The Significance of Phuang Malai: A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding Thailand's Traditional Floral Garlands

What is a Phuang Malai - พวงมาลัยคืออะไร - Macrame by Nicha 4

Immerse yourself in the world of Phuang Malai, a rich and vibrant aspect of Thai culture, with our comprehensive guide. Phuang Malai, the beautiful floral garlands of Thailand, symbolizes respect, luck, and the harmonious blend of ancient and modern traditions.

Traditionally made from fresh flowers, these garlands hold deep cultural significance and are used to honor deities, celebrate weddings, and commemorate special occasions such as Mother’s Day. Despite the recent surge in plastic alternatives, the traditional use of fresh flowers continues to be celebrated for its symbolic and environmental significance.

In this context, Macrame by Nicha stands out by creating an eco-friendly and sustainable solution - Phuang Malai made of 100% cotton. As we delve into the history, the meaning, and the various uses of Phuang Malai, you'll also get to learn about the exquisite creations of Macrame by Nicha, which beautifully merge tradition with innovation.

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  Discover our Eternal Phuang Malai Collection

Join us in honoring Thai heritage while contributing to the preservation of this cherished tradition for future generations.

What is Phuang Malai?

What is a Phuang Malai - พวงมาลัยคืออะไร - Macrame by Nicha 2

The word 'Phuang' means a 'string' or 'bunch,' and 'Malai' means 'garland.' This floral ornament is a bunch of flowers arranged in a special way, often resembling intricate patterns or shapes.

They are created using fresh flowers daily, and you can find them on sale at markets, street stalls, or at some red traffic light.

The garlands range from simple to highly complex arrangements and vary in size and price, with various seasonal flower combinations used to craft the perfect Thai floral wreath based on the floral artist's imagination. The design became so complex that they created later on an another very significant and important symbol: The Khruang Kwaen.

Over the years, artists have proposed exceptional models to offer a new interpretation of this ancestral floral art. Macrame by Nicha is working on a new model in perfumed cotton to keep this precious amulet forever.

What fresh flowers do Thai people use to make a Phuang Malai?

Traditionally, Thai people use only fresh flowers to make this floral ornament. They are believed to be more auspicious and to bring good luck.

There are many different types of fresh flowers that Thai people use to make the crown ornament, but some of the most common include:

  • Jasmine

What is a Phuang Malai - พวงมาลัยคืออะไร - Macrame by Nicha - Fresh flowers - พวงมาลัยกับดอกไม้สด - Jasmine
  • Champaca

What is a Phuang Malai - พวงมาลัยคืออะไร - Macrame by Nicha - Fresh flowers - พวงมาลัยกับดอกไม้สด Champaca
  • Calotropis Gigantea, known as the Crown Flower

What is a Phuang Malai - พวงมาลัยคืออะไร - Macrame by Nicha - Fresh flowers - พวงมาลัยกับดอกไม้สด Crown flowers
  • Orchids

What is a Phuang Malai - พวงมาลัยคืออะไร - Macrame by Nicha - Fresh flowers - พวงมาลัยกับดอกไม้สด - Orchids
  • Roses

What is a Phuang Malai - พวงมาลัยคืออะไร - Macrame by Nicha - Fresh flowers - พวงมาลัยกับดอกไม้สด Rose
  • Marigolds

What is a Phuang Malai - พวงมาลัยคืออะไร - Macrame by Nicha - Fresh flowers - พวงมาลัยกับดอกไม้สด frangipani - Marigolds
  • Chrysanthemums

What is a Phuang Malai - พวงมาลัยคืออะไร - Macrame by Nicha - Fresh flowers - พวงมาลัยกับดอกไม้สด Chrysanthemums
  • Gardenias

What is a Phuang Malai - พวงมาลัยคืออะไร - Macrame by Nicha - Fresh flowers - พวงมาลัยกับดอกไม้สด Gardenia
  • Hibiscus

What is a Phuang Malai - พวงมาลัยคืออะไร - Macrame by Nicha - Fresh flowers - พวงมาลัยกับดอกไม้สด - Hibiscus
  • Plumeria

What is a Phuang Malai - พวงมาลัยคืออะไร - Macrame by Nicha - Fresh flowers - พวงมาลัยกับดอกไม้สด Frangipani Plumeria


The flowers that are used to make Malai vary depending on the season, the occasion, and the personal preferences of the person making the garland.

For example, jasmine is often used for weddings and other special occasions because it is a fragrant flower that is associated with love and happiness.

Champaca is another popular flower for Malai because it has a sweet scent and is associated with purity and elegance.

Crown Flower also carries symbolic meaning in Thai culture. It is often associated with love and respect. The process of threading the flowers into a garland is a careful and mindful task, embodying the Thai values of patience and attention to detail.

Orchids are often used for religious ceremonies because they are considered to be sacred flowers.

How many shapes can you find in Thailand?

There are different designs of flower garlands, each with a unique form and function. You can find them in Thailand in many places.

