There has been a constant interaction between Sanatana Dharma and the world, to the extent that Hindu Religion,Culture and literature took roots there.
I have been posting articles, based on the references found in the Puranas, Ithihasas, Ramayana and Mahabharata,Sanskrit Literature, Archeology and Astronomy.
As I have been mentioning regularly in my articles, Tamil, which is as ancient as Sanskrit, has not been taken into account by the scholars, I do not know the reasons.
.I have earlier posted on the fact that Lord Krishna married a Pandyan Princess, had a daughter by her, attended the Tamil SangamTamil Poets’ Conclave in Then Madurai, Balarama visited Kerala worshiped Parasuhrama, based on the Bhagavata Puarana , reinforced by the Tamil Epic Silappadikaram.
As the interaction between the Sanatana Dharma and the world has been regular, it is reasonable to find references for the later Literature, compare the practices in the world and arrive at a conclusion.
One such is the Festival being celebrated in the Month of Thai in Tami’ April 14 of every year.
The month is preceded by Mrigasira month, called markazhi in Tamil.
During this month , throughout the month, a Festival is performed in Tamil Nadu by Vaishnavites and Saivite alike.
One is the recital of the Thiruppavai, a work by Saint Andal, consisting of 30m poems on Lord Vishnu.
This is recited early in the morning in the temples and special poojas are performed,
The same way for Lord Shiva, the Thiruvembavai, by Saint Manickavasagar, is recited and poojas performed.
In Thailand, the same festival is celebrated.
“An annual Festival called ” trivambave – tribave” is being celebrated by =Thais. Does the name sound familiar to your South Indian ears ? Itis a Tamil Word. Here are some clues.
This festival is held for 15 days between December 14 to January 12 during our Marghazhi Month by brahmin priests. chanting verses in praise of Hindu gods. Got it ?
IT IS THIRUPPAVAI AND THIRUVEMBAVAI…. . AND YES IT IS A THAI FESTIVAL.
Bangkok could be the only place in the world where our Thiruppavai and Thiruvempavai is recited during the month of Marghazhi by Thai Brahmin Priests. These Thai Brahmins are descendents of Tamil Brahmins froM Rameshwaram, Srivilliputtur and other parts of South India who were brought to this land as early as the 2nd century .
the present Thailand, Cambodia and Burma was once ruled by Khemers till 13th century. Historians believe that the Khemers were either our Pallava Kings or Leaders of local tribes who were made Kings by Pallavas. (There are plenty of proof, by way of archeological findings, legends and stone inscriptions to confirm the theory of Political connections between
the Palllava Kingdom of India and the Khemer Kingdom of Thailand… That a separate topic by itself)
Khemer Kings, being Hindus, practiced either Vaishnavism or Shaivism. The King who built Angkorwat , Surya varman, was a Vaishnavite and it was built as a Vishnu Temple. The Khemer Kings adopted a concept called “Devaraja Cult” which means that the King is an incarnation of Vishnu or Shiva. They built temples for Vishnu and Shiva and consecrated statues representing themselves as Gods and promoted
themselves as the undisputed leaders of their subjects.
The Brahmins came with the Kshathriya Kings to promote Hinduism. The Pallava Kings brought them to act as court advisors to the kingdom as was the practice in Mainland India. The Brahmins were also required to perform a ritual called “Varathyasyoma” to convert a foreigner into a Kshakthriya King whenever a local is made the King.
The Kings sometimes married in the Brahmin families and when a king was childless, they adopted a boy from the Brahmin family. The Brahmins , thus, performed their role of advisor, minister and priest to the Royal family in addition to practicing Hindu rituals and practices.
The Khemer kingdom , after 1300 years of glorious rule by the Hindu kings, fell to the Thais in 1282 when Jayavarman , the last Khemer King, was defeated by the Thai invasion that formed the First Thai Kinddom — Sukhothai. The creation of a Buddhist Thai Kingdom should have ended Hinduism practiced by the Khemers. Surprisingly it did not.
The practice of Devaraja Cult did not die with the Khemers. Why ?
The Thais, even though Buddhists , continued the devaraja cult for two reasons. Since they took over a land of Khemers, they did not want to change the practices of the land and be alienated from the locals. Secondly, the Devaraja cult suited their intentions of assuming supremacy as it gave them instant ecognition among people. So the Thai kings also continued the Devaraja cult and as a consequence extended patronage to the Indian Brahmins and projected themselves as Incarnations of Hindu Gods in addition to practicing Buddhism. (That explains why the Royal family in Thailand practices Hindu Rituals and practices even during the present times.)
Let us leave the Kings for a moment and continue with our study of Brahmins. The Brahmins, in the Buddhist Thailand, thus thrived as priests of the Royal family and performed rituals like Coronation ceremonies,Upanayanams for the Royal family. They also performed Housewarming ceremonies, Ploughing Ceremony, Upanayanams for the common people and continued practicing Hindu rituals and ceremonies.
One such Brahmin ceremony of reciting Thiruppavai verses is “Trivambhave , thripave” which is continued to be recited even in this 21st century.
Many of you may not have visited a place in Bangkok which houses three Hindu deities– Ganesh, Shiva and Vishnu. It is not a temple patronized by the Indians like Dev Mandhir and Mariamman Temple. It is a Thai temple. It is called Devasthan –(Boat Prahm ) and is situated opposite the Dev Mandir ,right behind the Giant Swing.
Interestingly, the Giant Swing itself was the venue of a very big Hindu ritual of “Oonjalaattam” for Shiva that was stopped due to the occurrence of accidents. The word Boat Prahm means “Sanctuary of Brahmins”.
This is the place where the Thiruppavai Thiruvempavai festival takes place for 15 days and all the Brahmins in Thailand come and stay in the temple for 15 days.
The Brahmins who came from India married local women and as centuries went by, lost their Indian identity. They speak Thai and appear like an improved version of their frail looking brothers back home. They are clothed in white robes in stark contrast to the Buddhist Monks. They wear the sacred thread too (Poonool).
The ceremony they perform at the Boat Prahm is very similar to the poojas at our Hindu temples with Theeparadhanai, blowing of the conch shells (sangu)and “neivedhyam” . At the end of the pooja they recite the Thiruppavai . The Thiruppavai script is written in Grantha with parallel thai script. As they do not know the meaning of the verses the pronunciation is completely different. As you know , the Thiruppavai ends with the word “embavaai” in each song and only that word could be understood. The rest of the text is ecited with total disregard to punctuation marks and sounds different. Words are irrelevant in matters of faith and it is a
memorable experience watching these Thai Brahmin Priests reciting the Thiruppavai and Thiruvempavai .
The Kanchi Acharya had spoken in high regard of this practice of reciting Thiruppavai in a Buddhist country like Thailand in Mayavaram’s Dhakshinamurthy Mutt in 1952. He has even commented that ” even though we in TamilNadu recite Thiruvembhavai , we do not perform it as a festival but a Buddhist country thousands of miles away does it”. On the request of the Kanchi Acharya , a team of Tamil Scholars , came to Thailand and studied the scripts of Thiruppavai and Thiruvempavai that are being recited in bangkok temples and have recorded the fact that they are in Krantha . Kanchi Acharya’s speech is referred in Padma Subramaniyam’s book about the influence of Indian Bharatha naatiyam in Thai classical dance.
It might also surprise you that the Brahmin Priests recite “Thiruvaasagam” during the coronation ceremony of the King.
If you want to see the festival you can visit the place in the evening.The recital is in the evening around 7 p.m.
Till the last century trivembhave triphave was a national festival of Thailand along with the Swinging Ceremony at the Giant Swing.