Loy Krathong

| November 14, 2013


A crowd with flickering light of candles and color of flowers decorating floating object is a familiar scene in a celebration of “Loy Krathong”.  It is a wonderful culture when rivers and canals are full of water. In Thai Loy means to float and Krathong means a circular floating object made of banana leaves.  Loy Krathong is an event which does not occur on the same date every year; instead it counts on the full moon night of the twelfth lunar month.  This year 2013 it will be held on November 17, a romantic night.  Couples look forward to going out and launching Krathongs together to wish for a good luck with their relationship.


Origin of Loy Krathong

It is not clear where this ritual originated. Some believe that Loy Krathongs is originated in Sukhothai by Tao Sri Chulalak (Nang Noppamas), who was one of Phra Ruang’s wives.  However, some assert that it originated in the reign of King Rama III. Some believe that Loy Krathong has been celebrated at the end of Ayutthaya period.  Despite the confusing history, this gracious culture is still alive.  People still conducts this ritual not only to worship the footprint of the Buddha on a riverside in India, but also to pay respect to Chulamanee Chedi in heaven.  Another well-known purpose is to show their gratitude to the Goddess of the Water on their plentiful use of water and ask for forgiveness in the ensuing pollution.  Many people believe that floating the beautiful Krathong away also refers to flying away misfortune and bad things in the past and asking for good luck in the future.


The norths of Thailand especially in Chiang Mai instead of Krathong, lanterns are used.  They float lantern like a hot-air balloon in the sky which is called Yee Peng.  Interestingly, people other than Thais have the similar tradition.  Not far from us, Laos float Pratips (floating lantern) and Lai Rue Fai (boat decorated with fire) in worship of Water Goddess.  In Cambodia, this period is called Ok Ambok which means worshipping the moon.  They float Pratips on a full moon night as well.  Another neighboring country, Burma has the same culture.  They float Krathong to worship the Buddha and household spirit.  Looking upward farther, some of us may be surprised that Vietnam, Korea and Japan have the similar rituals too.  They apologize to the Water Goddess and float away ill fortune.  It is assumed that the origin is Mahayana Buddhism which was expanded from China.  On the other hand, Indians claim that they are the root of this ceremony derived from Brahmin.  This festival is aimed to worship Naraya God who sleeps in the milk ocean and He then will throw our sin away.

Others overlook its origin yet focus on the purposes of the ritual: to pay respect to the Goddess of the Water showing their gratitude on their plentiful use of water and ask for forgiveness in the ensuing pollution.  Floating the beautiful Krathong away, which is the key activity in Loy Krathong, also refers to flying away misfortune and bad things in the past and asking for good luck in the future.  Although it is not a national holiday, many activities other than floating Krathong, are conducted in this festival, such as, contests of Krathong-making and Noppamas beauty pageants, local games and performances and fireworks.


If you are in the North of Thailand, you can join this spectacular occasion at Chiang Mai where it is specifically called Yee Peng -floating of lanterns into the sky.   In Tak Province where a line of thousand glittering lights are seen floating on the Ping River.  The Krathongs here are made of coconut shells, threaded together to make chain. It is called Loy Krathong Sai.   Samut Songkram has a similar Krathong Sai but made from banana trunks. Loy Thatong amidst old cities like Sukhothai and Ayutthaya can feel very sacred.

In Bangkok it is well celebrated though out the city.  Popular places for Loy Krathong evening include Chao Phraya River, Rama IIX Bridge, Santichaiprakan Park on Phra Artit Road, Benjasiri Park Sukhumvit Road, and Benjakiti Park on Ratchada Pisek Road. Other places are waterways, canals, ponds, Buddhist temples and universities.  Many of the hotels and waterside restaurants offer Loy Krathong dinners and with a Krathong to float and sometime fireworks shows.

Loy Krathong Song

Loy Krathong Song Lyrics

“Wan Pen Duen Sip Song Nam Koh Nong Tem Taling
Rao Thanglai Chai Ying Sanuk Kan Jing Wan Loy Krathong
Loy Loy Krathong Loy Loy Krathong
Loy Krathong Kan Laew Kor Chern Nong Kaew Ork Ma Ram Wong
Ram Wong Wan Loy Krathong Ram Wong Wan Loy Krathong
Boon Ja Song Hai Rao Suk Jai Boon Ja Song Hai Rao Suk Jai”
(Loy Krathong song, using Roman characters)

Loy Krathong song (translated to English ) :

“The full moon of twelfth lunar month is when water fills the banks.
We all , men and women , enjoy Loy Krathong.
Let’s float krathongs.
Let’s float krathongs.
After having floated krathongs , we invite you , my dear to dance Ram
Wong (Thai dancing).
Ram Wong on Loy Krathong day.
Ram Wong on Loy Krathong day.
Great merit will bring us to happiness.
Great merit will bring us to happiness.”

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About the Author:

Current: Editor of At-Bangkok.com, Managing Director at dp-Studio Co. Ltd. Past: Lecturer, Instructor at School of Architecture King Mongkut University of Technology, Architect at RNL Architect, Architect at Roth Sheppard Architects Education: School of Architecture Chulalongkorn University Bangkok Thailand (B.Arch) School of Architecture University of Arizona USA - School of Architecture University of Colorado, Denver USA (M. Arch)
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