Phuang malai

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Phuang malai at various stages of completion
Stalls in Pak Khlong Talat with phuang malai for sale

Phuang malai (Thai: พวงมาลัย, pronounced [pʰūa̯ŋ māːlāj]) or malai (มาลัย, [māːlāj]) are a Thai form of floral garland. They are often given as offerings or kept for good luck.


Phuang malai may be derived from the Tamil word poo maalai which has the same meaning poo (flowers), maalai (garland).[citation needed] There are historical evidence that Chola kings from Tamil Nadu (South India) had captured what is currently part of Thailand, Java and Sumatra, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka.[citation needed] Rock inscriptions have mentions about these victories. The Tamils are skillful garland makers and in Tamil culture from birth to death every special event in a person's life is celebrated with flowers especially garlands. Chola kings built huge temples all over Tamil Nadu. Cholan was referred to as Chulalongarn.[citation needed]

The first record of phuang malai was found during the reign of King Chulalongkorn.[1] There was a literary work written by the king called Phra Ratchaphithi Sip Song Duean ('Twelve-Months Royal Ceremonies') which contained information about events and ceremonies in the Sukhothai Kingdom. In the 4th month ceremony, it was mentioned that fresh flower garlands were made by the king's chief concubine Thao Sichulalak (ท้าวศรีจุฬาลักษณ์).[2] Then, in the Rattanakosin Kingdom the phuang malai became an important ornamental object in every ceremony. Every girl in the palace was expected to acquire the skills of making phuang malai. Queen Saovabha Phongsri devised a wide variety of intricate phuang malai patterns.[1]


Phuang malai patterns can be divided into six groups.

  1. Creature malai resembles animals. Flowers are arranged into animal shapes such as mouse, rabbit, squirrel, and gibbon.
  2. Chained malai is a series of rounded malai connected together which resemble a chain.
  3. Braided malai two rounded malai connected together, decorated with pine-shaped malai on each end.
  4. Vine malai is a series of semicircular malai arranged in a vine shape.
  5. Laced malai is a malai fully decorated by inserting golden and silver laces all over the malai both inside and out.
  6. Orchid malai is made only from orchids.[3]


Phuang malai can be classified into three categories by use.

  1. Malai chai diao (มาลัยชายเดียว, [māːlāj t͡ɕʰāːj dīa̯w]) is usually used as an offering to show respect. In temples and cemeteries, these malai can be seen hanging from the hands of Buddhist monk statues along with votive candles. Chained malai and braided malai are examples of malai chai diao.
  2. Malai song chai (มาลัยสองชาย, [māːlāj sɔ̌ːŋ t͡ɕʰāːj]) is usually draped around a person's neck to show importance. In the Thai wedding ceremony, both bride and groom often wear malai song chai.
  3. Malai chamruai or souvenir malai (มาลัยชำร่วย, [māːlāj t͡ɕʰām.rûa̯j]), the smallest form of malai, is usually given as a souvenir to a large group of people.[4] These malai are customarily given by a host, for instance, in wedding ceremonies, housewarming ceremonies, birthday parties, and baby showers. Creature malai is one form of malai chamruai.[2] The purpose of malai chamruai is similar to that of lei (garland) in Hawaiian culture.

In addition to the use of the malai as offerings, gifts, and souvenirs, malai have many more functions. They can be used to decorate throne halls and houses. Malai can also be hung on Thai musical instruments to pay respect to the masters of those instruments and for good luck and success in a performance.[1]

Bamboo garlands[edit]

Thai bamboo garlands are decorative woven offerings sometimes used as a substitute for floral garlands and as a way to hang other offerings. Bamboo garlands are part of the tradition of Phu Thai people in the village of Kut Wa in Kuchinarai District, Kalasin Province, in the northeast of Thailand. Bamboo garlands are also used in the festival of Buddhist Lent during the Thai rainy season, called "Bun Khao Pradap Din" or "Bun Phuang Malai Ban Kut Wa".

Bamboo garland ceremony, Kut Wa, Thailand[edit]

To celebrate Phu Thai, the villagers of Kut Wa create ornate garlands and form a procession around Wat Kok to display their handiwork, with dancing, singing, and rhythmic drumming.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c กระทรวงศึกษาธิการ. กรมการศึกษานอกโรงเรียน.หนังสือเรียนวิชาช่างดอกไม้สด.การจัดดอกไม้มาลัย(2535)
  2. ^ a b "ประวัติการร้อยมาลัย". Archived from the original on 2012-09-07. Retrieved 2013-11-13.
  3. ^ จันทนา สุวรรณมาลี. มาลัย.ประเภทของมาลัย(2533)
  4. ^ มหาวิทยาลัยราชภัฎสวนดุสิต. สถาบันภาษา.ดอกไม้กับวิถีชีวิตของคนไทย.มาลัย(2552)
  5. ^ "Thailand's Festivities". Thailand's Festivities. Events Division Tourism Authority of Thailand. Archived from the original on 3 June 2016. Retrieved 23 May 2016.

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