Feed­ing the hun­gry ghosts in the South

SOLEMN RIT­U­ALS MIX WITH HAPPY CEL­E­BRA­TIONS AS SOUTH­ERN THAIS LAY ON A BAN­QUET FOR THEIR AN­CES­TORS

The Nation - - FRONT PAGE -

BUD­DHISTS IN the South are re­con­nect­ing with their an­ces­tors this month in rites and cel­e­bra­tions that are unique in Thai­land. Le­gend in Nakhon Si Tham­marat province has it that dur­ing the 10th lu­nar month, the souls of de­ceased an­ces­tors are freed to visit their rel­a­tives in the hu­man world.

Be­liev­ers say that dur­ing the pe­riod from the 1st to the 15th day of the wan­ing moon, their an­ces­tors jour­ney back to earth from the other realm. Liv­ing de­scen­dants make merit for the spir­its by mak­ing of­fer­ings of food to monks and vis­it­ing tem­ples.

The fes­ti­val cul­mi­nates with a cer­e­mony known as Ching Pret – snatch­ing food from the hun­gry ghost – which kicks off with pro­ces­sions where the liv­ing mix with the dead, rep­re­sented by peo­ple in ghostly cos­tumes. Pret are the rest­less spir­its torn vi­o­lently from life and now wan­der­ing the other realm starved of peace.

Their liv­ing de­scen­dants place food out on high poles so that Pret can reach it. The monks, mean­while, pray for the spir­its and their fi­nal rest.

When Pret ap­petites are sat­is­fied, vil­lagers and their chil­dren rush up the poles to snatch the sa­cred Ching Pret leftovers.

Pho­tos by Prasert Thep­sri, Cha­roon Thongnual, Korb­phuk Phrom­rekha, Nakharin Chin­na­wornko­mol

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