The Ploughing Festival
The Ploughing Festival is also known as the Royal Ploughing Ceremony. It is an ancient tradition observed in Theravada countries such as Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand to mark the beginning of the rice growing season. This tradition, which has Hindu and Buddhist origins is intended to honour farmers and to bless the plants as well as the ceremonial start to the new rice growing season.
The Ploughing Festival originated from the time when Prince Siddhartha Gautama was seven years old. The Ploughing Festival was organised by King Sudhodana to promote agriculture and was a merry event. The Ploughing Festival also marked the time when Prince Siddhartha was on the verge of his first Enlightenment.
Ploughing Festival falls on a half-full moon day. The date of the Ploughing Festival is determined by astrological observations and announced by the Bureau of the Royal Household. In Myanmar, the Ploughing Festival marks the beginning of the Buddhist Lent in the Burmese month of Waso, which occurs between June and July. The Buddhist Lent is a three-month annual retreat observed by Theravada Buddhists
The joyful festival normally involves two pious white oxen pulling a gold-painted plough, followed by four girls dressed in white, dispersing rice seeds from gold and silver baskets. In Cambodia and Thailand, where this festival is celebrated with full enthusiasm, a monarch presides over the festivities. In some cases, he even guides the plough behind the oxen.