Category: Buddhism

Hae Phra Khuen That Festival

One of the most important places to celebrate Makha Bucha Day, a Buddhist holiday, is at Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawihan. This royal temple, in Nakhon Si Thammarat in Southern Thailand, houses a relic of the Lord Buddha. On the full moon day during February every year, local people take part in a parade called Hae Pha Khuen That. They believe that this will bring them good fortune and success in life. During the parade, Buddhists carry long pieces of cloth to the temple where they wrap it around the giant stupa.

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Merit Making on Elephant Back

Alms Round on Elephant Back

The highlight of the Khao Phansa Candle Festival in Surin is the merit making ceremony where monks collect alms on elephant back. Surin is regarded as the home for Thai elephants and throughout the year they have a number of festivals that involve elephants. This one takes place on the full moon in July every year. It is held at the Monument of Phaya Surin Phakdi Sri Narong Changwang in Mueang district. Monks from local temples climb up onto 88 elephants and collect alms from Buddhist people.

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The Brutal Ordination Parade

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Thai men are expected to ordain as monks at least once in their life. This usually happens once they have reached their 20th birthday. However, these days, the men are not always so willing, citing they have no time to become monks. But, many still do for the sake of their parents, even if it is just for a short time. However, in Ban Non Salao in Chaiyaphum, they have a tradition where the men have to pass a kind of endurance test to show their real intent in becoming monks. This involves hanging on for dear life as they are carried around the village on a bamboo stretcher while it is being shaken violently. If they fall off they cannot become a monk.

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Building Sand Pagodas

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Songkran is not all about water fights. There is another side to the celebrations which you can see at your local temple. That is the building of sand pagodas, or “chedi sai”. This is usually a family activity done during Songkran. The sand pagodas can be built to any design and with any decorations they like. Though there are usually candles and incense sticks which they use to make merit once they have completed the pagoda. Temples usually organize some kind of competition with prizes given to the families with the best looking sand pagodas.

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Songkran in a Thai Temple

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Songkran is not all about water fights out on the streets. There is a more traditional side of the new year festival that is celebrated inside temples. This involves the bathing of Buddha images and monks with scented water. Unlike the waterfights among teenagers who use big guns and buckets, in temples a small bowl is used to gently pour water onto the hands of the monks. Well, at least that is the way it starts. Temples often have many novice monks during the summer holidays and the ceremony quickly turns into one big water splash. After all, Songkran takes place during the hottest month of the year.

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Monks Collecting Alms in Nan

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If you ever want to see monks collecting alms while on holiday in Thailand you will need to get up while it’s still dark. Monks leave their temple just as the sun is about to rise and they can see the hairs on the back of their hands. At most temples, monks leave in small groups or even alone in some cases. While at other temples they form a long line and go out together. Notice that monks don’t wear shoes while on the alms round and so Buddhists offering alms should also take off their shoes. If they don’t they will be slightly higher than monks. I shot these photos early in the morning at the main market in Nan town.

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Golden Mount Temple Fair Parade

Golden Mount Temple Fair Parade

The longest running temple fair in Bangkok takes place at the Golden Mount at Wat Saket. The annual worship fair has been taking place around the full moon in November ever since the time of Rama V. The temple fair starts when the red cloth is paraded around the local community and is then taken to the top of the hill where it is wrapped around the chedi. The Golden Mount is 63.6 meters high. Construction was started during the reign of King rama III but wasn’t completed until the reign of King Rama V.

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Alms Round by Boat

Merit Making by Boat in Lat Krabang

The end of the Buddhist three months Rains Retreat is in October. At this time, when the rivers are at their highest levels, many provinces around Thailand organize boat races. In Lat Krabang District, in the Eastern part of Bangkok, merit making and boat races takes place along Lamplatiw Canal in front of Wat Sutthaphot on the first Sunday after Ok Phansa. About 100 monks in 60 boats collect alms along the canal early in the morning.

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Tak Bat Devo Festival

 Tak Bat Devo

The tradition of “Tak Bat Devo” is derived from the word “Devorohana” which means the return of Lord Buddha from Heaven to Earth. At the end of the Buddhist Lent, which falls on the first day of the wanning moon of the eleventh lunar month, Lord Buddha returned to earth and was greeted by a crowd and Buddhist believers who were waiting to offer him food. The most famous ‘Tak Bat Devo’ ceremony in Thailand is at Wat Sankat Rattanakhiri in Uthai Thani. During the morning, about 500 Buddhist monks carry a Buddha image and descend down from Sakae Krang hilltop to receive alms and food offerings from devotees. The event symbolises the Buddha’s return to Earth after spending three months preaching to his mother in heaven.

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Alms Round at Kwan Riam Floating Market

Kwan Riam Floating Market

One of the latest riverside markets in Bangkok opened for tourism is the Kwan Riam Floating Market in Miniburi. Unlike other markets, the monks at the temple here hold a religious ceremony from 7:30 a.m. After some chanting they get into their boats and row up and down the canal collecting alms from local people. Although the monks collect alms every day, they only do this by boat at the weekends and public holidays. It’s worth getting up early just to witness this religious ceremony. Afterwards you can enjoy breakfast in the market.

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