Every November, monkeys have a field day in the town of Lopburi, Thailand as townspeople get together to organise a decadent fare for them as part of the Lopburi Monkey Banquet.
At Lopburi, the capital city of the central Lopburi province, the last Sunday of November is reserved for hospitality of a truly unique kind. No, food is not prepared for universal celebration, but for serving monkeys. It’s common knowledge that the Ramayana happens to be one epic with translations and versions in several non-Indian languages, such as Thai, Korean, Sri Lankan and so on. In the Thai version, the story goes that the village of Lopburi was created by King Rama with the help of Hanuman. The Monkey Buffet is celebrated as a token of thanks to the monkey, the animal incarnate of Hanuman. The half monkey-half man, considered to be the greatest subservient to Lord Rama, was instrumental in bringing back his wife Sita from the clutches of the demon king, Ravana, and was helped in this endeavour by a tribe of monkeys, also called Vanara Sena. Since then, the monkey has been respected as a direct descendant of the powerful devotee. Additionally, the presence of several monkey tribes has significantly boosted the tourism of the town, thereby intensifying the gratitude. The local people are of the belief that the animal is a source of good luck and fortune.
The event does not only constitute leaving behind a ton of food for monkeys to feast on, as one observes them rather endearingly. In the last several years, the event has only grown in size as today, many of the top Bangkok chefs come together to prepare the choicest items off the menu, such as sausages, jellies, and ice-creams having it resemble a fancy state fare, but for tiny, unruly animals.
Tourists flock to witness this truly unique, and dare we say wacky, event. While they’re asked to not challenge, tease or threaten the monkeys for their own physical and mental sanity, they do gather around to peacefully witness the monkeys indulge in the lavish spread; as the guests of the day jump about, scream and consume food. The Phra Prang Sam Yot temple, located on Vichayen Road serves as the backdrop of the event which begins at 10am in the morning, until the wee hours of the evening.
While rather wacky, the event is a significant reflection of Thai culture and beliefs. And as it rewards an animal so intrinsically a part of Thailand, it is worth celebrating.