Loy Krathong

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Loy Krathong
Thai people setting their candle-lit krathongs in the Ping river at night during Loy Krathong 2015-10 (22715933524).jpg
Floating krathong in Chiang Mai
Official nameLoy Krathong[1]
Observed byThailand, Laos (as Boun That Luang), northern Malaysia, Shan in Myanmar and Xishuangbanna in China,
Myanmar (as Tazaungdaing festival), Sri Lanka (as Il Poya), China (as Lantern Festival), Cambodia (as Bon Om Touk)
SignificanceWorship and ask for forgiveness to Goddess of water Ganga, worship the Buddha's hair pagoda in the heaven [2]
DateFull moon of the 12th Thai month
2020 dateNovember 1
2021 dateNovember 19
Related toTazaungdaing festival (in Myanmar), Il Poya (in Sri Lanka), Mid-Autumn Festival (in China), Bon Om Touk (in Cambodia), Boita Bandana (in Odisha, India)

Loy Krathong (Thai: ลอยกระทง, RTGSLoi Krathong, pronounced [lɔ̄ːj krā.tʰōŋ])[a] is a Siamese festival celebrated annually throughout the Kingdom of Thailand and in nearby countries with significant southwestern Tai cultures (Laos, Shan, Mon, Tanintharyi, Kelantan, Kedah and Xishuangbanna). The name could be translated as "to float ritual vessel or lamp," and comes from the tradition of making krathong or buoyant, decorated baskets, which are then floated on a river. Many Thais use the krathong to thank the Goddess of Water, the Hindu Goddess Ganga (river in Northern India), Phra Mae Khongkha (Thai: พระแม่คงคา). This festival can see the traces of its origin back to India.[3]

Loy Krathong takes place on the evening of the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar, thus the exact date of the festival changes every year. In the Western calendar this usually falls in the month of November. In Chiang Mai, the festival lasts three days, and in 2018, the dates were 21–23 November.

In Thailand, the festival is known as Loi Krathong. Outside Thailand, this festival is celebrated under different names, including Myanmar as the "Tazaungdaing festival", Sri Lanka as "Il Full Moon Poya", China as "Lantern Festival and Cambodia as Bon Om Touk".[4][5][6][7][8]


A hand-made krathong, made from banana tree trunk and banana leaves, held together with pins, and decorated with flowers
Fireworks and large rafts on the Chao Phraya River, Loi Krathong Festival of Light, Bangkok, Nov 2004

A krathong is traditionally a small floating container fashioned of leaves which is made to hold a small portion of goods like a traditional Thai dish (such as hor mok) or dessert. The traditional krathong used for floating at the festival are made from a slice of a banana tree trunk or a spider lily plant. Modern krathongs are more often made of bread or Styrofoam. A bread krathong will disintegrate after a few days and can be eaten by fish. Banana stalk krathongs are also biodegradable, but Styrofoam krathongs are increasingly banned, as they pollute rivers and oceans. A krathong is decorated with elaborately-folded banana leaves, three incense sticks, and a candle.[9] A small coin is sometimes included as an offering to the river spirits. On the night of the full moon, Thais launch their krathong on a river, canal, or a pond, making a wish as they do so. The floats are thought to have been introduced to Chiang Mai in 1947 and have since been incorporated into Thai culture.[10] Government offices, corporations, and other organizations launch large decorated krathongs. There are competitions for the best of these large krathongs. Beauty contests often accompany the festivities and fireworks also have become common.


