Story by: P. Phouasaba
Boun Phravet is an annual tradition festival. It is usually performed in the 4th month of Buddhist calendar. Due to the socio-economics lives of the Lao people, some villages organize it prior to the 4th month or later regarding to the proper time.
Boun Phravet for the Visit of Laos Year:
To welcome the Visit of Laos Year of 1999/2000, Kengkok people in Savannakhet organized Boun Phravet at the same time as the the Rocket festival on May 10, 1999 at Ketoumatikaram temple (Kongkok Neua) by the co-ordination of the National authority for Tourism. More than 60 villages from Champhone, people from Vientiane, Savannakhet and foreigners visited this special ceremony.
Who is Phravet?
Phravet is prior name of the Lord of Buddha Phra Khodom before he was born as Thao Sithad. His ten nick names when he devoted his life to be the lord of Buddha are: Te, Xa, Souy, Ne, Ma, Phou, Cha, Na, Vi, Ve. Finally "Ve" is called "Vetsandone."
He was born as the prince in seta-Outtalanakorn palace and named Vetsantala but Lao called hem as Vetsandone. The festival for his life is called "Boun Phravet". When speaking about Boun Mahaxad, it is meant to tell about the ten lives of the Lord Buddha.
Brief History of Vetsandone Festival
Vetsantala or Vetsandone was the prince of PhraNha Sisonsay and Phranang Phoudsadee to the Seta Outtalanakorn capital. Since his birth he decided to donated every thing including the silver, gold, elephants, his children and wife. When he was grown up, he married with Nang Mathi and got two children named Thao Saly and Nang Khanha.
When he was on the throne to replace his father. He had one white elephant. There were eight brahman from Kalingka city to request his white elephant and this made his people felt very sorry and driven him out of the palace. Vetsandone guided his wife and children to live in the forest for 7 month. There was another brahman to request for his children and finally, he was invited back to his home town.
Why do Lao people organize Boun Phravet?
Lao people organize Boun Phravet as the believed it was the history of the Lord Buddha and his great donation in his last life. When people listening to his story, it means they get a lots of merits. The story of Vestandone shows the good thing, describing the good wife listen to the husband and the good children not do anything against the father's advice or what the father said not second time.
Another thing is to wish to be born in the religion of Phrasi-Aligymethai who will come to be the next Lord Buddha regarding to the advice to PhraMalai as the story said: Once, when Phra Malai went to heaven and discussed with Phrasi-Alignametthai who was the god in heaven in the rank of Tousita. The land is flat in heaven. There is a river running down and up. People are happy and each has long live. One will have 80,000 year-old. The people do not know who is young, who is old. Phramalai asked Phrasi-Alignametthai about how to be born in Phrasi-Alignametthai religion. Then Phrasi-Alignametthai replied that any festivals but if can not do another thing, please listen to Boun Phravet story lecture within one day. When Phra Malai heard, he returned back to the world. He told the people in the world what he had heard from Phrasi-Alignametthai. The people organized Boun Phravet in the world since then.
Decoration for Phravet Festival
To prepare Boun Phravet, the villagers meet in the offering hall to prepare the offerings and divide the story into one thousand parts for the monks or novices to sing. The early time before organizing the youth made the flowers. They use the light wood to make the beehive or so on to decorate the offering hall and sitting place by using the light wood to make the pictures as designed and painted by different color.
Things required as one thousand are one thousand blocks of rice (Kao Phankhone), one thousand candles, strings, beehive and so on.
In addition, 7 bunches of bananas, sugar cane, coconuts, betel and 4 pots of soups are also arranged. Reasons for prepare Kao Phankone is;one thousand hands full of rice, the story of Phravetsandone is divided into one thousand bunches.
The Invitation of Phra Ouphakoud
Phra Ouphakoud should be invited prior to the Boun Phravet organized. Phra Puphakoud is invited from the river or the forest and place him in the small house at the corner of the pavilion or the corner of the pagoda. In that small house, the bowl and monk's clothing are placed as the households of Phra Ouphakoud.
Phra Ouphakoud is the powerful person who can protect the evils spirits. Once, when Phra Nha Sithammasollalat in the year of 236, there was a celebration in the city of Phata-liboud, Phattama province in India. The festival was obstructed by the evils. The venerable monks could prevent those evils. So the king Asokkalath asked that who can prevent the evils. All monks said that there was only Phra Ouphakoud who can win the evils but by that time Phra Ouphakoud was entered to the Buddha practice under the ocean. Where as the king asokalath heard that he requested one novice who was one of the venerable to go to invite Phra Ouphakoud to protect and can drive the evils away. There are special words and expression to invite Phra Ouphakoud.
The Procession of One Thousands of rice (Kao Phankone)
After Phra Ouphakoud was invited, the procession of Kao Phankone was made around the offering hall at 4 A.M. in the morning. After that, the Phravet chant will begin. In some local areas after Phra Ouphakoud was invited, Phravet Chant will be begun. And Kao Phankone will be done in the next day.
The history of Phravet have 13 suits and in which of one thousand section. The words is prepared by the poems. Contents are full of many styles and describing about the kind hearts, good things, the forests, the birds and the arts of Lao, the diplomatic, the handicrafts and the rain.
Play Roles ceremony to invite Phravet back to the palace
In the past time, elephants, horses, male and female slaves, 8 braman and Khanha, Saly and the king Sisonsay are selected to play roles as Phravet story.
Playing roles ceremony is organized in the forest which is located not so far from the village. It is supposed as vongkotkili mountain where Phravet sit reciting mystic formulas.
At that place, the one who plays role as the king Sisonsay requests Phravet to return home. Requesting words and expression are full with sadness of the lonely lives of the people without Phravet. Some listeners pour their tears because of the sorrowful word. Invitation was made many time until Phravet accepted.
Where as Phravet accepted the invitation, the drum and enjoyable words cheered out and the people faced back to the village.
Temporary Camps for Guest Villagers
During Boun Phravet days, the temporary camps were built around the temple for any guest who comes from another village. If there are 60 villages have been invited, there will be 60 temporary camps for each. And the manuscripts of Phravetsandone will be divided into 60 bunches as well. Each village will stay in in each camp with the their monks. The host village will take care of them.
Khanlone: Money Trees offering
In the day to listen to Phravet story, Khanlone money trees are prepared to donate to the monks or novices who perform the chant It will be offered to them after the chant is finished. The Khanlone trees are decorated by the money, perfume stick candles, handkerchief, books, pens, cake and so on.
One part of the poem is written as follow:
Boun Phravet, Khanlone are offered.
I admired with the monks singing.
To avoid doing the bad things I listened with the old.
Not making any noise or run after each other.
Muong Lao Magazine July-August 1999 Page 22-24
Story : P. Phouasaba
Photo : Bounhom Vongdavan
To enlarge, please click on each photo.