Soon the Hot Season will give way to the Rains and the cycle of growth will begin again. To welcome the approaching Rainy Season, and to pray for an abundant rainfall, the people of Thailand will participate in both national and regional ceremonies. His Majesty, King Bhumibol, will grace the Royal Ploughing Ceremony in Bangkok while in Yasathorn, in rural Esarn, huge rocket fireworks will be launched into the sky. Here in Chiang Mai, people from the city, its suburbs and all over Northern Thailand will flock to pray, and pay respects, at the city's Inthakin Pillar. Throughout Thailand, people will pray for a rainy season which will nourish the rice crop and ensure a healthy harvest.
Chiang Mai's Inthakhin Pillar is now housed, in its own special shrine, within the compound of Wat Chedi Luang. Traditionally, the Pillar was sited at the geographic centre of the city -- in this case, with in Wat Sadue Muang (Temple at the City Navel) near the Three Kings Monument. However, as that temple fell into disrepair over 100 years ago (a large Buddha image remains on the site), the Inthakin Pillar was transferred to Wat Chedi Luang which is quite nearby.
No one truly knows the origins of the Inthakin Pillar -- although it follows the worldwide, tribal patterns of fertility rites and phallic symbols such as English Maypole Dancing or the carved totems of native North Americans -- but, in Thailand, it was often thought that such pillars were a direct gift from ancient gods. Many people will relate "A Spirit came down from the Heavens and gave the people a Pillar to protect them". Wherever it came from, it is a real pillar (usually of wood but, sometimes, stone). The Chiang Mai Inthakhin Pillar is a re vered symbol of the city's past and, also, its hopes for the future.
The week long ceremonies will be from May 24 until May 30. During this time, hundreds of people will attend the Inthakhin either in formal procession or as families or as individuals. There will be a total cross-section of the north Thailand population from farmers, to bankers, to secretaries, to motor mechanics and artisans. Paying respect and praying at the Inthakhin Pillar is not a Buddhist ceremony (the Pillar predates organized religions) but essentially is for everyone to wish for happiness for all people..
The Pillar is sited within it's own walk-in shrine which is only opened during this 7-day ceremony (visitors please note -- the Pillar can not be seen at any other time of year). Any male may enter the shrine to see and to pray. An attire and attitude of respect is essential. Ladies are not permitted to enter the shrine but may view through the entrance portals. In the area surrounding the Inthakhin Pillar Shrine, thousands of candles and incense sticks will burn and there will be ritual washing of a Buddha image with lustral water. People will queue to file past the shrine and will lay gifts of flowers and fragrant herbs at many points circling the shrine.
The Inthakhin Pillar -- while not exactly in the geographic centre of Chiang Mai is certainly at the heart of the people -- remains a potent symbol of fertility to all the generations, young and old, of North Thailand. As a visitor to our northern city, you are welcome to join, or observe, the ceremonies. The Inthakhin Pillar -- within the precincts of Wat Chedi Luang -- is another fascinating part of Chiang Mai and the ancient culture of Lanna Thai.
Directions : Wat Chedi Luang is on Prapokklao Road.
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