There is a tradition in India where lamps are lit outside the home during the ‘Karthik’ month of the lunar calendar (Nov – Dec). This is typically known as ‘Karthika Deepam’ in the southern part of India. A similar tradition can be found in Thailand, especially around Sukhothai, Chiang Mai and Bangkok.
This festival is called Loi Krathong and is Thailand’s festival of lights. This annual festival is celebrated with a lot of fervor by the locals. During this festival, buoyant decorations are made and then floated on a river.
While the buoyant decorations are made, one puts some money, a piece of their hair and a small piece of nail from their body into the buoyant decoration and then takes it the river and lets it float.
Apparently, it is believed that this takes away all bad luck from them and into the river.
This buoyant decoration is made with plantain leaves, a lotus flower and exotic flowers surrounding it. A candle and some incense sticks are then added to it to complete the floating device. The candle and incense are lit before allowing it to float on the river.
This event takes place after sunset and everyone heads to the river side with their decorated floating devices. The entire atmosphere is festive with bright lights, decorated boats on the river, fireworks, live music bands, colorful markets and the works.
On this same day, in northern Thailand, Yi Peng festival is celebrated. On this night, sky lanterns are launched into the air where they resemble large flocks of giant fluorescent jellyfish gracefully floating by through the sky.
Though this can be seen mainly in and around Chiang Mai, one can see this in some parts of Bangkok too, especially around the monasteries.
During the Loi Krathong evenings, the locals head to the monasteries to offer their prayers and such visits can generate huge crowds and a whole bunch of markets come up to cater to this crowd. It is quite an experience to be a part of such crowds and soak in the festival market culture live and up-front.
So next time you are in Thailand around the Loi Krathong festival, do try and see this festival from the river side. You are bound to be spell bound.