Centuries old Kong Khao ceremony brings Songkran to close in Naklua

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With water guns thankfully packed away for another year, Naklua residents brought the annual Songkran festivities to an exciting close April 20 with the traditional “Kong Kao” (rice harvest) festival, offering food and sweets to the spirits in a centuries-old tradition to pray for prosperity in the coming year.

 

Participants young and old dressed up in Thai traditional costumes to march in a cheerful parade and pay respect to gods and goddesses people believe protect them throughout the year.

Mayor Itthiphol Kunplome presided over the event attended by top bureaucrats, city council members and the public.

Beautiful goddesses follow the head deity in a procession around the festival grounds to inspect the food on offer.Beautiful goddesses follow the head deity in a procession around the festival grounds to inspect the food on offer.

The day started with afternoon activities such as a slingshot competition, hoop takraw and a four-meter oily post climbing competition for adults and a 2-meter oily post for youngsters. The bamboo poles were greased with oil and had 500-baht notes attached to the tops for the winning climbers to grab.

The always amusing “sea-boxing”, where kids balance precariously on a horizontal pole trying to knock their competitor off before losing their balance and falling into the drink, drew plenty of mirth.

A “Tri Bhumi” performance depicting heaven, earth, and hell delighted the audience. The ancient fighting art of “kratoa tang sua” was also a highlight.

Later people arrived with food and desserts and decorated Lan Pho Park for the official ceremony. While waiting for it to start the city put on traditional Thai dancing and boxing shows.

The worship ceremony started with the lighting of candles and incense to worship gods and goddesses. This was to invite them to come out and bless the people, as well as enjoy the food put out on their behalf.

The origins of the Kong Kao ceremony are hazy, but it has been held during Songkran for generations to ask for the gods’ protection and blessings. In times past, villagers believed that guardian spirits and angels watched over them, and at the time of the New Year they offered food in the belief that the spirits would be pleased and that happiness and prosperity would be assured for another year. It also is a way to bring the community together in peace and harmony, something sorely lacking in Thailand these days.

After the ceremony, food collected is equally shared among the ceremony attendants.

Free food and drink were plentiful and Mike Piromporn, a popular country singer, entertained all in a well-received mini-concert.

Beautiful Thai dancers perform to appease the gods.Beautiful Thai dancers perform to appease the gods.

Devils swoop in to gather and eat the food and desserts.Devils swoop in to gather and eat the food and desserts.

By knocking his opponent into the drink, the red corner wins!By knocking his opponent into the drink, the red corner wins!

Sea boxing is always good for a hearty belly-laugh.Sea boxing is always good for a hearty belly-laugh.

Naklua residents, young and old, prepare food and desserts for the spirits.Naklua residents, young and old, prepare food and desserts for the spirits.

With the help of his friends, will this youngster reach the 500 baht prize at the top of the greased pole?With the help of his friends, will this youngster reach the 500 baht prize at the top of the greased pole?

He does!He does!

Approximately 50 slingshot contestants entered the competition to compete for the 5,000 baht first prize.Approximately 50 slingshot contestants entered the competition to compete for the 5,000 baht first prize.

Mayor Itthiphol Kunplome takes part in the procession.Mayor Itthiphol Kunplome takes part in the procession.

Beautiful goddesses saunter past the audience.Beautiful goddesses saunter past the audience.

The head deity leads the procession to inspect the food on offer.The head deity leads the procession to inspect the food on offer.

Athletes compete in the hoop takraw competition.Athletes compete in the hoop takraw competition.