In this episode of RodMcNeil.TV, viewers are transported to Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand, or “Isan” as it is most known—in the Northeast of Thailand—during what is known as Buddhist lent and the scene of a world famous candle festival. And not just any candles—giant candles fit for a parade. (Note the Isan music in the background).
Noodle lovers will salivate at a myriad of noodles, most made from rice, and served up with bean shoots and other flavorful items.
Join Rod on the eve of the parade, and at a traditional coffee shop the following day to experience the local morning rituals enjoyed by many. Then, it is parade time where the tiered seating fills up quite early. Beauty queens and men in uniform (not to be confused) and everyday folks from all walks of life are an important part of this adventure for any tourist and locals alike! The parade wouldn’t be the same without a myriad of traditional dance and costumes as well.
From Tourism Authority of Thailand:
The Significance of Crafted Candles as Buddhist Lent Merit-Making Offerings
At Thung Sri Muang Park and Ubon Ratchathani National Museum
The Candle Festival of Ubon Ratchathani province features a procession of ornately-carved traditional beeswax candles of various shapes and sizes. Buddhism, Buddhist traditions and beliefs are central forces that shape the local way of life and the customs and traditions related to this Buddhist festival have been carefully preserved by local communities.
As the seasonal monsoon rains descend over the kingdom, it marks the beginning of the Buddhist “rain retreat” and the Buddhist Lent, or Phansa, during which all Buddhist monks retreat to the temples. This is also an auspicious time for Buddhist ordinations as it marks a period of spiritual renewal.
Known as “Khao Phansa”, the Buddhist Lent is a time devoted to study and meditation. Buddhist monks remain within the temple grounds and do not venture out for a period of three months starting from the first day of the waning moon of the eighth lunar month (in July) to the fifteenth day of the waxing moon of the eleventh lunar month (in October). In former times, this is done to prevent monks from trampling upon rice paddies when they venture out to receive offerings from the villagers.
As the province prepares for the Buddhist Lent, men folk, ordained as well as laymen, with artistic skills set about the task of moulding and sculpting Lenten candles. As these works of art are to be presented as Buddhist merit-making offerings, the artisans pour their heart and soul into their craft. Many of these are fine examples of Buddhist art and sculpture.
Villagers actively engage in merit-making during the Buddhist Lent, making visits to temples to make offerings of food and items for daily use. The presentation of items that provide light, such as candles, lanterns and lamp oil, is deemed to be particularly important as these facilitate the study of holy scriptures and meditation by providing illumination to the monks, physically and spiritually.
Bringing together the Traditional and the Contemporary
To help keep ancient customs and traditions alive, the provincial authorities have added more contemporary elements to the traditional festival in an attempt to create broader appeal and attract younger visitors.
In addition to the exhibition of wax sculptures by the participating international artists from Japan, Nepal, Belgium, France, Ukraine, Latvia, Spain, Brazil, and host country, Thailand, the festival programme now includes other art and design-related highlights such as the Silpakorn Art Pool featuring handcrafted candles workshops and sound art, the Lat Krabang Art Scene featuring film and photo, interactive art, art camp, and Kids Art Village.
Other attractions, such as the Ubon Art Street, the Ubon Weekend Market and Laeng Pla Ploen Market, traditional and contemporary folk music performances, are all designed to add to the festive ambience of the event.