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City life prolonging ceremony, 1962.
Boonserm Satrabhaya
City life prolonging

...Chao Phya Sam Fang Kaen had all the wisemen and prophets come together...He declared that the city was in crisis… We all should come to perform worship for the city’s fortune. Then we should worship the “sari”, “techa” and the “ayu mueang”. Then the guardians of the city such as Phya Mangrai. And then we will worship the rulers of the four realms and the god Indra… Have the high monk say the prayer for blessings and perform the water offering rite to pass the alms to all guardian gods and angels of the city…

The above text was about the first city life prolonging ceremony held after the Yunnanese army attacked Chiang Mai and Chiang Saen around 1402-03. This kind of ritual ceremony is performed when the city is in a bad situation. During Phrachao Kawila’s rule (1774-1782) in 1825 the following omen occurred; toads marched through the Chiang Mai Gate, cranes fought at Chaeng Si Phum, vultures and crows flew above the city, a number of people had diarrhea. The omen revealed that the city was in crisis, so Phrachao Kawila had a ceremony set up to worship and chase the crisis away. He called 108 monks to chant the auspicious prayers around the city for seven days.

The two city life prolonging ceremonies above explain the meaning of the city alms offering of life prolonging ceremony. It was a ceremony held in order to worship the spirits or guardians of the city so the city would pass through the crisis and not collapse and for the people to live happily.

At present, the Municipality holds the ceremony annually during the eight or ninth month of the northern calendar at around the end of May or the beginning of June. The ceremonies are held at the center point of the city, city gates and corners, a total of 10 sites. Worship of the ruler of the four realms, guardian spirits and city protecting powers is set up with 108 monks leading the rites.

The continuation of the ceremony reflects that the belief in spirits and protecting supernatural powers of the city is firm. People still believe that they remain everywhere and protect the people in the city to live peacefully. The most powerful ones are the “Suea Mueang” or “Arak Mueang” or that some people call the rulers’ spirits. They are the most powerful. The Northerners believe that they are the spirits of significant royalties who had passed away. For example Phya Mang Rai the founder of the Mang Rai Dynasty. These ancestral spirits protect and control the peace and all that remain in the city: human, livestock, fields, mountains, forests and rivers. The highest of these is Chao Luang Kham Daeng who resides at Doi Chiang Dao. His worship is however done by a setting up a feast offering at the spirit house at Chaeng Si Phum or the North-eastern corner of the city walls.

Mani Payomyong. (1990). Prapheni sipsong duean Lanna Thai
(Lanna Thai twelve months ceremonies). (2nd ed.).
Chiang Mai: So. Sapkanphim.

Sanguan Chotirat. (1973). Tamnan phuen mueang Chiang Mai
(Chiang Mai folk legends). Pranakhon: Historical Publication
Committee, Office of the Prime Minister.
Chiang Mai University Library
Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai University. Information Technology Service Center
Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai University, Funder
Usanee Thongchai, Advisor and project expert
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