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
One purpose underlying the ceremony 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.