Bang Fai Rocket Festival
Venue: Phya Thaen Park in the Northeastern province
The rocket festival, known in Thai as 'Bun Bang Fai,' is an
ancient local festival that has been carried out continuously
till modern times. It is popularly celebrated in Yasothon,
a province in Thailand's northeast, and is usually held in
the second week of May.
In Thailand, the month of May is the beginning of the rainy
season and farmers are ready to begin planting their rice
fields. The festival is associated with traditional beliefs
in the supernatural powers that help promote the production
of rice crops for the coming planting season.
The legend has it that once there was a rain god named Vassakan
who loved to be worshipped with fire. The townspeople created
a rocket or 'Bang Fai' to send to heaven, where the god resided.
They believed that the god would hear their entreaties and
bless them with plentiful rain for rice cultivation. So the
celebration is entirely to the god of rain.
Like several other Thai festivals, Buddhist monks would be
in attendance for the ceremony. The rockets, launch platforms
and other decorations for this event are prepared for several
weeks before the actual event. An average rocket is some nine
metres in length and carries 20-25 kilograms of gunpowder
Originally the rockets were made out of natural materials,
but these days, they are slightly more sophisticated. Rockets
are packed with several kilos of gunpowder instead. In order
to make the rocket festival much more fun, various competitions
for the biggest and highest flying rocket are held, all conducted
with the undying Thai spirit of 'sanook'.
the festival day, rockets are paraded to the launch site.
Villagers dress in colorful traditional costumes, playing,
teasing and dancing, to accompany the procession.
The climax of the festival is the launch time. The rockets
are fired from their launch platforms one by one. Noisy folk
music and cheers can be heard for each liftoff. The rocket
that reaches the greatest height is declared the winner. The
owner of this rocket dances and pushes for rewards from the
crowds. The owners of rockets that exploded or failed to fly
are thrown in the mud.
Whether or not their wishes are granted as they believe, the
festival helps strengthen and promote harmony among the villagers,
which will be needed when the new crop season begins.
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