วิถีชาวนาไทย

วิถีชาวนาไทย
The Way of Rice, Thai Ways of Life
   “Rice” is the cradle of civilisation for the peoples inhabiting the Southeast Asian region. Rice is the origin of traditions and cultures that have brought the people together in the nations. It is also a common cauldron of all the peoples of the region. Also in Thailand, the way of rice is the way of life in societies. The harmonious rice cycle matches their lifestyles and is in the forefront of their unique culture.
Royal Rites
  Cultures and Traditions Originated from Rice“Phaya Thaen” is the original ghost of Tai tribes who is so influential to the lifestyle and economic livelihood of people. Because “Phaya Thaen” is considered the creator of all things in the world – earth, water, wind, fire, including every utensils human beings use. People are known to bow before Phaya Thaen’s mighty power and ask for His help when things go wrong. This is the reason why the people of Tai Lao origin launch rockets, as a petition, to ask Phaya Thaen to produce rain for His people. Rocket (Bang Fai) ritual cannot be done by a single person, but it is the task of everyone to collaborate in order to alleviate a crisis in their own community. The role of rituals is not just a crying for rain, but it also means a lot more to the livelihood of all rice communities in Thailand. These rituals are very important in the aspect of building respect of unity and common morale.
  Thai people in the history believed that in rice there is a spirit – an angel named “Mae Phosop” – who is the guardian angel of rice and the goddess of all grain crops. Rice farmers, therefore, are seen to have profound respect for Mae Phosop as seen in many worshipping rituals.
  As part of the worshipping, people build a spirit house before rice planting and invite the spirits guarding the field to stay in the house so that the ploughing activities would not disturb them. In and around the field, farmers are seen to worship and install Ta Leo as a symbolic boundary post to prevent wild beast to disturb the growing rice. Besides, Thai people also believe in the spirit of rice, the worship for seasonal rainfalls, and the worship for good yields, as seen in Hae Nang Maeo ceremony, Bang Fai ceremony, and Liang Phi Fai ceremony.
  Civil Ceremonies In general, rice-related rituals and ceremonies are often conducted to ask spirits or angels to help nurture the rice and produce high yield. The ceremonies are also conducted to pay respect and express apologies for their offences. Rituals and ceremonies are classified into three phases – pre-seasonal worship, during the season, and post-harvest worship.
   Pre-seasonal Worship Pre-seasonal worship is the worship of ancestors and village spirits, asking them to protect villagers from illnesses and dangers, and to inspire good yield.
  Ta Haek or Phi Ta Haek is the field’s spirit according to Isan people’s belief. Whenever a farmer first clears the land to make a field, Phi Ta Haek is invited to stay to take care of the field and the crops, protecting them from stray cattle and pests. A spirit house is then built to host Phi Ta Haek, and worship is done twice annually – on the sixth lunar month and after the harvest.
  Liang Phi Khun NamKhun Nam means water source. Khun Nam can be many things. They can be a lush forest, a swamp, or an underground source of water hidden under mountains. Phi Khun Nam is the guardian spirit of the water source who controls the streams of water to facilitate farmers downstream. In the north, before the water is diverted into the field, farmers worship the Phi Khun Nam (ghost of the water source), Phi Mueang (ghost of the underground), Phi Fai (ghost of the mine), and Phi Huai (ghost of the pond), to ask for permission to use the water in their agricultural activities. This is a gesture of gratitude to the mother nature that always nurtures the humankind. This ritual of worshipping is also an activity to show community unity.
  Tham Khwan Khok Southern farmers normally let their buffaloes wander in and around the fields. And before ploughing, they recall their buffaloes back to the house and conduct a “Khwan Khok” rite with an offering comprising red and white coconut sticky rice, meal set, one whole chicken, and a bottle of clear spirit, to two spirit guardians named “Dharma Nen” and “Nang Khura” of whom buffaloes are born. Khwan Khok ritual is often done on Tuesday.
  The Royal Ploughing Ceremony has been held since ancient times and has been part of the culture common to ethnic Tai tribes living in Thailand and its surrounding areas when the rainy season begins in the sixth lunar month (May) every year. According to social beliefs, Mother Nature provides fertile land with plenty of water and suitable weather conditions. With the proper plant varieties and the blessing, the people can be happy and contented.After a hiatus of more than two decades, the full-fledged Royal Ploughing Ceremony was revived in 1960 when His Majesty the King graciously restructured and improved the ancient ceremony so that it was suitable for the modern society. His Majesty presides over the annual Royal Ploughing Ceremony on a regular basis and appoints the Ploughing Lord (Phraya Raekna) to carry out the rites of inaugurating the plough and sow the ritualistic first seeds on Sanam Luang ceremonial ground in his place.The sacred rice is carried in gold and silver baskets which are carried by consecrated ladies to let the Ploughing Lord to sow the rice seeds onto the ceremonial field and the two sacred oxen pull the plough to cover the grains with earth and thus let it wait for the time when the rain will bring those grains to life. When the ploughing is finished the oxen are presented with forecast instruments, several foods and drinks to predict whether the year will be plentiful.The Royal Ploughing Ceremony is considered the most auspicious for the country’s rice farmers as the crowds are usually seen scrambling for the sacred seeds sown by the Ploughing Lord after the ceremony ends. The seeds are believed to bring the farm owners wealth and good luck. They return from the ceremonial field with their faces aglow before travelling back to their homes to begin their own rice-growing activities.
The Spirit of Rice, The Spirit of Life
  Thai people believe that a successful life must have both the concrete and abstract, that is body and soul. The soul they call khwan, usually translated as “spirit” or “heart” and at times “morale”. The soul deserting the body might cause illness or madness, so ritual must be held to call back the soul in order to live a normal, happy life.
  Rice too has a spirit, Mae Phosop. The ancients thought Mae Phosop’s spirit was sensitive, so she had to be informed every step of the way and addressed with courtesy. Hence the ceremonies to tie down her spirit throughout the rice farming season, from the initial transplanting or sowing of seeds until the final harvest. Planting has to be carried out with close attention, lest the goddess becomes unhappy and deserts the field, which would result in drought, insect infestation or other crop damage, and eventually famine. Reversely, proper worship of the goddess will, it is believed, ensure that she bestows fertility to the land, ensuring the well-being of rice farmers. Taking good care of rice, life will be blissful.
  Even amidst the bustling city life in the 21st century, rice has been, and is still, the essence of every Thai life during the modern times. Speaking about moral precepts, beliefs, and cultures for Thai people, “Rice” is of great benefit, more than just a staple grain to nurture life. Therefore, Thai people are seen treating rice with utmost respect, cleanliness, and order. From planting seeds to care-taking, from cooking to consuming, Thai people are ready to transfer the “nutritions” and “values” to others with good will, as the most common greetings go, “let’s go eat!”.