According to the Royal Institute Dictionary 1999, loi (ลอย) means 'to float', while krathong (กระทง) has various meanings, one of which is 'a small vessel made of leaves which can be floated on water during the Loy Krathong festival'. Moreover, according to the Royal Society of Thailand, the word krathong (กระทง) is derived from Old Chinese word or (/*k-tˤəŋ/) which means ritual vessel or lamp.[11][12][13][14][15][16] However, the word krathong' (กระทง) may be derived from Khmer word kantong (កន្ទោង), thus having similar pronunciation with the same meaning. [17][18][19]

Chinese Water Lantern may be one of the origins of Thai Krathong


Loy Krathong is once said to have begun in the Sukhothai Kingdom by a court lady named Nopphamat. However, it is now known that the Nopphamat tale comes from a poem written in the early-Bangkok period.[20] According to King Rama IV, writing in 1863, it was a Brahmanical (Hindu) festival that was adapted by Thai Buddhists in Thailand to honour the Buddha, Prince Siddhartha Gautama. The candle venerates the Buddha with light, while the krathong's floating away symbolises letting go of all one's hatred, anger, and defilements. People sometimes cut their fingernails or hair and place the clippings on the krathong as a symbol of letting go of past transgressions and negative thoughts. Many Thais use the krathong to thank the Goddess of Water, the Hindu Goddess Ganga, Phra Mae Khongkha (Thai: พระแม่คงคา).

The beauty contests that accompany the festival are known as "Nopphamat Queen Contests". According to legend written on the poem, Nang Nopphamat (Thai: นางนพมาศ; alternatively spelled as "Noppamas" or "Nopamas") was a consort of the 13th century Sukhothai King Sri Indraditya (who is also known as Phra Ruang) and she reputedly was the first to float a decorated raft.[21] However, this tale may have been invented in the early-19th century. There is no evidence that a Nang Nopphamat ever existed. Instead, it is a fact that a woman of this name was the leading character of a novel released at the end of the reign of King Rama III, around 1850 CE. Her character was written as guidance for all women who wished to become civil servants.

Loy Krathong is possibly originated from Angkor in(Khmer Empire), not Sukhothai. At Bayon, a temple built by King Jayavarman VII in the 12th century, there are depicted scenes of Loy Krathong carved on the temple. Based on that bas relief, on the upper level, there is a depiction of a queen residing on the boat to float the krathong in the river whereas six other royal concubines are depicted below, some of which are holding the krathong and dedicating at the river bank in a similar tradition practiced in present day Cambodia, Thailand, and other Southeast Asian countries.[22][23][24]

Recently, it has been accepted that Loy Krathong in Thailand is the festival mixed and combined three important cultural festivals from Bondet Bratib of Khmer Empire, Water Lantern of China and the festival of Kartik Purnima celebrated in the eastern state of Odisha in India. This festival is called Boita Bandana which is observed on the Kartik Purnima or full moon day of Kartik month (which corresponds to October- November) in Odia calendar. Loy Krathong festivities are usually celebrated during the period which corresponds to Kartik Purnima. Odisha being part of the ancient Kalinga which had strong maritime trade relation with south east Asia, the similarities in all these festivals may not be coincidental.[25]

A depiction of royal concubines holding Krathong (aka Kanthong in Khmer) in the 12th century, Bayon temple, Cambodia.

Kelantan in Malaysia celebrates Loy Krathong similarly, especially in the Tumpat area. The ministry in charge of tourism in Malaysia recognizes it as an attraction for tourists.

Yi Peng[edit]

Thousands of khom loi in Mae Cho, Chiang Mai

Loy Krathong coincides with the Lanna (northern Thai) festival known as Yi Peng (Thai: ยี่เป็ง). Yi means 'two' and peng means a 'full moon day'. Yi Peng refers to the full moon day in the second month according to the Lanna lunar calendar (the twelfth month of the Thai lunar calendar).[26] The festival is meant as a time to make merit (Thai: ทำบุญ; RTGStham bun).

Swarms of sky lanterns (Thai: โคมลอย; RTGSkhom loi), literally: 'floating lanterns', are launched into the air. Khom loi are made from a thin fabric, such as rice paper, stretched over a bamboo or wire frame, to which a candle or fuel cell is attached. When the fuel cell is lit, the resulting hot air is trapped inside the lantern and creates enough lift for the khom loi to float into the sky.

