Monday, March 24, 2014

Wat Srisa Thong, Wat Srisathong

Offerings Placed Before Phra Rahu

All my life I have created plans, often alternative contingency plans, and scheduled vacations as well.  Planning and scheduling have served my family and me very well.  When the children were young, our vacations typically consisted of driving to and through several US National Parks each early summer.

Due to the nature of my work there were also many relocations during that time period.  We often took advantage of company paid travel days to extend our vacations.

By planning each day be it strictly traveling or sightseeing, we ensured that we were able to see and do all that we hoped to on each trip.  Having a plan and a schedule associated with the schedule also allowed us to evaluate impacts due to unexpected conditions or events.  Sometimes because of fatigue we would stop driving an hour or two early knowing fully well that our arrival at our intended destination the next day would be 11:00 A.M. or Noon rather than the original plan of 10:00 A.M.  We never had to drive an unplanned amount of time on the last day in order to get home for work or school for the children.  Another benefit of planning and scheduling was that we always saw and did what we had hoped for.  Often we were able to take full advantage of unexpected opportunities along the way because we knew the impact that would have on our plan.

True to form, I had planned and scheduled our recent journey to Nakhon Phathom.  Once again planning and scheduling ensured that we saw and did all that we wanted to.  Once again we were able to enjoy some unexpected opportunities during our trip.

Driving from Udonthani to Nakhon Phatom is roughly 8 hours along several different roads.  I believe that I could have driven it, but I knew that I did not want to be driving the roads of Nakhon Phatom - the narrow back roads often bordered on both sides by canals were bad enough but the "main" roads are feeders into the Bangkok traffic madness and then there would be the issue of finding parking at each of the locations.  We ended up flying down to Bangkok (1 hour) and hiring a vehicle and driver - Duang's ex-husband.  He drives Thai people around the country for a living.  He actually lives in the area so he is familiar with the roads as well as local attractions.  It was a wise decision.

One day we had some extra time, he decided to take us to a special temple - Wat Srisa Thong also spelled as Wat Srisathong - This Is Thailand - there are often several spellings for locations.  I will just refer to it as "Wat Srisathong" and save a keystroke each time.

Wat Srisathong is dedicated to the worship of Rahu, the God of Darkness.  In Thai folklore and legends, Pra Rahu is an immortal giant that periodically eats his brothers the sun and the moon.  Because he is considered to cause eclipses, black is the color associated with Rahu.   In Hinduism Rahu is a malicious planet that if not favourably placed in your astrological chart can cause problems.  Rahu is also able to give financial blessings, power over others, and success in legal matters.  Amulets can give protection from Rahu's bad effects and making offerings to him can appease him and solicit his blessings.  In Thailand his devotees venerate him for financial success, good luck, and protection.

Offerings To Rahu

Because the number "8" is associated with Phra Rahu, offerings to him are in packages of eight items.

Because "black" is Phra Rahu's color, the eight items are black.

The eight items comprising an offering are:  Black Grapes, Black Liquor, Black Coffee, Black Jelly, Black Beans, Black Sticky Rice, Black Thai Cake, and Black Fermented Eggs.  The Wat sells prepared offering packages to devotees.

Like the large sign at the entrance to the new hexagon shaped sala says:

Black Grapes mean good business
Black Liquor means courage to risk of investing
Black Coffee means you will get whatever you wish for
Black Jelly or Shoa Guay means patience and careful thought
Black Beans mean progress
Black Sticky Rice means wealth and love from family
Black thai Cake means rewards, success and good luck
Black Fermented Eggs mean successful contact or errands

Besides making the standard package offerings to Rahu, devotees and at least one falang (foreigner) pay dancers to perform as an offering to Rahu.  The dancers perform Lakhon Chatri - a traditional dance drama with very graceful, and sensual movements.  The hands and the upper body are used extensively to express emotions.

Lakhon Chatri Dancers Performing

I have seen Lakhon Chatri dancers at Wat Sothon and we hired dancers at Bangkok's Erawan Shrine in appreciation for Duang being approved for a US Green Card.

Dancing In Front of Phra Rahu
I occupied myself photographing the dancers while Duang was elsewhere in the sala making offerings to the 8 statues of Buddha.

Nakhon Chatri Dancers

Duang joined me after completing her worship and together we enjoyed the grace and beauty of the Lakhon Chatri.  Life is often punctuated by unexpected moments that touch our soul.  Watching traditional Thai dancing is such a moment for us.

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