The majority of the residents of Surin province who are mahouts are descendants of the legendary "Kui" tribe (or "Suay" in Thai), noted for their elephant-herding expertise in times past. The Kui tribespeople are thought to have migrated from Cambodia to settle largely in the northeastern provinces near the Cambodian border. Known for their expertise in capturing, domesticating and training wild elephants, the life-long relationship of the mahout with his elephant is an integral element of Kui culture, tradition and the way of life. The elephant is his companion and a family member.

The Kui mahouts (elephant handlers) tended to and trained elephants for use throughout the ancient Thai kingdom and have great respect for their elephants.

The tradition of adorning elephants with elaborate decoration and twinkling fairy lights during special royal or temple ceremonies has also existed since ancient times.

In a symbolic gesture that keeps this time-honoured ancient tradition alive, Buddhist devotees throughout the country present to the various temples their merit-making offerings in the form of bundles of wax candles — the source of light that enables the monks to continue their study late into the evening.

The annual candle festival and procession in Ubon Ratchathani province is the most established in the kingdom. However, these customs and traditions related to the observance of the Buddhist Lent have been practiced by local communities throughout the kingdom for centuries.

In addition to promoting and preserving an ancient Buddhist tradition, the provincial authorities and residents of Surin are staging the Surin Buddhist Lenten Candle Procession and Aiyara Elephant Parade to mark the auspicious occasion of His Majesty the King’s 84th birthday in 2011.

The province of Surin, home to a population of some 1,000 domesticated elephants, has its own unique version of the candle procession. The procession of Buddhist Lenten candles to be presented to temples as merit-making offerings will be accompanied by a parade of elaborately decorated elephants.

13-15 July 2011 Venue: In front of Surin City Hall and at Phraya Surin Pakdee Sri Narong Changwang Monument. The arrival of the seasonal monsoon rains marks the beginning of the Buddhist Lent, during which all Buddhist monks retreat to the temples. Known as "Khao Phansa", the Buddhist "rain retreat" is a time devoted to the study of Buddhist scriptures and the teachings of the Lord Buddha, and meditation. Buddhist monks remain within the temple grounds and do not venture out for a period of three months starting from the first day of the waning moon of the eighth lunar month (in July) to the fifteenth day of the waxing moon of the eleventh lunar month (in October).