According to the Bangkok Post, the association of lanterns with the November festivities is a relatively recent phenomenon, dating back to the first decade of the 21st century, when introduced by local tourism authorities.[10]

Because they are a hazard to passing aircraft and "...can cause damage to important places in the areas such as the Grand Palace [sic], temples and governmental offices,..." khom loi are increasingly subject to governmental restrictions. In Chiang Mai, authorities cancelled 78 flights in and out of Chiang Mai Airport on 3–4 November 2017. Another 79 flights were rescheduled.[27] Despite those measures, the remains of more than 100 lanterns were later found on airport premises.[10] In Bangkok, the public are prohibited from using fireworks and sky lanterns entirely. Violators may face three years imprisonment and/or a fine of 60,000 baht.[28] One hundred-ninety piers on the Chao Phraya River will be open to the public to float their krathongs. In 2018, up to 158 flights were cancelled or rescheduled at three airports, and in Bangkok 88 piers were closed.[29]

During the festival, some people also decorate their houses, gardens, and temples with khom fai (Thai: โคมไฟ), intricately shaped paper lanterns which take on different forms. Khom thue (Thai: โคมถือ) are lanterns which are carried around hanging from a stick, khom khwaen (Thai: โคมแขวน) are the hanging lanterns, and khom pariwat (Thai: โคมปริวรรต), which are placed at temples and which revolve due to the heat of the candle inside. The most elaborate Yi Peng celebrations can be seen in Chiang Mai,[30] the ancient capital of the former Lanna kingdom, where now both Loy Krathong and Yi Peng are celebrated at the same time resulting in lights floating on the waters, lights hanging from trees/buildings or standing on walls, and lights floating in the sky. The tradition of Yi Peng was also adopted by certain parts of Laos during the 16th century.

The aftermath[edit]

In 2016, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) cleaned six tonnes of rubbish from the city's waterways on the day after Loy Krathong. The city governor said that 6,61,935 floats were collected from waterways across Bangkok. Of these, 617,901 (93.7 percent) were made of decomposible natural materials, while 44,034 were non-biodegradable Styrofoam floats. There were 1,63,679 fewer krathong collected than in 2015. The city mobilized 210 workers and 45 boats to collect floats from the Chao Phraya River and canals.[31]

In Nakhon Ratchasima, 50 workers collected krathong from the moat in the town centre near the Thao Suranaree Monument. In Buriram, more than 200 workers and volunteers in Mueang District cleared at least 20,000 krathong from the town's moat. There, Styrofoam krathong will be banned in 2017. In Lampang, more than 100 students and teachers from the Institute of Physical Education helped municipal workers clean up the Wang River in Mueang District.[31]

In 2018, after the festivities, Bangkok city workers cleared 841,327 krathongs, up from 3.6 percent in 2017, from the Chao Phraya River, local canals, and 30 public parks; 5.3 percent of them were made from styrofoam.[32]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Alternative spellings include Loi Kratong, Loy Gratong, etc.


