On the full moon of the third lunar month, Pattani becomes more lively than usual. The explosions of thousands of fire crackers wake up the residents on Anuro Road, Pattani’s Chinatown, and the smell of sulphur and smoke fills the air. Male worshippers carry deities placed on bright red sedan chairs -some taken from the Lim Ko Niao Shrine, others from their family shrine - to join the ancient, annual ceremony honouring the Goddess Lim Ko Niao.
On the eve of the festival, a ceremony is performed to decide the time and order in which the deities are to be carried out of the shrine. There are 25 deities altogether so the procession begins early the next morning, with male worshippers carrying the sedan chairs along the city’s roads. The procession makes various stops at houses that ask for a blessing before heading to the river: this is the procession of carrying the deities across the Pattani River.
“Here is the only place in Thailand that practices the ceremony of carrying deities across the river”, a Pattani tour guide said. Legend has it that the belief stems from the story of Goddess Lim Ko Niao, who took a long, rough sea journey from China to search for her beloved brother in Pattani. Another account from olden times tells of a procession in which people carried deities to bathe in the river and which turned into a hallowed ceremony that has continued until today.
In the evening of the same day, the procession is even more exciting and electrifying; it draws many more visitors to witness the worshippers carrying the deities and walking on red- hot charcoal. It is the belief of the local people that this ceremony expunges all evil.
The large courtyard of Leng Chu Kiang Shrine, (Goddess Lim Ko Niao Shrine) where the walking-on-fire procession takes place, becomes filled with worshippers, local residents and visitors from near and far. The flames that flare up to light the night sky burn as fervently as the faith that the people of Pattani display in this sacred procession.
The annual Goddess Lim Ko Niao festival is the biggest event in Pattani and attracts a large crowd of Thai and foreign visitors, especially Malaysians of Chinese descent.
Annual Celebration of Lim Ko Niao Goddess
5-11 February, 2020, Pattani Province
THAI Smile Airways offers a direct flight to Hat Yai International Airport from Suvarnabhumi Airport.
From Hat Yai take a minivan or charter a taxi to Pattani. The drive takes about one and a half hours.