Friday, July 18, 2008

buffalo offering

buffalo offering, originally uploaded by c_p_lew.

I'm not quite sure what this is all about. As I was walking through the temple compound, on the way to the subway, I saw this pen set up in the parking lot of the temple, with three water buffalo. There were a lot of people around, each person making an offering of buying a garland, praying intensely and then draping the garlands over the necks of the water buffalo. One many sprayed water over the backs of the buffalo, though I thought I could see in their eyes the thought: "I'd rather be wallowing in mud."

Children were also milling around the pen, reaching out and lightly touching the animals' thick skins with the prickly sparse hairs, like the stiffest paint brushes. I thought of petting zoos in the malls of the US. If the water buffalo turned its head, the children would step back, their eyes wide. It then occurred to me that since these kids live in Bangkok, they don't have much experience with these animals. Not like their rural cousins, who treat the animals as large versions of a dog.

I imagine that people are praying for good harvest, plentiful food, as well as spirit of the buffalo which walks through obstacles and conquers problems with its strength. Its' also interesting because for a while, water buffaloes were losing popularity as farm animals. I remember when I was studying Thai, some 20 years ago, one of the books we read was a children's book about two water buffalo, Daeng and Dham (Red and Blackie) who lived together peacefully until they got into a fight one day. The farmer then decided to sell them (not specified but everyone knew they were going to a meat factory) and buy an 'Iron Buffalo', the famous two wheeled tractor because metal objects didn't fight.

As both Lao and Thai farmers became wealthier and saved up money, they started buying these tractors. Most folks would keep their buffalo - kind of like insurance because they could rent it out for plowing for those folks who didn't have the money, or if there were some need for money, they could also sell them. I'd often feel sad at trucks filled with animals would pass by.

Now, with the cost of gasoline and diesel climbing, farmers are returning to using water buffaloes. And the reverence these people were showing them is what they deserve.

buffalo offering2, originally uploaded by c_p_lew.

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