The fes­ti­val runs over three days in the sixth month of the lu­nar cal­en­dar (May–june)

Asian Geographic - - Southeast Asia -

More com­monly known as the Rocket Fes­ti­val, this three-day event is held at the be­gin­ning of the wet sea­son in the hope of bring­ing good rains. Like its name sug­gests, the fes­ti­val in­volves the prepa­ra­tion and launch of home­made rock­ets, which are made by stuff­ing dec­o­rated bam­boo (lined with PVC pipe) with gun­pow­der.

Sacred cer­e­monies take place on the first and sec­ond days, with dancing in elab­o­rate masks and clothes, and pray­ers for rain. There’s also of­ten a com­pet­i­tive pro­ces­sion of floats.

The real ac­tion kicks off on the third day, as vil­lagers from the dif­fer­ent com­mu­ni­ties con­verge on the district launch­ing site for the rocket con­test. Scores are as­cribed to each performance based on sev­eral key cri­te­ria: the best rocket dec­o­ra­tion, the height of the launch, and the level of en­ter­tain­ment for the gath­ered crowd. The suc­cess of the rock­ets is also judged by whether they make a loud bang and pro­duce an im­pres­sive plume of smoke. The com­pe­ti­tion is fierce: If the team fails to launch their rocket, they’re pun­ished with a down­down of muddy wa­ter – or satho (lo­cal rice whiskey). The win­ning team gains much pres­tige and ad­mi­ra­tion.

The ori­gin of this fes­ti­val is thought to date back to pre-bud­dhist times, de­rived from an an­cient fer­til­ity rite that was held to en­cour­age rain. Once gun­pow­der ar­rived on the scene, things got a bit more in­ter­est­ing: Some lo­cals be­lieve that the rock­ets help to “pierce holes in the clouds” to bring on the rains, while oth­ers sug­gest that the loud bangs of the rock­ets rouse the rain god from slum­ber.


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