The rice-planting season in Thailand usually starts in May, with two royal ceremonies held in Bangkok marking the official opening of the season.
The two unique royal ceremonies are the Royal Cultivating Ceremony and the Royal Ploughing Ceremony. His Majesty the King, or his representative, presides over the two ceremonies each year.
In 2012, the Royal Cultivating Ceremony has been scheduled for May 8 and the Royal Ploughing Ceremony for May 9. The Royal Cultivating Ceremony, or the ceremony for fertility of the crops, takes place at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha within the Grand Palace, where rice seeds and agricultural implements to be used in the Royal Ploughing Ceremony are blessed through religious rites.
The Royal Ploughing Ceremony takes place at the Sanam Luang ceremonial site in the following morning, with a colorful procession. Thailand has conducted the annual Royal Ploughing Ceremony since the Sukhothai period, more than 700 years ago. The organizing of the full-scale ceremony was abandoned after 1936, but in 1960, His Majesty the King suggested the re-introduction of the Ploughing Ceremony, regarded as an event to boost the morale of Thai farmers and one supposed to ensure an abundant harvest and sufficient rain.
In the ceremony, the Lord of the Harvest, who is a high-ranking official from the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, leads the procession of the “celestial maidens” and a pair of oxen, while circumambulating across the symbolic ground. Walking along the plough are also white-clad Brahmans blowing conch shells. The Lord of the Harvest selects one of three pieces of scarlet cloth of varying lengths. His choice predicts the amount of rainfall for the coming planting season. Then the seeds blessed earlier are cast into furrows, from where they are gathered by farmers, who regard them as auspicious and keep them to mix with seeds to be used in cultivating their own fields.
When the ploughing is over, the oxen are presented with seven offerings, namely paddy, hay, corn, sesame, mung bean, water, and liquor. The animals’ first choices serve as means to predict the harvest of the next season.
In 1966, the Royal Ploughing Day was designated by the Cabinet National Farmers Day to boost the morale of Thai farmers. Since then, both occasions have been celebrated together to underline the importance of farmers and the rice culture in Thai life.
On National Farmers Day, awards are presented to outstanding farmers, farmers’ organizations, cooperatives, and wise men in the field of agriculture. The annual award presentation is meant to honor farmers and related organizations for their achievements and contribution to the country’s agriculture, especially rice production, one of the strengths of Thailand.