Despite the hot weather in the ancient city of Lamphun, a large crowd of Buddhist devotees gathered at the foot of Tha Nang Bridge to host the annual Klong Luang (Lanna-style big drum) competition after a two-year hiatus in part of the seven day Phra That Hariphunchai Bathing Festival to mark the day of Visakha Bucha.
The Klong Luang (Lanna-style big drum) competition has returned to the ancient city of Lamphun to commemorate Visakha Bucha Day.
Against the backdrop of azure skies and a classic Lanna-style setting, a colorful parade of wooden carts was modified to accommodate giant drummers and young drummers from several temples in Lamphun and the adjacent cities of Chiang Mai and Lampang. This year, the number of suitors has dropped from 100 to 30 due to the uncertain circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic.
It was a familiar scenario when Rop Muang Nai Road, which runs along the banks of the Kuang River, turned into an open stage and passersby sat down at ringside to watch a practice and guess who would win. This, however, seems like a preview of what’s to come in the months to come as our lives return to normal.
For centuries, the big drum has been used in various Lanna-style religious rites, prompting the Lamphun Provincial Cultural Bureau to hold the first drumming tournament in 2003 in hopes of preserving the rich ethnic heritage for generations. future. All of these old drums were made from local hardwood, but the young villagers learned to apply modern invention to refine their designs for a louder and longer lasting echo.
“The Tai Yongs employed klong luang in Nordic-style religious rituals such as the washing of Buddha relics and the commemoration of the construction of a new ubosot or monastery between March and June. klong luang looks like a heart in a community because people of all ages gather and spend time together,” said Pongtep Manattrong, director of Lamphun Provincial Cultural Office.
“klong luang looks like a larger version of a tall, narrow Thai-style drum. Each drum is made from a single tree and its quality and designs are now improved through scientific knowledge. Each round will feature four teams, each beating a drum at the same time, with a board of talented musicians determining which drum can produce the loudest sound.”
The beater head is made of cowhide, and the bottom drum is shaped like a large speaker to transmit sound more efficiently. There is no need for sticks since the drummers wrap their hands with cloth instead. To produce reverberation, a mixture of glutinous rice, ashes and rice hulls is placed on a head of leather dough, according to a know-how passed down from generation to generation.
“Like the famous boat races in the province of Phichit, the klong luang competition was a customary method for Tai Yong communities to celebrate. Some kind of wood and a layer of sticky rice, ash and rice husk are needed to generate resonance. The batsmen do not hit a batting head but rather aim for the coating on its surface,” said Anusorn Wongwan, general manager of Lamphun Provincial Administrative Organization.
As a troupe of drummers lined up, devotees prayed for fortune and prosperity at Wat Phrathat Hariphunchai. According to legend, Buddha’s relics were discovered under the ground of King Arthitayarat’s royal palace and he donated this site to build a pagoda in 897, making it one of the eight oldest pagodas in the region. of Lanna.
Wat Phra That Hariphunchai hosted the seven-day Phra That Hariphunchai Bathing Festival.
Later, in 1443, King Tilokarat of Chiang Mai renovated it in the Ceylonese style and the city continued its tradition by holding the Phra That Hariphunchai Bathing Festival to pay homage to Lord Buddha on the full moon day of the sixth month. lunar.
This year, His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn Phra Vajiraklaochaoyuhua donated bathing water and offerings such as gold and silver trees, silk and incense sticks, while local villagers offered holy water from several quarters.
On the other side, Kruba Srivichai rebuilt Wihan Laung to replace the original, which was damaged by a storm in 1915. Unlike other Lanna-style viharas, it is surrounded by a cloister and houses a statue of Phra Maha Muni Sri Hariphunchai, which is a hybrid of Lanna and Sukhothai style arts.
A tram bell rang to indicate it was time to board and the next stop was the historic landmark of Ku Chang-Ku Ma Historic Site, located 2 km from the city center in the community of Wat Kai Kaoe. Around 1,400 years ago, Phra Nang Chamdevi, the first king of Hariphunchai, established the War Elephant Cemetery to bury the remains of his black elephant, Phu Kham Kiew.
According to folklore, it was a fearsome black elephant with green tusks capable of wreaking havoc wherever it pointed. A large bell-shaped brick stupa was erected to cover his body and allow him to protect the kingdom. Ku Ma and Ku Kai, stupas that contain the bones of a war horse and a white rooster, are also located inside the historical site.
