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    To develop the ethnic groups database where systematized research data are available online and can be made use of by interested parties or individuals, following the subjects or topics of their interests, and thus making it easier for them to sum up the essential points necessary for further in-depth studies. 
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    Tai-art  mural painting of  Buddha 
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  Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Anthropology Centre
Ethnic Groups Research Database
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   Record

 
Subject Lao Wiang, Rahu, cultural assimilation, Nakhon Pathom
Author Niphaporn Chotisutsaneh
Title Phra Rahu: A reflection of belief assimilation of the Lao Wiang ethnic group
Document Type MA.Thesis Original Language of Text -
Ethnic Identity Lao Wiang, Lao Klang, Language and Linguistic Affiliations Tai
Location of
Documents
(Full text) Total Pages 79 Year 1998
Source A Thematic Paper, Department of Anthropology, Faculty of Archeology, Silapakorn University
Abstract

Culture and belief systems are always changing in order for them to be maintained in society. The belief in Rahu is also changing and the factors relating to this belief change are as follows.
The external factors like geographical and socio-economic contexts contributed to community change and the change in the belief in Rahu. Geographically, in 1961 during the Marshall Sarit Thanarat government, the national industrial and economic development plan was launched. The Srisa Thong community in Nakhon Pathom province was designated as a part of the development plan, with Phetchakasem Road cutting through the community. Transportation was convenient and the community was in contact with external social values and beliefs more easily. Socially, Thai society has changed a lot and it is inevitable to avoid social changes. Uncertainty and dissatisfaction in life that had no way out have led people to rely on supernatural power. Nonetheless, Rahu could not respond to their needs because it is the God of Safety and Popularity. It was until 1995 when there was a total lunar eclipse and the phenomenon was related to astrological directions that the phenominon was the work of Rahu. Since then, the belief in Rahu has changed completely. The mass media had played a significant role in the spread of the belief in Rahu at Srisa Thong Temple, particularly in 1995. The media publicized that the lunar eclipse was the work of Rahu and the belief in Rahu at the temple had existed for a long time. This belief had attracted outsiders to visit to pay respect to Rahu and the belief in Rahu had changed as well.
The internal factors had influenced the belief in Rahu, which was in line with changes in the outside world. In 1995, a large statue of Rahu was constructed at the temple as a distinct identity of the temple and as a tourist attraction with increasing eonomic benefits. After the completion, the statue was paraded around the province for local residents to pay respect and it also attracted outsiders from around the country. The belief that Rahu was the God of Safety and Popularity was changed to the God of Fortune.
The roles of Rahu have changed with time. When the Lao Wiang ethnic group migrated from Vientiane, they needed to maintain their ethnic identity and they were having difficulties in life. The belief in Rahu served as their spiritual refuge and an expression of their ethnic identity. After they became more prosperous, Rahu was used as a tale of their historical background. The tale was always associated with the Lao Wiang Community at the temple. The belief between the ethnic group and other Thais is also different. The ethnic belief that Rahu represented goodness had changed from abstract to concrete by representing the god in the form of a single-hole coconut shell. When the Lao Wiang group co-habitate with other ethnic groups, the belief in Rahu has been used as a tool to assimilate with others, since they all believe in Rahu and are members of the temple. Additionally, Rahu plays a role in controlling society with Buddhism as the connection. It is believed that those violating the moral precepts would be punished by the god. The belief in the god has increased the social status of certain individuals in connection with the god. In this case, the temple abbot has been widely respected.
During the economic crisis, the belief played a role as a spiritual refuge by becoming God of Fortune in order to respond to spiritual needs of the ethnic group and other believers. The belief also reflected cultural assimilation of the Lao Wiang and other ethnic groups. Originally, the ethnic belief was different from that of the Thais. As times passed, there had been intermarriages until there was no longer ethnic difference and the belief in the god had spread to other ethnic groups as well.
When the formation of Lao Wiang and Lao Khrang in Suphan Buri province was taken into consideration, it was completely different. The Lao Wiang was an ethnic minority group but was able to spread the belief to other mainstream groups in that Rahu was a god, not a Mara or evil. However, the Lao Khrang was more culturally passive and ultimately assimilated.
When cultural assimilation is considered, it cannot be absolute because senior individuals cannot accept the idea of the god being commercialized. Thus, they will adhere to the original belief about the god. However, it is possible that the new belief trend might become so popular that it could lead to a complete cultural assimilation. Whenever the belief can no longer respond to the spiritual needs of social members, changes on the belief are inevitable.

Text Analyst Sura Kaewkohsaba Date of Report May 27, 2019
TAG Lao Wiang, Rahu, cultural assimilation, Nakhon Pathom, Translator -
 
 

 

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