Monday, December 04, 2006

Heart light

Loi Krathong Festival, Anantara Resort, Chiang Saen, Thailand, November 2005, Pentax Optio 555, Exposure 1/15 sec @ f3.6, ISO 200, no flash © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]
Turn on your heartlight
Let it shine whereever you go
Let it make a happy glow
For all the world to see

-- from the song Heartlight, written by Neil Diamond, Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager
I was lucky enought to visit Thailand a while ago. And lucky enough to have headed to the northern area, up near the border with Laos and Burma (now Union of Myanmar). And luckiest still to have been there in November, when Thais hold their "Loi Krathong" festival. Here is a brief explanation:

As the full moon of the twelfth lunar month (usually in mid-November) lights up the night sky, throughout the Thai kingdom, hundreds of thousands of ornately-decorated krathong or traditional banana leaf floats are set adrift in rivers and waterways in a spell-binding ritual called Loi Krathong - the 'festival of lights". This is one of the Kingdom's oldest and best-preserved traditions.

In the Northern Thai provinces that were once part of the ancient Lanna Thai kingdom, the Yi-peng Northern Lantern Festival is still being celebrated. Tubular lanterns, resembling hot air balloons, are lit and released into the night sky as an offering the Lord Buddha. As hundreds of illuminated lanterns drift into infinity, this conjures the same sense of wistful closure as the krathong float downstream.

I had the pleasure of participating in both types of ceremonies, but I must say that the the one pictured in the photo (a close up of the light-weight "balloon" as it lifts itself from its own heat) was most impressive. Throughout the week, different communities would celebrate on different nights, so if you were paying attention, you would see hundreds of flickering lights rising up into the starry sky, each time from a different location. Really beautiful and really moving.

I like to think of it as an expression of compassion offered from one community to all those who can see the slow-dancing heart lights, floating so gently, so peacefully, ever higher. Once released, this compassion will just follow the flow of the evening breeze, and we cannot be sure where it will go, and who will be affected by it.
"Go out into the world today and love the people you meet. Let your presence light new light in the hearts of people."

-- Mother Teresa


Honeybee said...

What a beautiful thing to witness. I close my eyes and imagine the lights rising and the hearts of those who watch fill with delight as a smile spreads across their faces.
I must go to Thailand, I have heard so many wonderful things about the people and places. Thank you for sharing!

Steven Crisp said...

Yes, Honeybee, you've sensed the deep emotion. I would whole-heartedly recommend a visit to Northern Thailand. It was one of my most deeply moving trips -- every day another powerful experience.

And for some reason what "they" say about Thais rang true to me. They are a happy people.

Thanks for the comment. I hope you get to visit soon.