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Written by Muskan on January 21, 2022 Share on

Rocket Festival (Bun Bang Fai) in Thailand – Everything You Need to Know

For centuries together, farmers in Laos and North-eastern Thailand got the attention of the rain gods by firing up the sky with explosive rockets. Very soon it became a tradition to rocket the skies with vibrant rockets and came to be called the rocket festival or the Bun Bang Fai. Being situated in the middle of the Indochinese Peninsula, it is known for a lot of things like tropical beaches, Buddhist culture, royal palaces, ancient temples, and diversified culture.

Thailand festival
Thailand
Image credits: Pexels

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Let us dig deep into the rocket festival coming with a bang and attracting nearly thousands of tourists from all over the world showing the rich and cultural heritage of the country.

When is Bun Bang Fai celebrated?

The three-day merit-making festival usually falls before the crop plantation period which is usually on the weekends during the mid of May. It is held to mark the very beginning of the rainy season for pacifying the rain gods and to make merit.

It has been celebrated in the Thailand Phaya Taen Park in Yasothon over the years.

Being the summer season and the favorite month of tourists, the festival attracts a huge crowd from the entire world.

What is the Rocket Festival in Thailand all about?

This festival is an ancient merit-making ceremony involving the soaring of homemade rockets higher into the skies, dance and performances, and mud fests. 

Cross-dressing and dirty humor is very common these days as it’s a fertility festival. With people wearing other gender’s clothes and having fun and also cracking jokes relatively, it is known to be one of the festivals wherein a lot of people especially the adults come together and make this time a memorable one.

This is the period when alcohol consumption hikes, especially for the local rice wine. One of the most popular beverages in the city called Sura which comes with around 40% alcohol content and which is usually cheaper than beer has seen tremendous growth in terms of consumption. It is often noticed that alcohol consumption during this point of time has risen to over 20%.

 Apart from dance and performances, various workshops are also conducted to educate the visitors about the making of Bang Fai rockets.

Rocket festival
Rocket festival Image credits: Pexels

How do the locals usually celebrate Bun Bang Fai?

The preparation for the festivals starts weeks or at times months earlier in advance where the groups start designing and constructing their rockets with bamboo, plastic, wood, paper, and gun powder.

On the first day, the natives pay respect to the city’s pillar shrine by bringing the locally made rockets which are usually followed by dance and performances and continue until the festival gets over. 

Parades in the streets with live music start on the next day making it enrapturing and alluring to watch. These are then followed by a Buddhist merit-making ceremony after which they bring in their sparkling bright rockets which are mostly for show and not for flight.

A competition then is carried out among the various contestants and is judged by a group, who judge the rockets based on how far and high they reach the sky with the beauty with which it launches. In case a rocket fails to launch, the losing team members are thrown into pools of mud and occasionally an innocent bystander is also thrown for fun.

Rocket festival
Rocket festival Image credits: Pexels

Why was it called the Rocket festival?

Dating back to the 9th century, it was believed that when the God of rain, Phaya Taen became upset after being wronged, he stalled the rain from falling for several years. This eventually resulted in a war between the Rain God and the Toad king, Phaya Khang Kok, a Buddhist figure. When the war was settled with peace, the Rocket festival was started to honour the god, Phaya Taen of the promise he had kept to bless the earth with rain.

There is also a story about the legend of Nang Ai, who was the most beautiful queen of the pageant. A person named Phadaeng, fell in love with her. This resulted in a war as Phangkhi and Nang Ai were destined to be soul mates but this was not approved by Phadaeng who wanted a life with Nang Ai. So he was asked to participate and win in the rocket festival, who then lost it. Phangkhi also visited the tournament as a squirrel who was caught and further killed. This raged the Naga king and Nang Ai’s father who started with the war.

 

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