Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Anniversary, Ramkhamhaeng

Ramkhamhaeng is my university over here; the original was a great king in the Sukothai period, something like seven hundred years ago. He gets the credit for the modern Thai alphabet, about the wonderfulness of which a difference of opinion is possible.

Today is November 26th, the thirty-eighth anniversary of the founding of the university. It’s been a wild success, we now have, get this, seven-hundred-and-fifty-thousand students, at twenty-five campuses around Thailand. Every April we award something like forty-five thousand degrees. Old Paw Khun Ramkhamhaeng would be proud.

We had a nice little ceremony this morning, called a “Pi-tee-bang-suan,” in which we summoned the spirit of Ramkhamhaeng and invited the king to take some food with us. I mean, we didn’t actually eat anything, but there was an impressive table of fruit offered to the spirit, along with a lot of chanting by a big group of monks, some gongs were banged, and horns were blown.

Hundreds of us were seated in tents around the ring-shaped parking lot that surrounds the mound on which presides the seated statue of Ramkhamhaeng. I had a good view; lots of the seats were blocked by the mound itself. There were great numbers of photographers, official, semi-official, informal and at least one bona-fide news cameraman. There was a Muslim contingent who sat a little off to one side. In the midst of near constant chanting, the Muslim would occasionally break into song, with amplification, one of those wailing “call to prayer” Muslim songs, competing with the monks, or complimenting them. Lots of self-important big-wigs in their elaborate white uniforms offered food, and finally several groups of kids in costumes danced.

I didn’t take any pix myself, but not to worry, I’ll remember it.

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