By Vorasit Satienlerk
BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand’s royal oxen predicted a good harvest in an annual ploughing ceremony on Thursday, as the world’s second-largest rice exporter heads into a new growing season.
The ceremony – an ancient Brahmin ritual that heralds the start of the season in May – was presided over by newly crowned King Maha Vajiralongkorn and his queen, whom he married last week before the coronation at the weekend.
Draped in red and gold, a pair of light-skinned royal oxen, named “Perm” and “Poon”, which together form the word “multiply” in Thai, pulled a plough round a ceremonial field nine times, accompanied by court Brahmins and government officials.
Then they were presented with seven food items, with court astrologers interpreting their choices as a pointer to the country’s harvest.
“This year, the royal oxen ate rice, predicting bountiful grains and fruits,” said farm ministry official Meesak Pakdeekong, as he read the interpretation.
“They also had water and grass, predicting good water and bountiful grains, food, fruits and meat.”
Thai culture is influenced by Hindu beliefs in which the white bull Nandi is revered as the vehicle of the god Shiva.
Hundreds of Thais watched the ceremony from outside the field, and broke through fences at the end of the ritual to scramble for grains of rice scattered during the event.
One spectator, Janya Chokechalerm, said she left her niece to run across the field, just managing to grab three grains.
“This is the first time in my life, I’m so happy,” she said.
Many farmers who travelled to the capital to attend the ceremony believe the rice grains to be blessed.
“I will worship these sacred rice grains and I will give some to my relatives and neighbours, because they are considered auspicious,” said another watcher, Somkid Janchompoo.
“We worship it so that we will be blessed and will never starve.”
(Writing by Patpicha Tanakasempipat; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)