The Navaratri Festival Bangkok 2015

My favorite neighborhood in Bangkok Thailand can be found by going to the intersection of Si Lom Road and Thanon Pan . There you will find a beautiful mixing of cultures in a very small radius. I love the sights, smells and sounds of the area.  The intersection is home to the Sri Maja Mariamman Temple, or as it is known to Thai’s “Wat Khaek.  This beautiful colorful building was built sometime in the mid 1800’s by Tamil immigrants and stands today as a reminder of Thailand’s inclusion and acceptance of other cultures and religions. You’ll know your there when you see a sea of vendors stringing marigolds, fresh fruits and fragrant flowers into beautiful offerings. You’ll be treated to the music and chanting from the temple. If you’re a vegetarian then this is your mecca. There are many excellent vegetarian restraints and food stalls here.

The Navaratri festival is usually held between late September to mid October. The festival lasts for  9 nights and honors the 9 forms of the Hindu goddess Shakti. The last night is marked with a 4 kilometer procession for the temples deities. It starts at the temple gates and makes its way around Si Lom Road through to Sathorn Road and back to the temple where it started. Offerings are made along the way to the goddess by the faithful. It is an amazing sight for someone from the west to behold. I was pretty blown away by the sheer size of the crowds lining the streets. The procession route is decorated with elaborate alters and tributes to the deities and the many forms of the goddess Shakti. The mounds of orchids and marigolds along with the many floral sculptures of Naga woven from banana leaves was overwhelming. Each alter had its own distinctive decor and theme. Most were lit up with colored lights and many had special effects such as smoke and strobing lights. Some featured live musicians playing music behind the scenes. Many offered blessing from the altar builder. Fire was a repeated theme with a few fire eating and fire dancers along the way.

The procession starts with the sounding of horns and everyone on the procession route takes a tight seat on the ground…I kinda freaked out here as I was getting squeezed from all sides and tend to be a bit claustrophobic. First came a rather tall man in a sarong balancing a couple of flaming silver urns on his head while tossing powder out into the crowd that was chanting and holding out their arms as if welcoming the shower of powder.  It was a scene that was pretty dramatic. What followed next was a procession of people pulling huge ropes tied to golden chariots all adorned in flowers and lit up with lights. Inside each chariot was a deity from the temple.  The chariots were headed by men with what looked like tridents or forks stabbed through their cheeks. Unfortunately the crowd was so tight I had to get up and get out of there.  We left and took the back route and checked out the parade from behind the seated masses. The festival went on from sundown to about 11 pm at night. It ends with the arrival of the chariot holding The goddess Shakti returning to the temple gates after all have had a chance to make their offerings to her.

The Navaratri festival is an all out celebration that brings everyone in Bangkok to it. It is colorful party for the senses. Would I ever go again? yes…in a heart beat. Would I sit and watch the procession on the side of the road??? Not in this lifetime. I think the goddess Shakti will forgive my not sitting as she passes by on her procession route. I instead will go and enjoy the beautiful floral alters, watch the procession safely and comfortably from the BTS overpass or better yet at the Mint Tapas bar at the Triple Two Hotel ! Would I recommend this to anyone traveling to Bangkok in October?… Absolutely! It is something you should experience if you find yourself around Bangkok on the 9th month of the Chinese lunar calendar. Does it cost anything to attend? Not a penny unless you choose to make an offering to the temple or the goddess, after all she is the goddess of Death, and she also cures diseases and restores balance to the world after she destroys demons. Pretty cool goddess huh!

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