Naga Fireballs of Thailand
In the evening hours after sunset, pink and red spheres of light called Naga Fireballs (bang fai phaya nak) silently rise from the river hundreds of yards into the night sky and dangle in the air for a few minutes before extinguishing. The fireballs range in size from tiny sparks to basketball-sized spheres. Some years, only a few of the fire orbs appear; but, often there are hundreds of them.
Many locals believe that the Naga Fireballs are the “breath of a giant sea serpent” called Naga who is said to live in the Mekong River in an underwater city called “Muang Badanand.” The creature protects the area and its people from harm. The sea serpent awakens each year at the end of the Buddhist Lent season “to honour the conclusion of vassa.” The creature is said to have magical powers and can transform into a human being if it wishes.
This reason for the phenomenon is very controversial (except among locals); and, although the celebration at the end of Buddhist Lent is ancient, it is unclear when the phenomenon of the fireballs actually started.
Residents in the area are insistent that the Naga Fireballs a/k/a Mekong Lights are referenced in various ancient writings, but this has not been substantiated.
The period of Buddhist Lent is ninety days long, usually starting in July and ending in October when Lord Buddha is said to return to Earth from Heaven.
The festival to commemorate the end of the Buddhist Lenten continues to grow in size each year and now includes fireworks, river cruises, a market bazaar, boat races, boat floats, a food fair and other events.
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