Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I'm sailing away...

In Thai, "Loy" means to float and "Krathong" means a circular floating object with decoration of banana leaves, flowers, a candle and incense sticks. 

This festival was started by one of the Queens of Thailand to worship and pay homage to Lord Buddha by floating a Lotus flower or Krathong during the high tide on river or lake. 

The significance of setting floats or Krathong in the river or lake are to send off bad luck or any sinful act and at the same time to thank the Goddess of Water.

Honestly I've never heard of Loy Krathong til a few months ago...
while researching on places to go during the school holiday I came across this religious festival,
and discovered that it was also practised here in Malaysia...
most famously in Tumpat, Kelantan and also in Penang...
This year it was scheduled to be celebrated on the 21st of Nov 2010..
unfortunately due to the crazy floods up north, I decided to delay travelling plans...
but fortunately I also discovered that they celebrate it at Taman Jaya Park.
as all they need for the celebration is devotees and a body of water,
Taman Jaya park probably was the best place as
the Thai temple Wat Chetawan was nearby and there was the Taman Jaya lake...
Unlike the other places, the event was held a day earlier on 20 Nov and scheduled at 8:30 p.m.
When we arrived at 8:30 p.m., I was disappointed as there were already a few krathongs floating on the lake.
but the fact that it had already started was not as disappointing as the fact there were only about 10 krathongs floating on the river... Fearing that it had already finished and this was a poor turn out, we still proceeded to see what images we could salvage from the experience...
It was quite a challenge to photograph 
as there is no other source of light 
other than from the candles...
 so the options would be to use high ISO (minimum iso 1600) and a bright lens (f2.8 or brighter)
or to use flash and get unnatural lighting
It gets more complex if there are human subjects,
as for one, you don't want to blind them,
and two, you would want to be respectful of their religious practices
but it certainly necessary as to see as they set the krathongs on to the water

Traditionally, the krathongs are made in the shape of flowers
traditionally made of purple Amaranth flowers, jackfruit leaves 
and incense stuck into the trunk of a banana tree

however in a modern age, to make things bigger,
they make the krathongs with styrofoam

and for these devotees I'm sure it's worth every penny

as they can make it bigger and more grand!
I'm sure as tradition's grow, so does the innovations...
the krathongs come in more shapes and sizes than just a lotus leaf..
there's the obvious boat on the water,

and birds
to the more unusual house
and most surprising to me,
and even Barbie dolls
As the believers send away their bad luck,
they write it on to a piece of paper and push it off with their krathongs

As I was getting the hang of the environment
there was a sudden surge of believers
all surging forward to place their krathongs
all hoping and praying
to send away their bad luck
and see it all float away
And I was glad to see that most of them made it a family affair
as parents show the children how to do it

As more and more devotees placed their krathongs in the lake,
and as the krathongs grouped together 
the krathongs sparked off

and the fire began to spread
The sight on the lake became a sea of flames

as they spread out
it became a beautiful trail of light
It was beautiful to see the flames up close
or from afar

by the end of it all,
I was glad I got to witness the process,
and the pretty lights
next year, perhaps it will be in Tumpat,
or even better still in Chiang mai
where more than just bigger and better krathongs,
they also light up khom loy's which are lanterns that light up the night sky
sounds exciting, no?
now there is more than one way for bad luck to drift away

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