event was HUGE! One of the big events for Chiang Mai. We were excited.
This is THE BEST; I kid you not, put it on your must do list! Arrived to find this spectacular setting - a long walk along the edge of flowing water lit by candles, past beautiful lakes, well placed fountains surrounded by an unbelievable array of hanging lights strategically set in trees to reflect through the bambo, on to the water......all along there are vendors of all sorts of wonderful snacks, fireworks, &, of course, the lanterns that we have come to see launched. The lanterns come in all sizes up to what's basically a double sleeping bag size! They are white (for the light effect), fabricated from light paper, with a wax lighting device in the bottom. We grabbed heaps.
One suddenly arrives in this amphitheatre of sorts, a vast open area, surrounded by tall trees or bamboo shoots, with a slight upward slope to this incredible but simple, always visible "temple". Set on a mound of concurrent circles is this simple, all white, semi-dome houses a wonderful but simple Buddha. In the lighting, one can mistake it for the rising full-moon; so appropraite given Loy Krathong's link to the full moon. Its "gob-smacking".
The grounds are set out with thousands of slender stands supporting large candles ultuimately used to light the lanterns but creating an incredible effect for the mantras that ensue. At the foot of the stands devout buddhists, most in lotus position facing the Buddha, hands together in front of their faces, all in devout prayer. Not kidding, but it hits you, even after a Jesuit education!
We were dreawn to an area closer to the temple. On each of the concentric circles sit (lotus position) meditating monks of all ages; all in their robes, all motionless, surrounded by candles, looking out over the most fantastic array of lit symbols & decorations.
The ceremony starts - the head monk prays, calls on the monks to chant, he lulls them (& most of the crowd who are following religiously) into meditation.......its a moving experience. We're told he wants the lanterns to be launched to bring joy to the world......everyone is up & lighting their lanterns & then off they go, released in their thousands. You have NEVER seen anything like it, they head up towards the moon then meet with a gentle breeze taking them to the magestic mountains of Doi Suthep. Moving ever higher the lantersn just keep burning, just keep rising; its like a golden milky way, but with 10 times as many 'stars', with the whole sky covered. AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The basic idea is that you express regret for any wrong doing, apologise for any ill-meaning during the past year & let all the ill meaning & fortune float away, to have it replaced by goodness. The ceremony is taken very seriously, its moving to see the groups of different people lighting their lanterns, uniting in prayer before launching the lanterns on their way.
As the lanters rise towards the moon they are followed by an orchestrated barrage of fireworks. Its spectacular.
The monks remain in place, taking it all in, seemingly motionless. After the initial 'huge launch' they move to the side of the temple & join in.
You come away desperate to more deeply understand buddhism, yearning for next year's event to come again, already preparing for one's involvement next year...
This is better than the Sydney Harbour fireworks - its not just a spectacle, not just fireworks; its a ceremony that is spectacular, its a spectacle that has significance, its a combination of history & culture that just happens to be spectacular.
With the full moon coming this week, the focus moves back to town, back to the Ping River. On the 12th & 13th we'll witness Loy Krathong on the banks of the river. "Loy" meaning 'to float' & Krathong referring to a lotus shaped vessel that can float on water. We start with the small krathongs, made from a sheaf of the banana tree, banana leaves, flowers, candles & joss sticks, launched by individuals & couples into the river; tens of thousands of them floating down river. Then a day later the huge communal krathongs.....stand by!!!