Planting the seeds of modern and traditional Thainess

Ancient and modern versions of Thainess were on display last week as His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn presided over the traditional Royal Plowing Ceremony in Bangkok, while the Tourism Authority of Thailand released its first virtual reality video promoting Thai boxing, Thai dancing and the Thai way of life that tourists can experience if they travel to the Kingdom.
Farmers from the far corners of the Kingdom traveled many hours to the capital to witness the Royal Plowing Ceremony, a centuries old Brahmin ritual in which the fate of the coming year’s rice crop is foretold by sacred white oxen at the start of the rice-farming season. At the ceremony’s conclusion, the farmers dashed and scrambled to gather up the rice seedlings that had been blessed by His Majesty the King and Brahmin priests and spread into the furrows plowed by the oxen across the Royal Field.
Rice is central to Thainess and Thai culture, as in times gone by the very survival of the Thai people depended on a bountiful harvest of rice, their staple food. As far back as the, year 1292, when the Thai Kingdom was known as Sukhothai, King Ramkamhaeng described prosperous times by writing “this land is thriving. There are fish in the water and rice in the fields.”
While the farmers of today still regard the seedlings blessed by the King as sacred, their strong yields and fragrant flavor are actually the result of years of painstaking research and development conducted by the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej at his palace in Bangkok and in fields around the Kingdom.
His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn gave his blessings to the Brahmin priests as royal guards dressed in 17th-century-style vermillion uniforms led two sacred white oxen onto Sanam Luang, the Royal Field in front of the old Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in the old quarter of Bangkok.
The oxen were presented with trays of seven different types of food. This year they chose to eat the rice, and drank both water and liquor. The rice and water signified that harvests would be bountiful and water would be plentiful. The liquor foretold economic prosperity and thriving trade with foreign countries.
Visitors from foreign countries are the target audience of the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s (TAT) first virtual reality film released last week. The ‘Amazing VR’ short documentary promotes the richness of Thai cultural heritage and the uniqueness of the Thai way of life.
“We definitely hope that Amazing VR will attract more international tourists to become interested and make a trip and sense this impressive experience in Thailand by themselves, and also to continually activate the Thai tourism industry,” said Yuthasak Supason, governor of the TAT.