Buffalo Racing Festival is an expression of attachment between Thai people and buffalo.
Once upon a time, buffalo is a helper of Thai farmers by helping to plough the field and with rice farming for months during the planting season. And in order to repay it, on the day of waxing gibbous (in a night before full moon) of the eleventh month in lunar calendar, the people will clean up their buffalo and beautify them with some colorful gauze and beads to perform a ceremony of encouragement. They will stop all of work in the fields and take their buffalo to the city to relax and meet their friends.
Buffalo Racing is kind of traditional sport that is very important for Thailand. It is an expression of attachment between Thai people and buffalo that is an animal used in many kinds of agricultural work and is invaluable for this country. When it is free time from work, the people will bring their buffalo for racing in order to strengthen them by riding on its back to control. Nevertheless, there is no evidence to prove when it started just some clues that it might have started around Ayutthaya era.
About the Festival
In the early part of the Rattanakosin era around the time of king Rama1 and Rama2 evidence of Buffalo Racing is found in The Story of Phra Abhai Mani, the wedding celebration of Prince Srisuwan and Princess Kessara chapter. And later in the time of king Rama4 it is found that buffalo racing is popular for gambling as well and there was even a gambling tax for this by law.
Today, Buffalo Racing is still popular especially one taking place in Chonburi province which has been organized continuously during the period before the end of Buddhist lent since the past. Mainly, the event takes place at the municipality and Ban Bueng district of Chonburi province. In the past, it was only the local people who knew about this, but it has expanded until it has become a symbolic traditional event of Chonburi province and more well-known both locally and internationally. This is one of the remarkable traditions of Chonburi that has been organized for more than a century.
When does It Occur?
The Buffalo Racing is an annual tradition taking place on the 14th waxing gibbous of the 11th month. It follows the lunar system or a day before the end of Buddhist lent in order to perform a ceremony of encouragement and a time to rest for the buffalo after a long period of hard work in the fields. Besides, the Buffalo Racing is also the expression of gratefulness to the animal which is a helper for farmers. Thus, Thai and the people can take this occasion to relax and meet their friends at the event too. Further, unless there is a Buffalo Racing feast there will be an epidemic disease that year.
During former times, the Buffalo Racing was related to mysticism in that those whose buffalo were sick, the owner should bring it to pray toward the angels. And once it recovered they should bring their buffalo to race as redemption to the god or angels. Therefore, the year after the residents have brought the buffaloes to race it will prevent any disease.
Where is the Buffalo Racing Festival taking place?
On the one hand, according to the Buddhist belief the villagers will gather at the temple called “Wat Yai In Ta Ram”, Chonburi province. They bring the offering to the monks by yoking on the buffalo to make merit for the great sermon. While waiting for the ceremony, the plowboys take their buffaloes to wash at the pond within the temple. And of course, many of them when they see each other will make the challenge to race the buffaloes happen. This is to test their healthiness and strength. At the beginning the racing was just to control the buffaloes to run within an appointed distance. Later, it had been developed continuously into racing around the market.
Once a day before the end of Buddhist lent the residents will attend this contest as an audience. The buffaloes that are the contestants have been more beautified with decorations and ornaments, and finally becomes a Buffaloes Racing Fest. The event taking place a day before the end of Buddhist lent or a day before the full moon day of the eleventh month following to the lunar calendar. The reason to choose this day because it is a Buddhist sabbath which is day-off for everyone in order to make merit at the temple.
Moreover, the Buffalo Racing is not a sort of trivial matter. There are is contiguity, gratefulness and kindness enclosed within this activity since from the past. An older generation concerned about gratefulness and acknowledge to a favor that any cattle work for them so then this tradition has been transferred abidingly.
Get to know about the Buffalo Racing
Initially, the Buffalo Racing is a kind of riding contest. Each contestant rides on the buffalo’s back and stands by behind the starting point. Once they hear the sound to start the race they control the buffalo to run as fast as it can to reach the goal. And there only a few rules that were used which were that the riders must control the buffalo to run along the appointed lane. And the riders must stay only on the buffalo’s back and are not allowed to get off before the contest is finished.
Nowadays, the owner will decorate their buffaloes beautifully. They put on the costume like tribal, redskin, or decorate with the ornaments and accessories like a hero in Thai folk opera. Then take the buffaloes to the racing together with the owners on their back. The amusing part is weird movement of the buffaloes or some riders fall off the back and a sound to cheer up from around the ground. And there is a Healthy buffalo contest, Buffalo contest in beauty and funny, and the “Sao Ban Na” or country girl contest. These are added in the fest to make this event have more variety in activities.
So, this is a pleasant time for the farmers as it is the harvest period and a rest time for their cattle from working for months. And it is a time to hang out and exchange their knowledge regarding a planting and raising the livestock.
The Characteristics of the Buffalo Racing
- Thai buffalo is cattle that is used multi-purpose especially in agriculture. Buffalo is one of the Thai national animal and invaluable. The Buffalo Racing is the way to express the attachment among Thai farmer, Thai buffalo and rice farming of Thai.
- Thai Buffalo Racing has its history for more than 250 years, at least from the evidence shown that it took place since the Ayutthaya era.
- The means of buffalo racing is unique from other nations.
- Presently, there is still racing taking place particularly one in Chonburi which is well-known all around the world.
The benefits of the Buffalo Racing event
- Physical: It will help in developing to strengthen arms, body, hip, legs, and well balance of body.
- Mind: It will help in making joyfulness, liveliness.
- Emotion: It will enhance the stability of emotion.
- Intellect: It will enhance the process of thinking, planning, decision making, problem solving, and creativity.
- Social: It will help in practice oneself to respect and follow the rules and accept others capability, friendship, spirit of sport.
- Cultural: It will help in learning the way of life between man and buffalo. The important of buffalo toward the Thai agriculture.