  • Creature Malai resembles animals in which flowers are arranged into animal shapes such as mice, rabbits, squirrels, and gibbons.
  • Chained Malai is a series of rounded malais connected together to resemble a chain.
  • Braided Malai comprises two rounded malais woven together and finished with a pine-shaped malai on each end.
  • Vine Malai is a series of semicircular malais arranged in a vine shape.
  • Laced Malai is a decorative garland with golden and silver laces all over the malai both inside and out.
  • Orchid Malai is a garland made specifically from orchid flowers.

What is the History of Phuang Malai?

The floral art, an art of Queens. 

History of Phuang Malai - Queen Saovabha_Phongsri - What is a Phuang Malai - พวงมาลัยคืออะไร - Macrame by Nicha

Queen Saovabha Phongsri, Queen Consort of King Chulalonkorn

Credit: Wikipedia

There is no written historical evidence of who first created the first flower ornament, but they were likely inspired by similar floral traditions from neighboring countries such as Laos and Cambodia.

Phuang malai may come from the Tamil word "poo maalai", which has the same meaning as "flowers" and "garland". There is historical evidence that the Chola kings of Tamil Nadu captured parts of Thailand, Java, Sumatra, Indonesia and Sri Lanka. These kings were known to have built huge temples and incorporated flower garlands into their culture.

The first record of this floral art was found during the reign of King Chulalongkorn, who referred to the use of fresh flower garlands during ceremonies in his literary work "Phra Ratchaphithi Sip Song Duean". ("Royal Ceremonies of the Twelve Months").

History of Phuang Malai -ประวัติพวงมาลัย - Macrame by Nicha

Credit: Midjourney

The King's chief concubine, Queen Savang Vadhana, was in charge of creating the garlands of fresh flowers. During the Rattanakosin kingdom, the Phuang malai became an important decorative object used in various ceremonies. At this time, the ability to create beautiful garlands earned great honor, and it was expected that all women of the Thai royal court would master this skill.

Queen Saovabha Phongsri, Queen Consort of King Chulalonkorn, is also known to have developed a range of complex designs.

Let go deeper into history and even legend: The garlands of flowers and the Ramakien 

History of Phuang Malai -ประวัติพวงมาลัย - Macrame by Nicha - Ramakien

Credit: Midjourney

However, we also find mentions of flower garlands in the Ramakien, especially during the coronation of King Rama after he defeated the demon king, Ravana, and saved his wife, Sita.

In this episode, Rama is crowned as king of Ayodhya. The coronation ceremony is described as being filled with the fragrance of blooming flowers, and the palace is said to be decorated with garlands of flowers.

The origins of Ramakien go back several thousand years. The exact date of its composition is uncertain, but it is thought to have been written between the fifth and tenth centuries CE.

Therefore, we can easily imagine that floral art has always been a component of Thai culture. 

What is its meaning?

The different uses of this symbol

This Thai traditional flower arrangement has many purposes in Thai culture.

  1. They are hung in motor vehicles for luck and with the hope of reducing the risk of accidents.
  2. They are offered to Buddhist statues or statues of Hindu gods as a way of paying respect and earning merit.
  3. They are worn by the bride and groom at wedding ceremonies and offered to important visitors and dignitaries.
  4. They are also used by business people to attract luck and pay respect to any shrine they may keep on the premises.
  5. Additionally, it is offered to spirit houses as a way to stay on the right side of dead relatives and to monks as a way of showing respect.

Should you offer a Phuang malai?

When offered, it is a symbol of good luck and a wish for good fortune. It is also a gesture of welcome, respect and good health.

It can represent purity, beauty, peace, love and passion.

For all situations, this precious symbol carries a very positive message.

To whom to offer a Phuang Malai? Why give it as a gift?

These garlands are used for a variety of purposes, including as offerings to Buddha or monks, as gifts for loved ones or simply to give thanks. It can also be used as decoration for special occasions.

  • Honoring Buddha

What is a Phuang Malai - พวงมาลัยคืออะไร - Macrame by Nicha 6

    One of the most common uses is as an offering to Buddha. In Thai Buddhist temples, worshippers often make offerings of flowers, incense and candles to statues of the Buddha as a sign of devotion and respect. The crown flower is often used as part of these offerings, as they are believed to bring luck and blessings.

    The malai can also be used to decorate the houses or the rooms of the house dedicated to the devotion towards Buddha.

    • Give them as gifts to your loved ones as birthday or wedding presents.

      Phuang malai are also commonly used as gifts for loved ones. They are often given as a sign of affection and respect, and are often exchanged between friends and family members on special occasions such as birthdays, weddings, graduations, housewarmings and baby showers.

      • A Phuang Malai for Mother's Day, Father's Day or Teacher's Day

      Phuang Malai 2023 - Mother's Day - VIP Gifts GWP - Macrame by Nicha - Malai Grace - ของขวัญ VIP -พวงมาลัยวันแม่

      It is very common in Thailand to offer it for Mother's Day, Father's Day or Teacher's Day. You will find a wide choice from natural flowers to plastic designs, but also exceptional and original models as we do at Macrame by Nicha.

