Lonely Planet review
It is easy to forget the powers of the Brahmans in Thai Buddhism, unless you happen upon the giant red poles of Sao Ching-Cha (the Giant Swing). During the second lunar month (usually in January), Brahman beliefs dictate that Shiva comes down to earth for a 10-day residence and should be welcomed by great ceremonies and, in the past, great degrees of daring. So each year the acrobatic and desperate braved the Giant Swing. The ceremony saw these men swing in ever-higher arcs in an effort to reach a bag of gold suspended from a 15m bamboo pole. Whoever grabbed the gold could keep it. But that was no mean feat, and deaths were as common as successes. A black-and-white photo illustrating the risky rite can be seen at the ticket counter at adjacent Wat Suthat.
The Brahmans enjoyed a mystical position within the royal court, primarily in the coronation rituals. But after the 1932 revolution the Brahmans’ waning power was effectively terminated and the festival, including the swinging, was discontinued during the reign of Rama VII (King Prajadhipok; r 1925–35). In 2007 the Giant Swing was replaced with a newer model, made from six giant teak logs from Phrae, in northern Thailand. The previous version is kept at the National Museum.