Only 30 minutes by car from an ossuary, the hamlet of Ban Nong Nguek is a pleasant stopover in the Pa Sang district for craft enthusiasts. In 1999, skilled housewives formed the Ban Nong Nguek Handwoven Cotton Club to create a collection of unique handwoven cotton handicrafts to generate income after the harvest season.
Visitors can enjoy a tram tour to explore many attractions like the 1,400-year-old Ku Chang-Ku Ma historical site.
Ban Nong Nguek village is famous for its unique hand-woven cotton textiles.
A group leader, Chuenchom Sukrongchang, has turned her home into a learning center where visitors can come and learn how to dye fabrics from natural colors, spin cotton yarn and weave textiles using traditional methods. Cotton weaving was once reserved for family use.
“We plant cotton plants, which take two or three years to mature before we can harvest their seeds for fiber. We use them to make our own clothes and the rest will be sold. Our designs are inspired by local plants and surroundings such as that bua khrue, khor (to hang up), kret tao (tortoiseshell), and dok dok (brocade on its fabric decorated with additional wefts of gold and silver),” Chuenchom said.
“We extract pastel colors from local plants and flowers, including Indian almond for green, buttercup for dusky pink, lacquer for rose-purple, indigo and ebony for dark brown. I can weave 10 different fabrics each month for clothing, tablecloths, handbags, shoes and home decor. Prices vary depending on size and design.”
Next door, veteran artisan Pairat Nanpanak grew up in a farming family, but got into the shoe business. When consumers needed something more durable than easy rope yarn, he saw the potential for a slipper company.
“I set up a small workshop in my house to make my own shoes from used tires and found them to be useful and durable for farmers. All used tires are cleaned and molded into soles before be hammered with only knots and staples,” Pairat said.
“One tire can make 15 to 16 pairs of shoes. We currently have over 50 models to choose from. Prices start at 100 baht, with sizes ranging from 38 to 45.”
We headed to Li District before sunset, arriving just in time to take part in a candlelight procession, in which young and old villagers gather to pray and walk three times around Wat Maha Chedi Sri Wiang Chai. We stood out among a crowd dressed in traditional Pga K’nyau style costumes, performing religious rites every Buddhist holy day to preserve a local way of life and their rich cultural heritage.
Pairat Nanpanak has transformed his house into a slipper factory.
In 1953, Kruba Chaiya Wongsa came to this place and discovered Lord Buddha’s excrement from his birth as a cow bodhisattva, which became relics. Devotees of Kruba Chaiya Wongsa and Pga K’nyau have spent 11 years erecting a Lanna-style pagoda as a tribute to five Buddhas. Inspired by the Shwedagon Pagoda in Myanmar, it was built of laterite in the shape of a bell, adorned with 84,000 Buddha statues and covered with brass and gold leaf.
A group of Karen villagers left Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son to reside here and devote their lives to Lord Buddha as vegetarians. Through the royal project, they learned how to build a reservoir in the neighborhood and reclaim the soil to plant mangoes, Hong Kong kale, longan and corn to sell under the Doi Kham label. They specialize in silver jewelry and handwoven textiles and their town has become an eco-friendly tourist destination.
We got up early in the morning to participate in the daily alms giving ceremony at Wat Phra Bat Huay Tom. Upon entering the temple, all pilgrims would remove their shoes and walk barefoot down a long rocky path to a sermon hall. We poured sticky rice into a row of alms bowls and set out a long table with trays of vegetarian food and drink.
We then gathered on the ground to carve a procession of towering taiyatan trees with instant noodles, dry food, books, hats, brooms and other daily items, which would be paraded through the village and Maha Chedi Sri Wiang Chai in the afternoon to pay homage to the relics of Buddha.
Walking further, the Lanna-style vihara features Buddha’s footsteps and a Buddha statue created by Kruba Chaiya Wongsa. Its walls are covered with amazing murals depicting the life of Lord Buddha and Kruba Chaiya Wongsa as well as the way of life of the Wat Phra Bat Huay Tom community. Kruba Chaiya Wongsa’s remains are still contained in a glass coffin in an adjacent building.
Our trip ended at Wat Phra Phutthabat Pha Nam, which houses the remains of Kruba Apichai Khaopi in a glass coffin. Visitors can climb to the top of the cliff and pay homage to the relics of golden and white pagodas, as well as enjoy panoramic views of Li’s lush mountain scenery.
Buddha’s relics are enshrined in Wat Maha Chedi Sri Wiang Chai.
The Wat Phra Bat Huay Tom community has managed to keep its traditions alive.
Wat Phra Phutthabat Pha Nam is home to golden and white pagodas. Worshipers can climb to the top for stunning views of the lush greenery.