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Phi Ta Khon Festival

                Phi  Ta Khon: Each year,  the old community of Dansai in the northwestern Loei province holds the Phi Ta Khon festival. The traditional merit ceremony which has been passed on from generation to generation

Phi Ta Khon is part of Bun Luang festival which is the most important local celebration. The people of Dansai have combined two festival, Bun Phra Wet – the festival of the fourth lunar month, and Bun Bang Fai – the festival of the sixth lunar month commonly known  as the bamboo rocket festival. Bun Phra Wet  is a religious ceremony where the local people congregate to listen continuously to as much as thirteen Buddhist sermons. It is believed that participants will “make merit” and be brought closer to meeting Lord Si-Ariya, the next Lord after Lord Buddha, in their next life. Bun Bang Fai festival is held to worship spirits, the protectors of the village, and to ask for sufficient rain to arrive in time for the coming farming season.

On the first day of worship, activities begin as early as 3 or 4 in the morning, led by Saen and a group of men, the procession moves from Phon Chai Temple to the Man River. There, before  the sun rises, they perform a sacrificial rite to invite Phra Uppakut  (a white pebble) from below the water to ceremony. The procession brings Phra Uppakut back to  the Phon Chai Temple where the sacred worship in his honor begins.

Phra Uppakut      is a monk with supernatural power. After having reached the highest stage of meditation and having become so powerful that he has lived an eternal life, Phra  Uppakut  could be transformed into anything he chose. He decided to become a white pebble and live solitary and peaceful existence below the water. Because of his supernatural power, the villagers believe that Phra Uppakut  is the only one who can protect the village from evil spirits.

                At dawn on the second day, local people disguise themselves as Phi Ta Khon figures and cheerfully perform the masked dance around the village. In the afternoon, the Phra Wet  worship procession commences with a group of Saen and villagers carring the offerings and the ceremonial objects, followed by a reserved image of Lord Buddha and four monks. While Jao Por Kuan sits on a bamboo rocket on a colorful decorated float accompanied by Jao Mae Nang Tiam and Nang Taeng.The group of Phi Ta Khon figures create joy and excitement along the way. Late that day, bamboo rockets are  launched into the sky in the hope of bringing rain.

                In the past ,as a gesture to get rid of bad luck and misfortune, those who had disguised themselves as Phi Ta Khon figures threw their costumes into the Man River after the ceremonial walk. Nowadays, participants keep their costumes for the following year or as decorations.

                In the early morning of the third and final ceremonial day, the villagers return to the temple  to listen to Buddhist sermons for one last time,  bringing an end to Dansai’s most important festival of the year.