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Inside the Inthakhin Festival

While Chiang Mai is the sleepier, second largest Thai city (ways behind Bangkok), there are never shortages of tantalizing events and happenings, and sometimes they are even only relevant to Chiang Mai-sters. If you are in the city from 1-8 June 2016, you will be lucky enough to attend such an event, the Inthakhin Festival, or the “City Pillar” Festival of Chiang Mai has come.

Inthahkin at Wat Chedi Luang Incredible photo by Panyapong Roopyai

Inthahkin at Wat Chedi Luang Incredible photo by Panyapong Roopyai

Having just celebrated Makha Bucha, Songkran, Chiang Mai’s 720th anniversary, and Chinese New Year, among many other holidays specific to Thailand, it’s no surprise that another holiday is upon us; and like the others, Inthakhin has important, deep roots in the past as well. Like many cities around the world, you can easily find a square or pillar marking the center (not always literal, ie. the heart of the city), and Chiang Mai is no different.

King Mangrai the Great of Lanna, the first king of the Mangrai dynasty (if you can imagine The Three Kings Monument—he’s the one in the center), is often cited as establishing the first home for the pillar in 1296, and chances are you’ve already walked passed this temple while meandering around the Old City. The pillar’s longest home was in Wat Inthakhin Sadie Muang (literally translated as ‘temple of the navel of the city’). Rightfully so, it is close to the center of the old moat, next door to the aforementioned monument and Lanna Cultural Museum, a stone’s throw away from a fantastic food market, and of course there is even a Museum dedicated to Inthakhin.

Wat Inthakhin Photo by Stefan Fussan

Wat Inthakhin Photo by Stefan Fussan

As the story goes, as the Kingdom was still in her first dynasty, the god Indra bestowed a pillar to the people with assurances of protection as well as prosperity. Indra, the bringer of dawn, the god of weather and war (his epithets go on endlessly, are quite fun) is here and doth protect his city of Chiang Mai, AMEN! After a replica was replaced for the original, the inhabitants of the early Kingdom continued paying homage to the pillar of the city in return for further protection, wealth and prosperity.

Goodness, I feel safer already (photo at this great site wiralfeed.com)

Goodness, I feel safer already (photo at this great site wiralfeed.com)

While the story of Indra may not be as widespread as it once was, the population comes together for eight days during the Inthakhin Festival to continue this preservation, this golden luck from the gods. Where will this begin tomorrow, the first day of the festival? The pillar, having been moved from it’s first home in 1800 ce, most of the festivities will be in the surrounding of it’s current home—on of my favorite temples of the North—Wat Chedi Luang. But, you don’t have to start there! Why not begin where it all began, Wat Inthakhin? Check out the Museum dedicated to this relic, before continuing like the city pillar herself, where for only eight days she will be open to the public (sorry ladies, males only).

As soon as you near Wat Chedi Luang, the level of livelihood will confirm you are in the right place. Food stalls will abound as you march onward through the streets of Prapokklao Road. Whether you hit them up before or after making merit with flowers and baht is up to you. Catch traditional Lanna song and dance performances throughout the grounds of the temple and surrounding areas. Join in delight with fellow Chiang Mai-sters as we celebrate (yes, once again) a new year, because it is so much that: another year of protection and gains in all aspects of our lives, literally and figuratively.

You know this tree means business! Photo from our Archives

You know this tree means business! Photo from our Archives

When the pillar was transferred by King Chao Kawila, he also planted three massive trees to the grounds—which are believed to be another source of strength and prosperity of our city Chiang Mai. And again, as the story goes, as long as these trees (one in particular will always come to mind) are standing tall, protecting the pillar, the city stands protected; but if they were to ever fall, so then, in turn would Chiang Mai fall. For me, that is just another reason to make my way down to Wat Chedi Luang tomorrow evening, lay my offering of incense and flowers at the base of the pillar and pray for strength in protection and while I’m at it, a little wealth and prosperity couldn’t hurt either.

Part 2 will be in with more pictures from the next 8 days! Hope to see you all there!!

PS. The current featured image is from Pui@chiangmaiholiday.biz (because credit is as credit does)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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