Phi Ta Khon Festival

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The Phi Ta Khon festival is the biggest attraction to the otherwise sleepy farming village of Dan Sai, nestled in the mountains of Loei province of northeastern Thailand. The event is peculiar to Dan Sai, but does combine elements of other Isaan festivals, such as the rocket festivals to bring rain. Held once a year, it is part of a grand merit-making festival known as the “Boon Luang” festival. Although pinning down the dates of Phi Ta Khon was once an issue, with the village elders only naming the dates a few weeks beforehand, the festival is now fixed at the first weekend after the sixth full moon.

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The origins of the Phi Ta Khon Festival

The origins of the Phi Ta Khon Festival can be found in the tale of Lord Buddha’s last great incarnation before attaining Enlightenment. In Buddhist accounts, it is said that when Prince Vessandara, the Buddha’s penultimate incarnation, returned to his city, it was such a joyous occasion that the village spirits came forth to join the welcoming parade. This very colourful and vibrant Phi Ta Khon procession is the central focus of the celebrations.

Phi Ta Khon via Remote Lands

In a lively re-enactment of the tale, the young men of the community dress up as “spirits” wearing long trailing costumes made from colourful strips of cloth sewn together.

There are two types of “spirits” featured in the Phi Ta Khon procession namely the “Phi Ta Khon Yai” the supreme Phi Ta Khon, and the “Phi Ta Khon Lek”, the ones that are commonly found. The making of the Phi Ta Khon Yai involves the performance of a sacred ritual to seek the blessings of the supreme powers before work on the Phi Ta Khon Yai masks can be initiated. It is also a task reserved exclusively for the descendants of families in which the tradition of making Phi Ta Khon masks has been practised for several generations. The Phi Ta Khon Yai is made of bamboo and is dressed in either male or female attire.

Schedule of the festival

Boon Luang And Phi Ta Khon Festival
Dansai district, Loei province

DAY 1
( Phra Upakut Invocation and Cultural Ceremony )

4:00 a.m. Invocation of Pra Upakut: Procession from Phon-Chai Temple to Mun and Sork River.
6:00 a.m. Food Offerings to Monks at Phon-Chai Temple.
8:30 a.m.€“ Ba- Si (Summoning of Spirits) Ceremony at Chao Pho Kuan’s House.
10:00 a.m.€“ Cultural Ceremony at Phon-Chai Temple by Dan Sai Sheriff. Gathering for Phi Ta Khon procession and competitions among groups marching along Keaw Asa Road.
11:00 a.m. Performances on the stage in front of Dan Sai District Office.

Phi Ta Khon via YouTube

DAY 2
(Official Opening Ceremony and the Grand Phi Ta Khon Parade )

10:00 a.m. Grand opening ceremony by Loei Governor in front of Dan Sai District Office.
All parades move from Dan Sai District Office to Phon-Chai Temple.
1.00 p.m.  Performances on the stage in front of Dan Sai District Office.
Phi Ta Khon competition (Final round).
3:00 p.m€“ Ba- Si (Summoning of Spirits) Phra Wet at Chao Pho Kuanas House.
3:30 p.m.€“ Phra Wet parade led by Chao Pho Kuan and Chao-Mae Nang Tiem to Phon- Chai Temple to make merit and firing of the Bamboo rockets.
Phi Ta Khon mask discarding ceremony at Wang-wern pier, Phon-Chai Temple
7:00 p.m. a Buddhist sermons at Phon-Chai Temple.

DAY 3
( Buddhist sermonsa€“ No Phi Ta Khon Dancing )

4:00 a.m. 13 consecutive Buddhist sermons at Phon-Chai Temple
Parading of consecutive Buddhist sermons of all villages in Dan Sai District

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