The Naga, many people will have heard of the mythical creature, the Naga which is closely linked to Buddhism. But some say there is evidence proving their existence in the Mekong River.
The story of the Naga is in some ways similar to that of the Loch Ness Monster, in as much as it is about a mythical creature that lives beneath the waters.
On the 15 th day of the 11 th month in the Lao Lunar Calendar, at the end of Buddhist Lent, an unexplained extraordinary event occurs on a 20 km stretch of the Mekong River between Pak-Ngeum and Phonephisai in the Nong Khai province.
On this day each year (has been happening for over 100 years), a pink-red fireball rises from the Mekong river and floats into the sky to a height of about 20 metres and then disappears. Many believe that it is a natural event and not staged by humans. The event is called the Naga’s Fireball. Many believe that the Naga fires these ball into the air to celebrate the end of Buddhist Lent, as Naga’s are believed to meditate during the Lent period.
The Naga was a servant of Lord Buddha in his last life, and Sculptures and pictures of the Naga feature in many Buddhist Temples. Many of them depict Lord Buddha meditating under the shade of the Naga’s head, indicating that the Naga was Lord Buddha’s bodyguard.
Now each year Thai and Lao people mark the end of the lent period, by making a fireboat out of banana trees and bamboo. The boat is adorned with candles, flowers, and torches and is placed in the Mekong river on the night of the end of Lent. Many people attend to watch the boat going down the river and to view the Naga’s Fireball.
However, the Naga’s fireball does not only appear on the Mekong river, some say it appears in rice fields and ponds, in particular in a pond called Nong Pra Lay.
Now that it is more widely known about, some say that the phenomenon is scientific whilst others say it is cultural. One scientist said that it was caused by a build up of gas under the Mekong river, but the river bed is sand and could not support a build up of gas. Others say it is instigated by humans.
Two of the oldest residents in the area say it is not staged by humans, but whatever the cause, it is a belief and part of the culture of the locals and has been for over 100 years.