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頂禮膜拜

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In Thailand, an enchanting offering of dance serves as repayment for answered prayers在泰國,人們以精采的還願舞蹈酬謝神恩 WALK PAST BANGKOK’S

Erawan Shrine and you’ll likely hear it: a high-pitched xylophone tone and hypnotic chanting. This is the signal that a gae-bon dance is about to start. And at the famous shrine, the dance happens hundreds of times a day, rain or shine, with a troupe of classical dancers and musicians always ready to perform.

Gae-bon is a ceremony to help worshipers commune with Phra Phrom, the Thai equivalent of the four-faced Hindu god Brahma, depicted in the magnificent statue at the centre of the shrine. But more than that, it’s intended as an offering, made in gratitude once the gods have heard a prayer and fulfilled a wish. Most Thais, even those who don’t consider themselves religious or superstitious, will have at some time knelt before a Buddha statue or a Hindu shrine and asked for divine assistance, promising in turn to make an offering and otherwise make merit if their wish is granted. Most commonly, they might ask to be admitted to a prestigious school, for help in closing a business deal or for a baby to come into their lives.

In exchange, depending on their financial abilities, they might promise to present the gods with a feast or a treasured possession or a giant garland of flowers, or they might offer to perform a ceremonial dance themselves.

But for the many worshippers who promise an offering of dance, they do not have to perform it themselves. Instead, there are adept musicians and dancers available for hire. The fee depends on how many are employed. Lasting two to five minutes, a gae-bon dance is usually performed by two to eight veteran dancers. The music is a traditional song with highly devotional lyrics. The worshippers who commission the performance customarily sit in front of the troupe during the performance, and their names are sung at the outset to announce to the god who has come to fulfil their vow.

The bandleader chooses the song from a repertoire of about 50, but all are equally sacred. It’s not uncommon for the dancers on peak days to perform hundreds of times, non-stop from morning until late evening. The shimmering costumes, slow steps and elegant hand movements are enough to mesmerise its human audiences and perhaps, as the devout hope, the divine.

走過曼谷

的伊拉旺神壇﹙華人多稱為四面佛,實為印度的四面神﹚,只要聽到尖細的木琴聲伴隨著虔誠的頌歌,我便會知道新一輪的還願舞又開始了。

不論晴天或雨天,大批傳統舞孃和樂手都會準備好一天進行數百次的還願儀式,協助信眾與四面 神交流,而這位泰國版的印度天神「梵天」,則以莊嚴的法相安坐神壇中央。

還願旨在酬謝神恩,答謝天神應允信眾所求。大部分泰國人即使不是篤信神佛,也會跪拜佛像或印度神壇,尋求神明幫助,並承諾願望成真後報答神恩和行善積德。最普遍的祈求包括考入一流學府、交易成功或迎接小生命。

信眾可按自己的財政能力酬神。他們可答應向四面神獻上豐富祭品、珍貴信物或巨型花環,或在神明前跳舞還願。

不過,承諾跳舞還願的信眾毋須親自上陣,因為現場有很多熟練的樂手和舞孃代勞,費用視乎表演者的人數而定。還願舞一般長兩至五分鐘,由二至八位資深舞孃表演。音樂是傳統樂曲配上虔誠禱詞。委託舞孃代勞的信眾按習俗在表演期間坐在舞樂團的跟前。表演開始時,樂隊會頌唱信眾的名字,告知神明信徒前來履行承諾。

樂隊領班會從約50首曲目中挑選表演歌曲,每首同樣神聖莊嚴。舞孃在還願高峰期每天往往「出動」數百次,從早到晚馬不停蹄地落力演出。她們金光閃閃的舞衣、節奏緩慢的舞步,以及動作優美的手舞能讓萬千觀眾為之傾倒,或許信眾更希望表演能討神明歡喜。

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