The so-called “city pillar” may be seen in many Thai towns and cities. These pillars were built when a new community was founded and are frequently situated in the center of the city. Although the pillars were often once formed of stone or wood, they today frequently have elaborate protective metal or brass casings. These pillars are known by several names depending on the location of Thailand, but in the traditional northern Thai language, they were known as “Inthakin.” According to some historians, the pillars were built to promote the fertility of the soil, which would have been essential to an agricultural civilization and are said to resemble a phallus. These ancient animist ideas existed in Thailand before Buddhism did, but they persisted even as Buddhism spread, much as they do in many elements of Thai society today.
According to a narrative from long ago, the town of Chiang Mai’s original location was overrun by demons. When a hermit prayed to the deity Indra for assistance, the Inthakin pillar descended from the sky to shield the village and its inhabitants from demons. But over time, the pillar was neglected, the demons came back, and the town was destroyed. King Mengrai picked Chiang Mai as the location for the Lanna kingdom’s new capital in 1296. The story of the demons was revealed to King Mengrai after he discovered the ancient city pillar among the town’s ruins. In a temple called Wat Sadue Muang, he erected the pillar in the geographic center of the new city. The ruins of this temple may still be seen today on the Cultural Hall grounds in Chiang Mai’s old town, directly behind the Three Kings Monument.
The city pillar was relocated from Wat Sadue Muang to its current location at Wat Chedi Luang in the year 1800. It is just a short distance away along Phraplokkao Road. A yang tree (also known as a gum tree) was planted at the same time the Inthakin pillar was relocated to Wat Chedi Luang.
The large tree on the left side of the white shrine, which currently houses the city pillar, is visible as you enter the temple compound’s main gate. The trees are decorated with vibrant ribbons and gifts that have been left. The Emerald Buddha, which is located at Wat Phra Kaeo in Bangkok, used to reside in the old chedi behind the temple.
For Chiang Mai and its inhabitants, who are respectful of the past’s beliefs and customs, the Inthakin Festival is important. Chiang Mai will be secure, content, and affluent if the city pillar is honored. Although it normally occurs in late May or early June, the event follows the lunar calendar. The tournament takes place from May 27 to June 2 in 2022.
Each day, hundreds of people attend the festival, particularly in the evening when large crowds swarm Wat Chedi Luang to pay homage and perform merit-making. In addition to honoring the city pillar, this is an opportunity to reverence all of the Buddha statues, notably the Fon Saan Haa Buddha, which is paraded through the streets at the beginning of the festival in a vibrant ceremony. This Buddha’s name translates to “100,000 raindrops,” and during the parade, glittering water is sprinkled over the picture to promote rain for the crops.