Red Cloth Ceremony
The famous temple fair in Samut Prakan has now started and will last until Sunday 11th November 2008. This is not only one of the oldest temple fairs in Thailand, but also probably the biggest. Phra Samut Chedi is on the West Bank of the Chao Phraya River, but the fair takes place on both sides with literally thousands of stalls. The fair is open all day, but from 5 p.m. all of the main roads through the town are closed which then greatly increases the size of the fair. There are so many people at the fair that it takes an hour just to move a hundred metres.
The Phra Samut Chedi Fair started on Wednesday. As in previous years, the proceedings were kicked of with the grand procession through the town. Heading the parade was a float which carried the sacred red cloth which will be wrapped around the chedi. This was followed by dozens of other floats and marching bands. There were so many that it took them over an hour to parade around the town. After this, the red cloth was then taken by boat upriver to Phra Pradaeng so that locals in that city could also pay their respects to the cloth. Finally, at 1 p.m. it finished its long journey at Phra Samut Chedi.
Waiting at the temple was the Provincial Governor (second from left) and the District Chief (far left) amongst other dignitaries. There was also several thousands local people who had come for the ceremony. The red cloth was carefully unwrapped so that no part of it would touch the ground. The governor then led the local people in a procession around the chedi three times in a clockwise direction.
Everyone scrambled to touch the sacred cloth. They all believed it would give them well-being and good luck over the coming year.
After completition of the procession, the red cloth was handed over to members of the Rungjaeng family. For over a hundred years this family has alone been responsible for not only making the cloth but also hanging it from the chedi.
I am sure it isn’t easy carrying this very big cloth up the bamboo ladder and also wrapping it around the chedi too. As you can see from this picture there are no safety ropes used at all. Female members of the family down below kept shouting up “jai yen yen’ meaning “take it easy lads”. They had obviously done it all before because only fifteen minutes later they had completed their task.
The final picture above shows the temple during early evening. I was back there this evening for a candlelight procession around the chedi.