National holiday – government offices and commercial banks will be closed
The annual Royal Plowing Ceremony at Sanam Luang near the Grand Palace in Bangkok, and the accompanying Cultivation Ceremony held at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha the day before, are of great significance in Thailand. This year the ceremonies are taking place on Thursday and Friday, May 11 and 12.
During the ceremonies, appropriate strains of different grains for cultivating crops are selected just prior to the planting season, and rituals are performed to interpret the year’s harvest. Grain selection is an important consideration when planting crops, as the crops rely on soil, ample rainfall and other natural factors.
The Cultivation Ceremony is also performed to help keep the different grains free from disease, producing a bountiful harvest.
The Royal Plowing Ceremony signals the beginning of the planting season in Thailand. Two well cared for oxen of the same color pull an ancient plow, breaking the ground so that sacred seeds may be planted. Two other oxen wait in reserve.
Two Brahman priests sprinkling sacred water along the path lead the royal procession, with its nine-tiered royal umbrella.
Two pairs of female guardians carry grain in one gold and one silver container following behind the plow, seeding the tilled ground.
Three circuits tilling the earth around Sanam Luang are completed and at the end the oxen are offered eight types of foods to select from: rice grain, corn, peas, sesame, liqueur, water and grass. Brahman priests then interpret their selection.
Following the ceremony, many people collect the seeds from the ground to keep as sacred objects promising a prosperous year, while others sow the ceremonial seeds mixed in with other seeds to sanctify the season’s crop.
The day is celebrated as a national holiday, and as such all government offices and commercial banks will close for the day. ATMs and most currency exchange booths, however, will remain open.