Unique Thailand: Bathing a goddess in Songkhla

Made from gold 300 years ago, this statue of the goddess is bathed once a year, a chance to make wishes & promises to the goddess.



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Bathing the statue of Chao Mae Yu-hua

Songkhla

No matter where they live or work, the natives of Ban Tha Kura in Sathing Phra district of the province return home to attend the annual bathing rites for the tiny 2x2.5m but highly revered image of goddess Chao Mae Yu-hua enshrined at Wat Tha Kura.

Cast in gold 300 years ago, it is kept in a round container in nine layers of cloth of different colours.

On the first Wednesday of May her followers, their wishes granted, descend in hordes to make good on pledges made to the deity, which vary from person to person: some pledge flowers, others to enter monkhood but the most common by far is a performance of the native manohra dance, for it is also supposed to be the deity's favourite.

But it must be performed in an authentic manner, meaning the stage must face in the right direction to the spirit house and the offerings being made on the day. And the entire sequence is repeated the following two days. It may come as a surprise to outsiders why it takes so much effort to appease a statue this tiny.

But why not? After all, it is the spiritual heart of Songkhla.

TRAVEL INFO

Sathing Phra district is around 900 kilometres south of Bangkok. It can be reached via Highway 408

Call TAT Hat Yai Office at 074-231-005

(Source: Bangkok Post, Off the beaten track, Bathing the statue of Chao Mae Yu-hua, Songkhla, 28,/12/2012, link)


Southern Thai Buddhist Traditions Vocabulary

tradition - a very old belief, story or event that a group of people have ประเพณี
Buddhist traditions
Southern Thai Buddhist Traditions

manohra dance - the dance that Southern Thailand is famous for (See  Facebook & YouTube & Wikipedia)
 
spirit house - in Thailand the small house on a post outside homes, a shrine to the protective spirits of a place ศาลพระภูม ิ(See Wikipedia)
shrine - a religious place that holds a special image or object or to remember a holy person or event ศาล, ที่เทพารักษ์สถิต

statue - รูปปั้น
bathing the statue of Chao Mae Yu-hua

no matter where - anywhere, every place, any place
natives - people who are from a place (born and grew up in that place)
native - someone who was born in a particular place ชาวพื้นเมือง

annual - happening once a year ประจำปี
rites - a traditional ceremony, especially a religious one พิธี
annual bathing rites

goddess - a female god or spirit that people believe in and worship as part of heir religion ทพธิดา (example: Goddess of Mercy เจ้าแม่กวนอิม, เทพเจ้าแห่งความเมตตา)

image - a picture, photo or statue of a person or thing (that looks like them, resembles them, their likeness)
the image of the goddess

revered
- many people have great respect for it
revered image
highly revered image - an image that many people have much respect for

attend -
go to some event, be part of some event
attend the annual bathing rites for the image of goddess

enshrined - when some object or image of religious importance is placed in a special religious place (with ceremony or ritual) 
the tiny 2x2.5m but highly revered image of goddess Chao Mae Yu-hua enshrined at Wat Tha Kura.

No matter where they live or work, the natives of Ban Tha Kura in Sathing Phra district of the province return home to attend the annual bathing rites for the tiny 2x2.5m but highly revered image of goddess Chao Mae Yu-hua enshrined at Wat Tha Kura.

cast
- หล่อ, เทลงในแม่พิมพ์ให้ขึ้นเป็นรูป
cast in gold
cast in gold 300 years ago

grant - officially give ให ้
wish - something that you want to have in the future

grant wish - give you the thing you wished for
wishes granted

hordes - large numbers of people or animals
descend in
hordes - come to a place in large numbers

deity - a god or goddess พระเจ้า,เทวดา,เทพ

pledge
- 1. a promise ; 2. to make a serious promise to do something สัญญา
pledges made to the deity - promises made to a god or goddess

make good on - keep your promise (do what you said you would do)
make good on pledges made to the deity

vary - are different
vary from person to person - each person is different

the followers fo the goddess, their wishes granted, descend in hordes to make good on pledges made to the deity, which vary from person to person: some pledge flowers, others to enter monkhood

native dance - a dance from a certain place (a dance "native" to a place)
the native manohra dance

performance when people do a dance or play music or something on a stage in front a large number of people (audience) การแสดง
a performance of the native manohra dance

favourite - the thing liked the most ชอบมากที่สุด
the deity's favourite - the thing that the god or goddess likes the most

supposed to be
supposed to be the deity's favourite.

common -
see or happening often or frequently
the most common -
happening to most often
the most common by far - happening the most often (far more than all others)

the most common by far is a performance of the native manohra dance, for it is also supposed to be the deity's favourite.

authentic -
real and true; not fake
manner - way วิธีการ
authentic manner - doing something in the true and right way (the way it should be done)

performed
performed in an authentic manner

stage - an area raised up in front of many people (audience) so they can see people acting, dancing, playing music, etc เวที
the stage must face in the right direction to the spirit house

offering
- something you give as part of a religous ceremony or ritual ของบูชา, เครื่องเส้น, ของถวาย
make offerings

it must be performed in an authentic manner, meaning the stage must face in the right direction to the spirit house and the offerings being made on the day.

sequence  - series, many things happening, first one then the other then the other and so on ลำดับ
repeated -
done many times, one after another ...
the entire sequence is repeated the following two days.

It may come as a surprise ... - what I will tell you now may be surprising ....
outsiders - person not belonging to the group (who does not know what is going on in the group)

appease - to say or do something in order to make someone feel less angry ปลอบใจ หรือทำให้เป็นที่พอใจ
appease a statue - make the goddess that the statue represents so that she is not angry

effort - the energy and enthusiasm that people put into achieving their goals  ความพยายาม
it takes so much effort to appease a statue this tiny.

It may come as a surprise
to outsiders why it takes so much effort to appease a statue this tiny.

why not? - meaning: let's do it (no reason not to do it)

spiritual heart - the spiritual center 
spiritual heart of Songkhla

after all, .... -
it does seem reasonable and make sense, we would expect it for the following reason ....
After all, it is the spiritual heart of Songkhla.

About the author

columnist
Writer: Jon Fernquest
Position: Online Writer