Sunday, March 02, 2008

261206 remnants of Boun Lai Heua Fai

ບຸນໄຫລເຮືອໄຟ (lit. festival float boat fire/light) is celebrated during Ok Phansa at the end of the three-month rains retreat (Buddhist Lent), which usually falls on a full moon day in October. In Luang Prabang, people make lanterns & parade floats which are carried through town in a procession before being launched onto the Mekong & floated downriver towards Ban Wat That.

Some of the lantern designs in Luang Prabang are similar to those made in North Thailand for Yi Peng (ยี่เป็ง, also called Deuan Sorng in Kham Meuang คำเมือง or Northern Thai language), the Lanna version of the Thai festival of Loy Krathong. The cat found some leftovers hanging around Wat Mahathat:


Khom daao (ໂຄມດາວ lit. lantern star):


There are other types like khom bang (ໂຄມບັ້ງ lit. lantern tube/cylinder), khom kaab (ໂຄມກາບ lit. lantern bowing with palms together in prayer) & khom bpin (ໂຄມປິ່ນ lit. lantern spin). The cat is most fascinated by the latter, known as khom phat (โคมผัด) in North Thailand. It consists of an inner frame with cut-out figures of animals & people that rotates within an outer frame, casting moving shadows (click to see movie).

The lanterns are kinda hard to pack & carry or ship home, or else locals could start making some for sale to tourists =P Apparently they are made only in the upper north, a consultant who says...

yes, i know how to cut the paper to make the stars...i made the stars by myself. i looked at some monk do it so i can study from them

...was disappointed when he moved to Vientiane & no one there made anything except krathong-type floats when Ok Phansa 2007 came round, making him even more homesick. The cat started making simple Chinese papercuttings (剪纸 jian2 zhi3) like this & this when it was 12 years old...perhaps it should ask him to teach it a few Lanna designs.

This has something to do with the story of Pi Mai Lao (Lao New Year in mid-April):


261206 The that that Wat Maha That named after:


That (ທາດ) = stupa, chedi (เจดีย์) or chorten, a structure for enshrining sacred relics of the Buddha or remains of highly revered monks or royalty, marking the eight great deeds accomplished during the Buddha's life, or containing Buddha images & amulets (e.g. Wat Klang Wiang, Chiangrai).

Lao-style stupas are described as having the shape of an elongated lotus bud, like this (That Phanom, Nakhon Phanom in Thailand) & this (That Luang, Vientiane). The cat has seen other shapes like this (Wat Sing Jai, Muang Sing), plenty of smooth bell-shaped ones in Bangkok, & this one seems rather squarish like some in North Thailand:


With help from a consultant & a dictionary...


pharasa ai ya pha Maha Thewi King Saiyaset-
thathirat...built year 910 CS 2091 BE
1548 AD .restore new.
1353 CS 2534 BE 1992 AD
Pha Khamchan Virajitta Mahathera Wat Saen chairman
Pha Phuy Thirajita Thera Wat That vice-chairman
together...combine restore build
... - new
... (blocked by spikes) ...

Maha Thewi (มหาเทวี) is probably Queen Yudhi Karma Devi aka. Yotkamtip, the daughter of Lanna King Ket Klao (พระเมืองเกษเกล้า) from Chiangmai who became the first of five wives of King Photisarat. King Saiyasetthathirat (Sai Setthathilat) is the guy who built two of the most famous tourist sites in Laos - Wat Xieng Thong in Luang Prabang & That Luang in Vientiane (the statue sitting in front of it is that of him). The dates are written in three forms - 'jor sor' (ຈ.ສ. or จุลศักราช) or Chulasakarat (CS, still used in Burma), 'phor sor' (พุทธศักราช) or Buddhasakarat (BE, Buddhist Era, used in Thailand & Laos), & 'khor sor' (คริสต์ศักราช) or Khritsakarat (AD, Christian Era/Anno Domini).

The consultant's translation has it that the 'beaulder' [sic] of this stupa is Maha Thewi...while this source says that the stupa was built by King Photisarat, her father-in-law...& another source (Ancient Luang Prabang by Denise Heywood) says that it was built in honour of her. Then again, some of the terms associated with royalty are kinda alien to the consultant (born 11 years after the Communist takeover of Laos), & the spelling of some words written by older generation Lao do not tally with the 'modernised' spellings that he learnt in school, so translation was not that straightforward.

Venerable Pha Khamchan Virajitta Mahathera (Great Elder) was the abbot of Wat Saen & provincial patriach of the Luang Prabang sangha, who would pass away in July 2007. A former novice monk of Wat Saen (cousin of a cousin of the abovementioned consultant) said that the Elder was most highly respected for devoting 66 years of his life to Buddhism. He was strict, but that former novice is deeply grateful for the discipline & enforced 'study time', which kept him from turning wayward & allowed him to make it to college. Many tourists have photographed the Elder as he led what tour brochures term 'the longest line of monks' during the morning alms round everyday without fail, unless he was too ill or not in town. A few tourists ended up photographing his funeral procession to the cremation ground at Wat That Luang.


Offerings at the base of the stupa:


Don't know why the incense sticks are in pairs...Chinese use this number for paying respects to the deceased...


Recycling of aluminum drink can: