Date 28/08/2015

PHUECH MONGKOL DAY



PHUECH MONGKOL DAY OR THE PLOUGHING CEREMONY

Translated by Dr. Pojanaphan Subho and Dr. Stephen Conlon
According to the Dictionary of the Royal Institute, 1982, "Phuech” means seeds for planting.Phuech Mongkol Day means the day designated for the Ploughing Ceremony. It is an ancient ceremony that boosts the morale of farmers.

Historical Background
 
The Royal Rice Grains Blessing and Ploughing Ceremony is a combination of two ceremonies, i.e. the Royal Blessing Rice Grains Ceremony with a Buddhist orientation and the Royal Ploughing Ceremony with a Brahman coloration. The former traditionally takes place in the evening before the Ploughing Ceremony in the Hall of the Emerald Buddha’s temple, whereas the latter takes place in the morning of the next day at Sanam Luang.
 
The Royal Ploughing Ceremony or the Raek Na Ceremony is an ancient ceremony which has been celebrated since the Sukhothai period, when the Kings did not handle the plough, but only presided over the ceremony.
In the Ayutthaya period, the Kings did not attend the ceremony. They authorised certain officials to perform it. The Kings would sit motionless and pray for 3 days. This practice continued to the end of the Ayutthaya period.
In the Ratanakosindra period, the ceremony started during the reign of King Rama I. The Lord of the Ceremony who was Chao Phraya Baholdeb had to do two duties: ploughing and standing on the swing. Consequently, in the reign of King Rama III the Lord of the Ceremony had to perform both the duties. In the reign of King Rama IV, a Buddhist observance was included in all the royal ceremonies. Since then the Rice Grains-Blessing Ceremony and the Ploughing Ceremony have been performed together and called "the Rice Grains-Blessing and Ploughing Ceremony.”

One purpose underlying the ceremon
y was elucidated by His Majesty King Rama V in "the Annual Royal Ceremonies,” as follows:
"In those days, the Ploughing Ceremony was the responsibility of the Lord of the Land. It is said that four thousand years ago in China the King himself ploughed a paddy field and the Queen fed the silkworm. Since then, according to the Siamese chronicles, the Ploughing Ceremony continued to be celebrated and was required to be performed by the Kings and officials, for it was designed to set an example to encourage the people to be persistent in doing their paddy farming, to support themselves and bring prosperity and stability. Why is the Ploughing Ceremony performed with other ceremonies? It is said, the intention was to prevent misfortune and suffering caused by flood, drought and insects, and also to make supplication for a good harvest. Accordingly, after the oracular declaration, supplication was made based on truth, good
deeds and propitiation, and this ceremony was performed principally to inspire the people with hope.”
Therefore, the purpose of the Ploughing Ceremony is to boost the spirit of the people in doing their paddy farming. The ceremony was elemental to those days, but it still remains significant, as agriculture is important for the people’s livelihood and the national economy. The Rice Grains Blessing Ceremony is a Buddhist ceremony that takes place in the Emerald Buddha’s temple. The other rite is a propitiation based on Brahman practice and is called "the Ploughing Ceremony.”
The Rice Grains Blessing and Ploughing Ceremony has been celebrated for good luck and to encourage farmers. The ceremony takes place in May every year.This month is appropriate for starting cultivation which is the main occupation of the Thai people, but the date has not been exactly fixed, like with other royal ceremonies
. The ceremony is usually performed on any one of the auspicious days during May.
After the ceremony was held in 1936, there was a long break, until in 1960, the Cabinet passed a resolution to revive this ceremony, and since then, it has been regularly performed. The ceremony was revived in order to preserve a good custom for the sake of Thai people. King Rama IX has advised that some rites should be changed in order to be appropriate and in tune with the times. Now His Majesty the King himself presides over the ceremony every year.

Soon after reviving the ceremony, the Director General of the Rice Department was appointed Phya Raek Na or Lord of the Ceremony. Four respectable ladies were selected from the wives of high-ranking officials in the Ministry of Agriculture and Co-operatives. Later, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Co-operatives was appointed Lord of the Ceremony, and the four ladies were selected from unmarried female officials, belonging to the second-level or higher of this Ministry.

The Phuech Mongkol Ceremony is the Blessing Ceremony of the rice grains and other seeds. His Majesty the King makes supplication for a good harvest throughout the Kingdom of Thailand because rice is the main crop of the Thai people. In Pali, rice is called "Bupphanna” or "Bupphannachati”, whereas other seeds are called "Aparanna” or "Aparannachati” The "Bupphannaparannachati” includes all the foods. The Rice Grains Blessing Ceremony is for paddy, both of the glutinous and non-glutinous variety, as well as forty other kinds of seeds, each of which is packed in white cloth bags with all kinds of taro and yams, and all of which are to be grown. Furthermore, there are gold and silver baskets filled with the best rice seeds from Chitralada Palace. But only half of the rice grains given by the King will be sown in
 the Ploughing Ceremony. The grains left over will be placed in packages to be sent to farmers in various provinces, as the grains are regarded as things that will bring farmers wealth and good luck.
In addition, since 1966, the Cabinet declared the Rice Grains-Blessing and Ploughing Ceremony day as an Annual Farmers’ Day. This is to make farmers aware of the importance of agriculture and to remind them to take part in the ceremony to bring about good luck and wealth for themselves and the country as a whole. Since then, Farmers’ Day has been observed, together with the Rice Grains Blessing and Ploughing Ceremony.

The Rice Grains Blessing Ceremony in 1993
The Rice Grains Blessing Ceremony is treated as a Buddhist ceremony. It takes place at the Hall of the Emerald Buddha’s temple in the Grand Palace.
On Sunday, May 16, 1993, at around 14.30 p.m., His Majesty the King and Her Majesty the Queen came by car from Chitralada Rahothan Palace to the Emerald Buddha’s temple. They came up to the Hall, then lit candles and joss-sticks to pay homage to the Emerald Buddha and other images of Buddha. A Buddhist priest of high rank presented the five precepts, and then His Majesty the King sprinkled holy water over flowers offered for paying homage to the Gandhara Rashtra image and made supplication for a good harvest throughout the kingdom of Thailand. Phra Rajkru Asdacharaya, a leading Brahman, announced commencement
of the Rice Grains Blessing Ceremony. Eleven Buddhist monks chanted prayers. His Majesty the King poured holy water over, and anointed the Ploughing Lord and gave him leaves of the bale tree, a ring and a sword. In 1993, the Ploughing Lord was Mr. Sommai Surakul, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Co-operatives. His Majesty the King also anointed four chosen ladies, who carried gold and silver baskets with holy water. He also gave them leaves of the bale tree. In 1993, the four chosen ladies were: Miss Chanthakarn Arananand and Miss Vanatthaporn Krathes who carried gold baskets, and Miss Soavalak Chuenkamol and Miss Pranom Chuangchai who carried silver baskets. Simultaneously, Buddhist priests chanted Chayamangalasutra Gatha and officials played a gong of victory and musical instruments. Thereafter, His Majesty the King presented the four essential requirements of life to the Buddhist priests who had blessed him and then he exited of the hall.

Declaration of the Rice Grains Blessing Ceremony
The declaration of the Rice Grains Blessing Ceremony was composed in Pali Gatha by King Rama IV in the form of poetry and then translated into Thai in the form of prose. The contents of the declaration are a supplication, and they are divided into four parts:
 
1.It is a praise for the grace of the Buddha that he has extinguished suffering and is consistent in cultivating the flock by teaching Dharma. Though the world is boiling with the fire of lust, the Dharma which is immortal still flourishes with the grace of the Buddha. Now, we pay homage to the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha and sow the seed of faith in the Triple Gem which symbolises goodness. The Seed, namely merit, brings benefits of different kinds at suitable times both in this world and in the next, and in all the existences thereafter.The seed, namely merit of different kinds, brings forth fruit in this world where we have sown it. May the seed, namely merit of all kinds, bring fruit as we desire it. In addition, may rice and all kinds of seed sown in the land throughout the kingdom sprout and grow well according to its season, and may no misfortune come to it.
 
2.The true word of the Lord Buddha which was expounded to the farmer is that faith is like a seed; perseverance is like rain; wisdom is like a yoke and plough; shame or fear is like a plough handle; mind is like a rope; mindfulness is like a ploughshare. I have control over body and speech; I am temperate in eating; I take uprightness to be like a water tap, modesty as a place for taking out a plough, and diligent austerities as the labourer carrying a yoke. Such a plough has an immortal result. The result of this is bliss through good action. Those who always proceed in this way are
not sad and have no rebirth and thus extinguish all suffering. With this true and sincere declaration may rice grains and all other seeds sown in the land throughout the kingdom sprout and grow well.
 
3.The Gatha, given by the Great Teacher, who has destroyed dumbness, said: "He who does no elide to friends will be endowed with prosperity. The seed he has sown in the field will sprout, and he will partake of the fruits of all the seeds he sows. He who does no elide to friends, will not be afflicted by enemies, as wind cannot tear up a banyan tree with well-grown roots.” With this true declaration ay rice grains and other seeds which have been sown in the fields throughout the Kingdom sprout and grow well.

4.Quoting the loving kindness that His Majesty the King has for his people and his determination to provide them with peace and happiness, with this true declaration may rice grains and all other seeds sown in all places throughout the kingdom flourish and bring forth abundance.
The declaration also contained the details of the foundation of an image of the Gandhara Rashtra which is an important image of Lord Buddha in this ceremony.
The above declaration (Gatha) was chanted by Buddhist monks after other prayers in the Rice Grains-Blessing Ceremony.

The Ploughing Ceremony (Brahman observance) is performed at Sanam Luang. A pavilion for the Great Gods, such as Phra Isuan, Phra Brahm, Phra Narai (Ram), Phra Umabhagavadi, Phra Mahavighanesuar and Phra Laksami were enshrined there. In the evening, a Brahman Teacher propitiated Gods for a good harvest.
The Ploughing Ceremony was then performed on the following morning at Sanam Luang:
On Monday May 17, 1993, at 07.30 a.m. the appointed Ploughing Lord, Mr. Sommai Surakul, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Co-operatives, with the chosen ladies, got into the royal car in front of the Emerald Buddha’s temple and came out of the Grand Palace via Savardisobha Gate, Sanamchai Road, to Sanam Luang. Having arrived at a pavilion, the procession of high ranking officials proceed to a Brahman pavilion. The Ploughing Lord lit candles and joss-sticks to pay homage to images of the deities, made supplication and then chose the piece of cloth called "Phanung.”¹ After putting "Phanung” he had chosen over the top of his attire, the Ploughing Lord was ready to plough furrows at Sanam Luang.
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1
Phanung or Cloth is of three lengths and all look identical i.e. 6 kueb, 5 kueb and 4 kueb (Kueb is a unit of linear measure, appropriately 7 inches). They are placed on the table and covered by other cloth. The amount of rainfall expected in the coming year is forecast as follows:

- If the shortest phanung is chosen, it indicates plentiful rain. There will be a good harvest in high-lying land but a somewhat bad harvest in low- lying land.
- If his choice is the medium one, rain will be average. Rice and all other grains will sprout and grow well.
- If his choice is the longest one, there will be little rain. There will be a good harvest in low-lying land but a somewhat bad harvest in high-lying land.
At around 08.30 a.m., His Majesty the King and Her Majesty the Queen came by car from Chitalada Rahothan Palace to an erected pavilion at Sanam Luang. During the auspicious time 08.29-09.09 A.M. the Ploughing Lord, Mr. Sommai Surakul, along with the chosen ladies came out of the Brahman pavilion led by a court’s Bundit and a Brahman passed by the Royal pavilion. The Ploughing Lord was granted an audience with His Majesty the King to whom he paid obeisance and went to the ploughing ground and anointed the bulls, then ploughed ovally and horizontally, three rounds each, to sow grains. In the meantime, the officials played a gong of victory and musical instruments. The Ploughing Lord reploughed three rounds more and went back to the Brahman pavilion with the chosen ladies. Then the bulls were fed seven different kinds of food and drinks². Whatever the bulls chose to eat or drink will be the subject of forecasts by the royal astrologer. Thereafter, the procession of men of the Ploughing Lord came out of the Brahman pavilion, passing the royal pavilion. The Ploughing Lord was again granted an audience with His Majesty the King to whom he paid obeisance and left with the royal car for the Ministry of Agriculture and Co-operatives.
His Majesty the King and Her Majesty the Queen then went back to Chitralada Rahothan Palace.
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2
The seven different foods and drinks are rice, maize, beans, sesame seed, liquor, water and hay.
 
- If the bulls eat rice or maize, it is forecast that rice and fruits will be plentiful.
 
 
- If the bulls eat beans or sesame seed, it is forecast that fruits and foods will be plentiful.
- If the bulls drink water and eat hay, there will be plentiful rain and a good harvest.
 
- If the bulls drink alcoholic liquor, the communication, transportation and intertrade will increase, resulting in economic growth.
 
Suggested Cultured Activities
on the Rice Grains - Blessing
and Ploughing Ceremony Day
 
 
1. Conference or Seminar to impart knowledge and understanding about the significance of Phuech Mongkol Day.
 
2. Campaign through public relations to disseminate knowledge and understanding about the significance of Phuech Mongkol Day.
 
3. Select contestants of rice breeds and farmers.
 
4. Praise and honour outstanding farmers for the year.
 
5. Offer financial support to outstanding farmers who lack funds to invest.
 
6. Decorate government office buildings and houses with the national flag.
 
7. Other appropriate activities.




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