BANGKOK (AP) — To the sound of Brahmin horns and amid colorful pageantry, Thailand's king presided over an annual ceremony Friday marking the start of the rice-planting season.
King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun sat impassive, his daughter at his side, as two oxen named "Increase" and "Abundance" plowed a furrow around a section of the royal field in front of the Grand Palace in Bangkok. An official scattered rice seeds in the oxen's wake.
According to Thai historical accounts, the Royal Plowing Ceremony dates back around 700 years. Then as now, the success of the harvest is vital to the economy but also to the culture of the country. Thailand is one of the world's leading producers of the crop, at around 30 million tons a year. It is also the world's second largest exporter of rice, behind India.
As part of the ceremony, the oxen are offered seven types of food to eat and predictions are made as to the success of the coming harvest depending on which foods they choose.
On Friday, the pair of animals munched down rice, maize and grass, meaning there will be plenty of food, fruit and water for irrigation.
The Brahmin rites, led by Hindu priests and the first to be presided over by Vajiralongkorn as king, were attended by the prime minister, Cabinet members and diplomats as well as farmers seeking signs of good fortune.
Vajiralongkorn succeeded his father, King Bhumibhol Adulyadej, who died in October last year.