Rocket festival




One of the famous Northeastern festivals of Thailand is Rocket festival; known to the Thais as “Prapheni Boon Bang Fai”, as well as to the Lao: “ບຸນບັ້ງໄຟ Bun Bang Fai'. This festival is a merit-making ceremony traditionally practiced by ethnic Lao people throughout much of northeast Thailand and Laos.

Rocket festival

photo on wikimedia.org

The festival is held in the sixth lunar month or approximately the second week of May annually, at the beginning of the rainy season. The celebration is an entreaty to the rain god for plentiful rains during the coming rice planting season. The festival is popularly celebrated in the northeastern provinces of Yasothorn and Ubon Ratchathani. 

The festival itself owes its beginning to a legend that a rain god named Vassakan was known for his fascination of being worshipped with fire. To receive plentiful rains for rice cultivation, the farmers send the hope-made rockets to the heaven where the god resided. The festival has been carried out till these days.

Rocket festival

photo by Takeaway on wikimedia.org

Celebrations typically include preliminary music and dance performances, competitive processions of floats. A highlight of the annual Bun Bang Fai celebrations is the procession of old-style rockets mounted on traditional carts.  The climax of all at this festival is the ignition time of the rocket.

Rockets making along with launching platforms and other decorations have been taken weeks for the villages to complete under the guidance of Buddhist monks. The "Bang Fai" rockets come in different sizes. An average rocket is some nine meters in length and carries 20-25 kilograms of gunpowder. The rocket cylinders are usually made from the bottom half of the bamboo.

Dancers in Yasothon parade.

photo by Takeaway on wikimedia.org

The parades of beautifully decorated rockets are carried in the lively procession to the launching site. Each is escorted by villagers who dressed in colorful traditional costumes and a colorful dance troupe, attracted the eyes of the onlookers crowdedly lined up along the procession route to admire the impressive works of art. One by one the rockets are fired from the launching platforms. The rockets are finally launched in which various rocket contests are held. Each liftoff is greeted by cheers and noisy music. The rocket that reaches the greatest height is the winner and the owner team of this rocket will dance and urge for rewards on their way home while the owner teams of the rockets, that exploded or failed to fly, will be thrown into the mud. With the launch of the rockets, predictions are made with regard to the fortunes of the coming harvest. The celebration is a communal affair of the villagers who come to share joy and happiness together before heading to the paddy fields where hard work is waiting for them.