The Inthakin Festival in Chiang Mai

June 1-8 2016
The Inthakin Festival in Chiang Mai (also known as Sai Khan Dok or Bucha Sao Inthakin), starts on the 12th day of the waning moon of the six lunar month and lasts eight days. The festival is centered around the Temple Wat Chedi Luang in Chiang Mai’s old district. This year the festival takes place June 1st through June 8th.

The essence of the Inthakin Festival revolves around a ceremony called Tam Boon Khan Dok – the way of merit-making by offering flowers, candles, and incense in the twenty eight bowls in front of the temple. Each evening, monks chant prayers and sprinkle ceremonial water, and present blessings.  Performances include traditional Thai music, and the dancing of the Lance Dance, the Sword Dance, and the Muang Dance.

On the first day of the festival, which is called Flower Bowl Blessing, offerings of flowers, candles and incense are made to the city pillar as well as the many other Buddhist icons. The day begins with a procession around the old town of the city.  A Buddha image called Phra Fon Saen Haa (the Five Hundred Thousand Raindrop Buddha) is carried, blessed with ceremonial water and placed in the courtyard of the temple.  The parade ends at Wat Chedi Luang where the seven days of Inthakin is held. During the eight days of the festival the Wat Chedi Luang Temple is dramatically lit up at night, and there are ample opportunities to purchase flowers, incense and food around the temple.

On the last night of the festival another procession goes around the city moat.  This ceremony, known as Tham Boon Muang (City Blessing) is designed to propitiate the guardian spirits of the moat and city gates, and to ensure the city’s prosperity for another year.

This is a very large celebration and many Chiang Mai citizens participate. It is believed that those who take part in the ceremony will be blessed with good health and that ample rain will fall at the right time of the season.

Inthakin, also known as Sai Khan Dok, is the city pillar in Chiang Mai. City pillars are found in most cities in Thailand.  It is said that the Inthankin pillar was first erected by King Mangrai at the founding of the city on April 12, 1296 CE at Wat Sadue Mueang on Inthawarorot road. It was brought to its present location inside a shrine on the temple grounds of Wat Chedi Luang by the Lanna king Kawila in 1800 CE.

According to the legend on which the festival is based, in the time before Chiang Mai was founded, the Lua people who then lived there received a pillar from the god Indra to protect them against disaster. After this original pillar was again removed by order of Indra, the Lua were then told to place a replica of the pillar in its stead, and, if this pillar continued to be venerated and the people lived virtuous lives, the city would gain prosperity and be protected against harm.

The Chiang Mai Inthakin Pillar is now housed in a special shrine and the pillar can can only be seen during the festival.  Men may enter the shrine to see the pillar and pray.  Women are not permitted to enter the shrine, but may view through the entrance portals.  It should also be noted that women should not to climb on top of the four corners of the moat structure.

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