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Yipeng Festival
History of Yipeng

            The Yipeng or Duenyi Festival is an ancient Lanna festival originating from the time of the 14th Century B.E. in the Haripunchai Kingdom. (Manee Phayomyong, 2007, p. 235, Sanguan Chotsukrat, 1998, p. 115 in Thai).

            On the night of Yipeng, the people prepare containers bearing traditional
offerings of flowers, incense and lit candles and float them in streams and rivers. The glittering reflection of lights on the water looks like the illumination of some sort of jungle spirits called "phi khamot" at night hunting. For this reason, the people call the act of floating the containers "loi phi khamot". (Manee Phayamyong, 2007, p.244).

            There are several legends related to Yipeng. The legends of Yonok and Chamathewi, for example, mention the tradition of Loi Khamot or Loi Fai as an ancient custom. Loi Khamot originated in the Haripunchai (Lamphun) Kingdom around B.E. 1490. A group of ethnic Mon people migrated from Haripunchai due to a cholera outbreak in the town of Satherm and they later went to Pegu.

They stayed there for 6 years before some returned to Haripunchai. Every year, in memory of those who stayed behind in Pegu,whom they greatly missed, they created the tradition of floating a small boat or other kind of container with offerings of flowers

and incense and food and they launched them on the Mae Ping, Mae Kuang and Mae Tha Rivers. That is how the Loi Krathong Festival has been celebrated until now (Saguan Chotsukrat, 1968, 117-118; Silao Katephrom, 1989, p.5851; Prasong Saeng-ngam, personal communication, Nov. 21, 2008).

            According to several palm leaf sermon texts used in Lanna during Yipeng like Anisongprathit, Anisongphangprathit and Anisongyipeng, the reasons for and the expected merit for candlelight worship is explained as follows:
            Anisongprathit has it that after enlightenment, the Lord Buddha went to bless his mother in heaven and then his father. One Yipeng day an angel named Sayama with his followers disguised himself as a bird carrying a candle with its beak and feet flew around the Lord Buddha 3 times in a clockwise direction (prathaksin).
Then a miracle occurred when the light shown over the entire Chomphuthawip (the sub-continent of India). When asked about this, the Lord Buddha preached that the merit of paying respect with light to the three gems could result in the merit makers being born with beautiful complexion and appearance and become well loved by humans and angels. (Udom Rungroengsi, 1999, p.7886)

            The Anisongphangprathit relates the following about the 5 Buddhas, Kokusantha, Konakhama, Kassapa, Kotama (the present Buddha) and Ariyamettai, who were born from 5 eggs of a white crow. One day while the white crow was out looking for food, a big storm swept the nest with five eggs in it down a river. The eggs were saved by a hen,
a naga, a turtle, a cow and a lioness, and were hatched into 5 human male babies. Later their mothers, each said he was looked after by a hen, a naga, a turtle, a cow and a lioness respectively. They became curious about their real mother. So, they prayed and asked to meet their real mother. Then the white crow appeared and told them about their past and said if they missed her, they could roll a cotton string into a three-towed candle wick and light it as an offering on Yipeng day. (Udom Rungroengsi, 1999, p.7890)

             The Anisongyipeng text about floating lights or lanterns (1987) said that when the Lord Buddha resides at Chetawanaram, he preached a sermon of the Jakata about Uttara, a disciple of Konakamana Buddha, who meditated in a cave of Sirithaka Mountain and had a vision that whoever has a chance to make an alms offering to him in the following day would receive great merit.
He also saw in his vision that a poor man was looking forward to making an alms offering. So the following day, he went to the man's dwelling to receive the alms. The man gave him some rice and fried pork rind and prayed that he could be the Ariyamettai Buddha's disciple. Uttara returned to his cave and squeezed the oil out of the pork rind into a candle holder and lit it to pay homage to the Konakhamma Buddha. It happened to be the yipeng month. As soon as he lit the candle, an earthquake occurred. A king named Soka asked the Buddha what caused the quake and the Buddha told him about the poor man and the candle lit by Uttara to pay homage to the Buddha and how great and powerful the merit became.

            The Lord Buddha preached about the great merit of candle light floating and Yipeng to all the monks present. It would result in beautiful complexion and appearance admired by all the angels and men. The person would be free from diseases and be reborn in heaven. Those who float candles in streams, rivers, ponds and lakes to pay homage to the Buddha’s footprint on the bank
of the naga’s underwater kingdom would be reborn in this life as a king with a complexion as glamorous as the moonlight on a full moon night and possess the power to conquer the four continents.  He would also be filled with wisdom, treasures, elephants, horses, cattle and servants and would finally get to heaven.
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