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Some features of the Bun Khoun Khoan Khao festival of Lao people

Laos is a country of festivals because Lao people have festivals throughout twelve months of the year. Traditional festivals play a very important role in the cultural and spiritual life of the Lao people. Festivals are important occasions to perform folk rituals, associated with spiritual, religious and belief culture, typical of each ethnic group and region, with many important meanings. In this article, we introduce to readers a festival of the Lao people, which is the Bun Khoun Khoan Khao festival of the Phu Thai people, Songkhone district, Savannakhet province.

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Bun Khoun Khoan Khao festival of Phu Thai people, Songkhone district, Savannakhet province

According to statistics in the research work of author Loungfa Khantivong "Changing festivals in Laos: From innovation (1986) through the case of the Bun Khoun Khoan Khao festival of the Phu Thai people, Songkhone district, Savannakhet province", the Phu people Thai in Savanakhet only accounts for 15% of the province's population structure, most of which are concentrated in Songkhone district, often living in community with the Tay and Bru people. They are mainly farmers, using traditional farming methods of slash and burn and terraced fields. The Phu Thai people speak the Southwest Tay language used in Laos and Thailand. So far, they still maintain the custom of self-producing and wearing traditional clothes in their daily activities, although they have been simplified to suit their work, called sin-chok. As for beliefs, according to a survey by the Earth System, the main religion of the Phu Thai people in Songkhone is Buddhism with animism accounting for 96%, the rest are Christians and Catholics.

History of the formation of Bun Khoun Khoan Khao festival

In the spiritual culture of the Phu Thai people, the Rice Goddess Nang Khosop is worshiped by people to pray for an abundant harvest throughout the year. This goddess is also known as Mae Khwan Khao, originating as a deity in ancient Thai folk legends.

According to legend, Nang Khosop is a beautiful girl living among lush rice fields nurtured by humans. But one day, a nefarious king caused a famine by hoarding all the people's rice in exchange for gold, elephants, and other luxury goods for himself. During the difficult days of famine, an old slave couple accidentally met a hermit in the forest. They earnestly asked the hermit to petition Nang Khosop to distribute rice to the people, but the rice goddess was angry and refused. The hermit then, fearing for the future of Buddhism, punished Nang Khosop and turned her into many small pieces. As a result, pieces from Nang Khosop's body fell to earth and became many different types of rice such as black rice, white rice, hard rice (khau chao) and sticky rice. The old couple taught people how to grow these new types of rice with small seeds and spread Buddhist doctrines. Since then, people's lives have become more prosperous thanks to knowing how to grow and live on rice. That's why every year, after the end of the harvest, people harvest the rice they have sown, pile it into a high rice tower and pray to Khosop, hoping that the next year will be prosperous again.

Bun Khoun Khoan Khao Festival has many different names such as harvest praying festival, new rice festival, rice wining festival... To explain the name of this festival, the word bun is a common noun for festivals, the word khoun in Khoun Khoan Khao, means doubled, khoan is soul, khao means rice, containing the gratitude of the people to Khoun Khao's mother and the people's wishes for an even better harvest next year. Bun Khoun Khoan Khao Festival is an agricultural ritual held annually, passed down by Phu Thai people for many generations and has an important meaning in the spiritual life of the people.

Main rituals in the Bun Khoun Khoan Khao festival

The main ceremony in the Bun Khoun Khoan Khao festival of the Phu Thai people includes three main rituals: The ritual to invite the gods implemented by the celebrant or the person presiding over the worshiping ceremony, called Quan Cham, will invite the gods in charge of the fields to come and receive the celebration prepared in cà thông, at the same time, they will pray that God will continue to protect people's crops to have an even better harvest next year. Sacrifice ritual is the offering of food, objects, or animal or human life to a higher purpose, especially to a deity, as an act of favor or worship. Sou kwan or Baci - Tying threads on the wrist: In the beliefs of the Phu Thai people in particular and Lao people in general, sou kwan or baci is a very important and prominent ritual in spiritual life and is often held in major events in the community and in a person's life. As for the Phu Thai people, they also have their own explanation about the purpose and meaning of the souk wan ritual to their ethnic community. They believe that the kwans in humans are easily lost from the effects of trauma and afflictions both physically and mentally. But shamans and monks can restore these kwans with a wrist thread tying ritual. The thread is like a limit that the kwan is not allowed to defeat. From a community perspective, Phu Thai people believe that the custom of tying wrist threads represents solidarity and attachment between people in the community and the wish for health and peace.

Festival part of Bun Khoun Khoan Khao festival

The festival begins after the master of ceremonies declares the end of the ceremony. The festival part of the Khoun Khoan Khao festival before the reform stage was very simple and did not have many entertainment activities, mainly focusing on two activities: entertainment, singing and dancing through folk performances and organizing communal meals of the community.

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Praying for an abundant harvest

For folk performance, "homegrown" mor lam performances will be performed. The performers are simply farmers in the area, but wear more colorful and attractive stylized clothes, makeup and perform labor songs and folk melodies of their people. Mor lam is a popular form of folk music in Laos, Thailand and Cambodia, combining music, poetry, everyday sayings with performing arts.

Regarding festival cuisine, the highlight of the festival is a giant party with food made from local products and rice cooked from newly harvested rice. Party preparation activities involve the participation of the entire community, regardless of whether boys or girls, the elderly or children. Therefore, it can be said that this is a highly cohesive community activity.