Rocket festival or “Boon Bang Fai” in Thai is usually held in the second week of May of each year, at the beginning of the rainy season. The farmers are ready to cultivate their paddy fields. The festival is popularly celebrated in the northeastern provinces of Yasothorn and Ubon Ratchathani. The celebration is an entreaty to the rain god for plentiful rains during the coming rice planting season.
The festival itself owes its beginning to a legend that a rain god named Vassakan was known for his fascination of being worshipped with fire. To receive plentiful rains for rice cultivation, the farmers send the hope-made rockets to the heaven where the god resided. The festival has been carried out till these days.
Under the guidance of Buddhist monks, it takes the villagers weeks to make the rockets, launching platforms and other decorations. An average rocket is some nine metres in length and carries 20-25 kilogrammes of gunpowder.
In the afternoon of the festival day, rockets are carried in the procession to the launching site. Villagers dressed in colourful traditional costumes attract the eyes of the onlookers, who line up along the procession route.
Before ignition of the rockets, there will be more singing and dancing to celebrate the festival. The climax of the festival is the ignition time. One by one the rockets are fired from the launching platforms. Each liftoff is greeted by cheers and noisy music. The rocket that reaches the greatest height is the winner and the owner of this rocket will dance and urge for rewards on their way home while the owners of the rockets, that exploded or failed to fly, will be thrown into the mud. The celebration is a communual affair of the villagers who come to share joy and happiness together before heading to the paddy fields where hard work is waiting for them.