  1. ^ "ประเพณี ลอยกระทง" [Loi Krathong tradition]. Ministry of Culture (in Thai). 2015-01-22. Retrieved 2019-11-10.
  2. ^ ธนากิต. ประเพณี พิธีมงคล และวันสำคัญของไทย. กรุงเทพฯ : ชมรมเด็ก, ๒๕๓๙.
  3. ^ Constance Jones 2011, pp. 252–253.
  4. ^ The Penguin Handbook of the World's Living Religions. Penguin UK. 25 March 2010. ISBN 9780141955049 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ "Buddhist Calendar - Southeast Asian Calendars - Thai Calendar".
  6. ^ "Pictures of the day: 23 October 2016". The Telegraph. 23 October 2016.
  7. ^ "Il Poya". 12 September 2014. Archived from the original on 7 November 2017. Retrieved 26 December 2016.
  8. ^ "Discover the full moon festival of Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar". 1 February 2017. Archived from the original on 1 February 2017.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  9. ^ Chadchaidee, Thanapol "Lamduan" (2013). "Loy Krathong Festival". Essays on Thailand. Booksmango. pp. 5–7. ISBN 9786162222641.
  10. ^ a b c "No urban place for Loy Krathong" (Opinion). Bangkok Post. 18 November 2018. Retrieved 18 November 2018.
  11. ^ "Baxter-Sagart Old Chinese reconstruction" (PDF).
  12. ^ Wei, L. (2010). Chinese festivals: traditions customs and rituals [L. Yue & L. Tao, trans]. Beijing: China International Press, p. 51. (Call no.: R 394.26951 WEI-[CUS]); Latsch, M-L. (1985).
  13. ^ "放水燈". Archived from the original on 2013-12-26. Retrieved 2013-12-25.
  14. ^ "施餓鬼舟". Archived from the original on 2013-12-26. Retrieved 2013-12-25.
  15. ^ "施餓鬼(せがき)舟". Archived from the original on 2013-12-26. Retrieved 2013-12-25.
  16. ^ Pittayaporn, Pittayawat (2014) , “Layers of Chinese Loanwords in Proto-Southwestern Tai as Evidence for the Dating of the Spread of Southwestern Tai”, in MANUSYA: Journal of Humanities, volume 20 (special issue), Bangkok: Chulalongkorn University, ISSN 0859-9920, pages 47–68
  17. ^ Bilmes, L. (1998). The /ka-/ and /kra-/ prefixes in Thai. Linguistics of the Tibeto-Burman Area, 21 (2) , 73-96.
  18. ^ admint (2017-03-08). "คำอธิบายศัพท์". vajirayana.org. Retrieved 2020-10-30.
  19. ^ "ลอยกระทงปีนี้..กี่กระทงดีคะ". www.thairath.co.th (in Thai). 2018-11-22. Retrieved 2020-10-30.
  20. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-06-28. Retrieved 2010-09-22.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  21. ^ http://www.siamese-heritage.org/jsspdf/1951/JSS_038_2d_PhyaAnumanRajthon_LoiKratong.pdf Journal of the Siam Society, page 64
  22. ^ เหล่ามานะเจริญ, ศิริพจน์ (2016-11-17). "ตำแหน่งท้าวศรีจุฬาลักษณ์ ของนางนพมาศ ไม่ใช่ตำแหน่งของราชสำนักสุโขทัย". มติชนสุดสัปดาห์ (in Thai). Retrieved 2020-10-03.
  23. ^ วงษ์เทศ, สุจิตต์ (2017-11-06). "สุจิตต์ วงษ์เทศ : ลอยกระทงเพื่อชาติของกบในกะลา". มติชนออนไลน์ (in Thai). Retrieved 2020-10-03.
  24. ^ www.matichonweekly.com https://www.matichonweekly.com/in-depth/article_14670. Retrieved 2020-10-03. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  25. ^ "Loi Krathong".
  26. ^ สาระน่ารู้เกี่ยวกับประเพณียี่เป็งล้านนา [Info about Lanna's Yi Peng] (in Thai). Chiang Rai Provincial Culture Office. 2004. Archived from the original on 2014-04-10. Retrieved 2014-06-06.
  27. ^ Atthakor, Ploenpote (1 November 2017). "Loy Krathong must be kept under control". Bangkok Post. Retrieved 1 November 2017.
  28. ^ "Police and City Hall say no fireworks, firecrackers or sky lanterns on Loy Krathong Day". Thai PBS. 30 October 2017. Retrieved 31 October 2017.
  29. ^ "Up to 158 flights cancelled amid air safety fears". Bangkok Post. 22 November 2018. Retrieved 22 November 2018.
  30. ^ "Lantern Festival of the Yee Peng Month". Archived from the original on 2013-02-28.
  31. ^ a b "City cleans 6 tonnes of krathong waste". Bangkok Post. 16 November 2016. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  32. ^ "Styrofoam krathong numbers sink". Bangkok Post. 2018-11-24. Retrieved 2018-11-24.

External links[edit]