      • As a VIP Gifts

      ของขวัญVIP - Phuang Malai VIP gift - Macrame by Nicha

        This could be very auspicious.

        Giving an original Malai for important visitors and dignitaries will be prevue of elegance and choice. Many models exist and are exquisite to be offered to a diplomat or a VIP, just like the “Malai Chaad”.

        • For sacred ceremonies, and Thai cultural performances.

        In addition to being used as offerings and gifts, these flowers are also used as decorations for special occasions. They are often used to decorate altars and shrines, as well as to adorn the heads of dancers in traditional Thai performances.

        They can also be hung on Thai musical instruments to honor the masters of the instrument and bring them luck and success in their performances.

        • Offer to an association

        Also offering a Malai to a community or association is a very elegant way to encourage them in their endeavor (with a small envelope, it will be even better😊).

        Plastic Phuang Malai: a trend that goes against tradition

        Traditionally, they are made with fresh flowers, but in recent years, there has been a trend towards using plastic flowers.

        There are a number of reasons why people might choose to use plastic flowers instead of fresh flowers. One reason is that plastic flowers are often cheaper than fresh flowers. Another reason is that artificial flowers can last for a long time, which means that they do not need to be replaced as often. Finally, some people believe that synthetic flowers are more durable and can withstand the elements better than fresh flowers.

        However, the use of plastic flowers has been met with some criticism. Some people argue that using plastic flowers does not respect the tradition. They argue that Malai was originally conceived as a way to enjoy the beauty and fragrance of fresh flowers. They also argue that plastic flowers are not as environmentally friendly as fresh flowers.

        Unfortunately, synthetic flowers are more affordable than fresh flowers. However, it is important to consider the environmental impact of using artificial flowers before making a decision.

        Here are some of the environmental impacts of using plastic flowers:

        • Artificial flowers are made from petroleum, which is a non-renewable resource.
        • The production of artificial flowers releases harmful pollutants into the environment.
        • Plastic flowers are not biodegradable, which means that they can end up in landfills where they can take hundreds of years to decompose.
        • Plastic flowers can also be a hazard to wildlife, as they can be mistaken for food or can entangle animals.

        Sustainable Beauty: Discover Cotton Phuang Malai by Macrame by Nicha

        Phuang Malai 2023 - Mother's Day gift - VIP Gifts GWP - Macrame by Nicha - Malai Rose - ของขวัญ VIP -พวงมาลัยวันแม่ 28

        In recent years, there has been a growing demand for eco-friendly alternatives to artificial flowers. As a response, Macrame by Nicha has emerged as a leading brand, offering beautiful and unique Malai made entirely from 100% cotton.

        The introduction of cotton has provided a sustainable option for those seeking a natural and timeless adornment. Unlike their plastic counterparts, these garlands made from cotton are not only durable but also environmentally conscious. They retain their beauty indefinitely, making them a more sustainable choice for consumers.

        Macrame by Nicha has taken the lead in this transformative trend, showcasing a seamless blend of traditional techniques and contemporary designs. Each Phuang Malai crafted by Nicha is a testament to Thai artistry, capturing the essence of the country's rich cultural heritage.

        By choosing cotton Malai from Macrame by Nicha, you not only embrace the beauty of these elegant garlands but also contribute to a greener future. These eco-friendly creations serve as a reminder of the importance of sustainability in our daily lives. They symbolize a conscious effort to preserve the environment and celebrate Thai traditions.

        To conclude this very long article but Thai Heritage is worth it!

        Phuang Malai is a cherished symbol of Thai culture, representing respect, luck, and the fusion of ancient and modern traditions. These floral garlands, made with fresh flowers, hold deep cultural significance and are used to welcome, show respect, and wish for good health.

        With various shapes and designs, Phuang Malai showcases the creativity of artisans. They are offered to deities, worn at weddings, and given as gifts on special occasions. The use of fresh flowers like jasmine, orchids, and roses adds to their beauty and symbolism.

        While plastic alternatives have gained popularity, they deviate from tradition and raise environmental concerns. Macrame by Nicha offers a sustainable solution by creating this Thai symbol with 100% cotton, preserving the tradition while being eco-friendly.

        Phuang Malai is a precious cultural heritage, and artists like Macrame by Nicha ensure its longevity by blending tradition with innovation. By innovation, we honor Thai heritage and contribute to the preservation of this cherished tradition for future generations.

        Contact us

        If you are looking for an original Phuang Malai and want to stand out with this gift, check out our unique collection handmade in our website.

        Our Malai are mainly made of cotton, dried flowers and semi-precious stones and Nicha, year after year renews its collection. You may not find the models you see today next year, which guarantees the uniqueness of our models.

        You can order directly on our website or contact Nicha by chat or by e-mail if you want a unique model.

        Wishing you luck, beauty and happiness.

        The Macrame by Nicha team 

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