Besides being well-known to tourists for its Phi Ta Khon Festival, Amphoe Dan Sai in Loei Province is also the location of a revered holy shrine for residents of Loei and the neighboring provinces, the Si Song Rak Holy Relic. Visitors to Amphoe Dan Sai would normally stop over to pay homage to the pagoda of the holy relic for auspices in their lives.
The Si Song Rak Holy Relic is an ancient archeological site, aged over 400 years. According to the legend, the shrine was built in the reign of King Maha Chakraphat of Ayutthaya which coincided with that of King Xetthathirat of Sri Satya Naga Nhut of Lanxang Kingdom in the year 1560, and completed in the year 1563. It was meant as evidence of good cordial ties between the two kings in the defense against the invading Burmese forces led by King Tabinshweti and his successor King Bayinnaung. The two kings vowed in front of the holy shrine not to violate each other’s territorial integrity. The pagoda was built on a mound by the Man River, at a point presumed to be at the middle between the Mekong and the Nan River, serving as the border checkpoint between the two kingdoms, as stated in the inscription that “The Si Mahathat pagoda was built and dedicated as a uniting force of the two lands, and as the border mark at equidistance of the Mekong and the Nan River”. The shrine is in Lanxang art form, the pagoda built in brick and stucco, about 33 meters high, with a symmetric base, 8 meters a side.
This holy shrine is held sacred by local people through faith inherited since ancient times. They have kept coming to the shrine before embarking on a travel or starting a task to pray for protection from diseases and various dangers. They come back again at the completion of a trip or a task to offer wax bouquets to the shrine in accordance with a long-observed tradition. The wax bouquets to be presented to the Si Song Rak Holy Relic are first made on the Conclusion of the 3-Month Buddhist Lent, or the 15th day of the waxing moon, the 11th lunar month, in a rite led by Chao Pho Kuan and Mae Nang Thiam along with Pho Saen and Nang Taeng. Thereafter, residents and the general public gradually present wax bouquets as offerings to the holy relic up to the 15th day of the waxing moon of the 6th lunar month, when residents of Amphoe Dan Sai perform a celebration and homage-paying to the Pagoda each year.
The process of wax bouquet making starts from the dissolution of wax or candle over a fire, to be poured into molds made of fruit such as small raw papayas carved as flowers or artificial forms as fancied. These are then dipped into dissolved wax before getting soaked in water. The frozen carved wax in floral and artistic forms is used as trimmings on a pointed tree made up of bamboo stems tied up on a square base, gathered and tied up to make a pointed top like a pagoda. The bamboo stems are covered with herbaceous stems of banana plants. In ancient times, wax was collected from the deserted beehives by villagers who scoured the forests for treasures. They collected deserted beehives for left wax (called Khi Phueng – bee droppings by ancient people who used the product in making candles, cosmetics, component in herbal medicine and varnish, for example, wax candle is considered a high quality candle, producing less soot when burned).
The making of wax bouquets is a tradition inherited through generations in several areas of the Northeast and the North. The wax bouquets or trees are presented to monks or temple supervisors as offerings to the Lord Buddha on behalf of the deceased in the people’s families. The offerings are collected to be made into Lenten candles. This is considered a strategy of ancestors who wanted wax candles for monks and novices to use in their daily prayers and in studying books of Dhamma for the ordained.
The making of wax bouquets to be presented to the Si Song Rak Holy Relic at Amphoe Dan Sai has been selected as a model of DASTA’s Creative Tourism activities with the concept of tourism participated by tourists in the exchange of experiences and the learning of local cultures.
For additional details on the celebrations and homage paying of the Si Song Rak Holy Relic of Amphoe Dan Sai, Loei Province, call 042 891266.